Published on 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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14 reader comments

  1. akamrburns says:

    Where else indeed!

  2. Rose says:

    what a lovely story- wishing them every happiness

    1. Margaretbj says:

      I do Rose., I am in love with love and anyone who finds a loving partner I imagine must think of themselves as one of the luckiest people in the world.

      All the best of GB for that.

  3. Saltaire Sam says:

    As regulars will realise, there’s a lot about Britain that concerns me, but that story makes me proud.

    More situations like that and we could truly call ourselves civilised

  4. margaret Brandreth- Jones says:

    I know, looking at all the eastern …stans on the telly, I recently thought to myself for all our history of conquer and imperialism surely there is no other where there is growing acceptance of difference and a continual ethical rethink of human rights.

    I have just restarted with a former employer, a pakistani family with connections here and over there. The patients are some of the kindest people I have ever met , yet many of the women had been downtrodden and suffered all sorts of abuses.

    The GP surgery had also been a safe haven for immigrants , who were allotted to us via the health authority. It just simply made me glad to be alive.

    Perhaps we have the world, in micro , in our nurturing hand but as Adrian pointed out, we want the others to rise ,not our new mix to fall. We have a template for social mix which if handled well, could really be an epicentre for genetic expansion and a civil world.

  5. Mark Hendy says:

    I wish there were a like button at the foot of this post. There’s not, so for the record, “I Like”

  6. Margaretbj says:

    Already commented on this .. don’t know where it has disappeared to?.

    Basically if we look at the unofficial representitives of other countries in the UK we have a micro of the rest of the world., many who have suffered and deserve change , could in themselves facilitate change. With careful and ethical handling ,this has the potential to ripple out into the creation of a better world.

    I refuse to accept popcorn and kitch as a substitute for the humane human being.

    Violence and ill will, is not the way forward. Speak no evil,, see no evil and hear no evil is . then that clever entity which we try to make an objective thing which floats and stings like a blo fly will starve of sustaination. There is Nothing simplistic about turning ones back to the ‘evil ‘ for want of a better word that destroys love.

  7. adrian clarke says:

    Having in my younger days,been around the world,albeit in a warrior mode,and enjoyed many places that i visited. Including South Africa at the height of apartheid,there was no place as idylic as the UK to return to and no people more friendly to be greeted by. It is home to many Nationalities and accepts most as if they were our family.It is a haven to the persecuted ,but intolerant to those who would do us harm .Long may it be so and all best wishes to your friend, Jon

  8. the-Richard-of-Nottingham says:

    A very up-lifting experience for you Jon. I think we can consider ourselves pretty civilized (despite what some others may think).

    Off topic but full-marks to C4 for the recent “Genius of Britain” series, it was marvelous. Each of the genius subjects deserved an hour of their own. More of that please and less of the BB.

  9. anniexf says:

    Thanks, Jon, for such a heartening story to end the week. A great pity your friend had to suffer such cruelty at the behest of Iran’s powerful religious bigots, but like you and many others I take great pride in my country’s record of welcoming those who have no other sanctuary.
    My very best wishes to your friend, to his wife and to his child for a happy and fulfilling future; and to all those other refugees who have arrived here in the UK terrified and desperate, I wish you equal success in your bid to stay here.

  10. John Smith says:

    That is indeed a positive and uplifting tale. In a world blighted by ethnic divisions and other bigotry it is encouraging to read something like this story. Maybe British tolerance comes from the admixture over the ages of Celts, Romans,Picts, Angles, Saxons, Jutes and many others.
    I often respond to articles in a Zimbabwean on-line news service. When we get on to the vexed question of land, I am roundly condemned for pointing out a few home truths. Who did the current black population chase off the land when they arrived a few centuries back? There is evidence of hunter gatherer people living in Zimbabwe back then, rock art etc.
    Getting back to the UK, luckily land issues have been resolved and if you can afford the mortgage, the plot is yours. Equally as lucky is the fact that immigrants tend to work a bit harder to get themselves established and that helps make Britain what it is.
    Now extend the summer by a month or two and it would be really perfect here.

  11. Roberta Boeh says:

    I am the American who haunts this site from time to time. Your story does not surprise me. You, Mr. Snow, all of your staff and the British people are very humane and kind. When you need to help someone who is in need you all make a point to do so. Kudos to all of you. Blessings on the new and happy family.

  12. Roberta Boeh says:

    Oh, and p.s. from the Haunting American: all of us born and having lived in freedom really need to remember this story forever and always.

  13. Margaretbj says:

    For goodness sake , stopped watching soccer when mum died a few years ago , shouldn’t have started again Algeria outclassed England.

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