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Remains of U.S. Embassy Seal, Tehran

Remains of U.S. Embassy Seal, Tehran
U.S. 'Den of Espionage'
now controlled by the Basij militia group

Book Excerpt

The next morning I woke up early. The train [out of Iran to Turkey] didn’t leave until the evening but I wanted to get some pictures of the former U.S. embassy before I left. The problem was that the grounds are now controlled by the Basij, a hard-line militia group that doesn’t exactly care for Americans, or for anyone taking pictures of their anti-U.S., embassy wall paintings. Every guidebook I’d read warned against taking pictures. Professor told me not to go, saying I was nuts for even wanting to walk near the place.

But I wanted pictures for this book, plus so far everyone had seemed welcoming and friendly so I decided to push my luck. Fortunately, my hotel was only a couple of blocks away so it made for a quick walk. A holiday, the streets were quiet and empty for a change. Walking over to the giant compound I noticed few people out – which made for a quick walk but meant I stuck out more than usual.

As I neared the compound I saw a couple of young draftee soldiers on patrol outside. I decided to take a direct approach. Everyone had been friendly so far, so why not? I walked up and said hello. They were surprised but answered in a friendly-enough way. I then asked if it was ok to take some pictures of the former embassy and to my surprise they said sure. I couldn’t believe it! Were all the books and guides wrong? Was it really this easy?

I thanked the soldiers and quickly hustled over to the entrance gates where the old embassy seal, hacked and torched but still faintly visible, hung from the brick. I kept the camera in my coat pocket just in case. Just as I got to the front gate I switched it on, pulled it out, and snapped a quick picture. Not a second later I heard a siren behind me. I lined up and took another picture, pretending not to hear it. The siren screeched again, this time with yelling. I turned around and a couple of cops had pulled up in a squad car. They were across the street and definitely talking to me. As soon as I turned around they motioned me over. I hopped off the curb, jaywalked across the empty street and went around to the passenger side of the police car. The door swung open. An older cop said hello in English and held out his hand to shake mine. Surprised, and somewhat relieved, I did the same. ...

Copyright 2006-2007 Scott Fisher and All Rights Reserved.