18 Jun 2010

My Iranian friend

A year ago he was in the notorious Evin jail in Tehran being subjected to repeated torture and false confessions.

Yesterday he was standing in the Registry office of a West London Council, with his baby in his arms and his beautiful Italian wife at his side.

The wedding was a year late, and all the more poignant for it. Of the forty guests, there were half a dozen of her Italian relatives.

There were perhaps three or four Iranians, half a dozen Anglo Iranians, a Russian, and maybe half a dozen British-born guests of whom I had the honour to be one.

Here was a very English moment – a local authority provided ‘salon’ and registrars, providing the opportunity to colourful group of Europeans and Persians.

We had been drawn together to witness and celebrate the marriage of a man enjoying a safe haven from a regime that has now condemned him in absentia to half a lifetime in prison with hard labour.

I felt proud to be present at an event in which my own society had played a critical role in his freedom and present safety.

As the small woman registrar intoned the marital vows, and her assistant offered a concluding thought, I suddenly realised that she, like the bride, was Italian – he was of mixed English and Iranian Kurdish stock.He later told me his mother was from Sanandaj in Iranian Kurdistan, his father from England.

His wishes of good luck were expressed in flawless Farsi.

Neither of these officials was here by chance or design. They were both simply carrying out another day’s wok for their local authority employer.

I thought to myself, where else on earth?

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