Friday, March 14, 2008

Den of Espionage Escapade

Our hotel in Tehran was very close to the “Den of Espionage” (the former U.S. embassy in Iran, also known as the “Nest of Spies”). After lunch one day, my husband and I decided to take a walk to see the murals painted along the front wall on Teleqani Avenue. Walking along the embassy, we took pictures of the murals, which have sayings from Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei like “We will find a way to defy the wild wolf of Zionism and the Great Satan” and “Down with USA.” Out of nowhere, two military officers on a motorcycle appeared on the sidewalk to stop us. They spoke very little English, but were very polite and asked where we were from. I responded in Farsi that we were from America and that we only spoke very little Farsi. They said we had to go with them, but we were unsure where they were leading us.

One officer got back on the motorcycle and the other escorted us around the corner and into an office inside the embassy compound. There were several officers varying colors of military uniforms present. One pointed to monitors where they had been watching us from security cameras atop the embassy wall. In broken English he asked again where we were from and said we could not take pictures. He then made us delete all of our mural pictures from our cameras as he stood over our shoulder watching. He said, “we have our limitations,” though I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that.

Two days before we returned home, our “tour guides” had the bus stop across the street from the embassy so we could take pictures. Others in our group also took many pictures, including the ones posted here taken by our friend Robert Dreyfuss. Oh well, no one else in the group got to see the inside of the embassy. At least all of the officers were nice, but the encounter certainly had me on edge, if even for a bit.


hass said...

Funny, same thing happened to me when I was taking photographs of the New Jersey ferry station.

Mark Pyruz said...

Welcome back, Carah.

I wouldn't read too much into this incident. Iran's heightened internal security is understandable, given the threat of war and the positioning of powerful foreign military forces around its borders. As Cyrus points out, there has also been heightened security in the United States since 9/11 and the two foreign wars it is currently engaged upon in Western Asia.

Your trip must have provided quite an education. Looking forward to your upcoming perspectives.

Andreas Persbo said...

Chris and I snuck around taking photographs - we knew it wasn't allowed. We also got a visit from security, but we ended up talking rugs and civilization instead. Good seeing you in Tehran.