I first met my Iranian father when I travelled to Iran in 1990 on my own, I was 20-years old.
My Mum is English and met my dad in London in 1968/9. He spoke Italian but little English. He told my Mum he was a student which was a half truth; although he was studying he was also in the Iranian navy. My Mum discovered this after she had fallen in love.
I hear stories of how proud he was working on the Shah's ships. His family had always lived next to the Royal Palace grounds in Tehran and his father was a royal gardener. My Dad and his family worshipped the Shah then, and now in silence.
My Mum taught my dad English and I was a suprise to them when I was born in 1970. There are two stories on why my dad left when I was 2 or 3-years old. Mum tells me that dad jumped ship to be with us and was then deported and his passport taken from him. Dad promised Mum he would do everything he could to return but if any Iranian authority knew we existed he would be in a lot of trouble.
Secret letters were passed through all sorts of addresses with lots of promises of love and reunion. Mum (to this day) remained faithful to him. When I was 7-years old dad told my Mum he would never be able to return to England and that he must find himself a wife. Mum gave her blessing saying that one of them must be happy. My Mum kept all the flowery love letters to show me that I was born out of love… she really believed this until recent years.
My visit to Iran opened my eyes to the truth and my Dad has visited me here in England once since.
My visit to Iran is a whole lengthy story in its self and looking back I think I had a lucky escape. I loved the country and the people were so hospitable but the restrictions for women were unbearable. I understand that it has become more relaxed now but in 1990 I was forever being stopped by the police for one thing or another.
Dad and I do not have the same last name and my Uncle has a different name all together. We did the tourist thing and visited Isfahan… we were all arrested trying to book into a hotel as we did not have proof we were related. I can only describe what happened next as an interrogtion. I had 4 hours of questions and a lot of gun waving!
There are so many things I could say about my experience in Iran as a Westerner who looked Iranian but couldn't speak or understand the language. How my Dad started negotiating with a mullah my sale to his father and how so very sad that made me feel. I had travelled all that way to see my Dad and he was going to sell me.
I spent a lot of time around mullahs. It so happened that my Uncle was school friends with a boy who was quite high up in govenment and some how extended my visa for me. I was in Iran for over six weeks.
I can't explain to you how I feel about my Iranian heritage. I have grown up being very different from my English peers. I don't look English, so I experienced a lot of bullying growing up. I'm very Iranian in my personality (if I can generalise) and I love Iran but I really couldn't live there.
I have two brothers, Ali and Mohammed. When I was in Iran they were school children and Ali had a poster of Hitler on his bedroom wall.
The whole visit to Iran was bizarre in a lot of ways. Opium seemed to be in every home I visited, home-made vodka that tasted like meths, whispered conversations about the good old days when the Shah was in power. I don't think I ever met anyone (other than mullahs) who had a good word to say about the regime and yet everything was whispered, they had no voice.
I could go on for ages but I'm sure you have heard all this sort of stuff before. I don't have any Iranian friends now but when I do meet an Iranian I do feel a kind of kinship.
I'm so sorry that Iran has been so closed to the rest of the world. There is so much beauty there and now 800-year-old mosques have cement pasted onto mosaics showing women unveiled… so very very sad.
What is even sadder is that people around me don't care. I am seen as being from a country that is evil and so many times people think Iran and Iraq is one of the same. I find my self defending Iran, a country I visited so long ago and yet was touched by its beauty and it's people (not my dad!)
Anyway I should go now as I have rattled on enough.