Read a full summary of Not Without My Daughter, written by Betty Mahmoody, right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in Not Without My Daughter, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Sarina Byron, a BSR contributor who wrote this great recap! Sarina is a British Author and Contributing Writer living in California. Sarina enjoys bringing forth a different perspective and encouraging a different way of thinking through her writing. Visit her blog to read her reviews, and check the end of the review for a link to her Instagram.
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Not Without My Daughter?
Trigger Warning: This recap is true to the books’ themes of violence, racism, Islamophobia, abuse, gaslighting, PTSD, emotional trauma, and kidnapping.
Not Without My Daughter opens with Betty Mahmoody arriving in Iran with her husband and daughter. She was fearful of this trip and already regretted it a little bit. As she put on her chador and came back to her seat, her husband Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody, or “Moody,” asked to take her American passport for fear of having them taken by the authorities. Betty found herself obsessed with the idea Moody wouldn’t let her and their daughter, Mahtob, return to the US. Everyone had tried to assure her the belief was irrational at best, and she ought not to be afraid. Everyone was assured by Moody’s American outlook, but Betty knew he was a paradoxical mix of the East and the West.
As Betty, Moody, and Mahtob made their way through passport control, with Mahtob wincing in pain from needing the bathroom, they came across Moody’s nephew inside the terminal. Betty was hoping the rest of Moody’s family would be friendly and clean like Zia. Zia took their American passports and money and headed outside. Moody worked with the immigration inspectors who checked their luggage, keeping most of it for further inspection and sending them with the basics.
Betty met Moody’s entire family as soon as they came out, including his sister Ameh Bozorg, who had raised him. On the way home, Ameh Bozorg gave Betty a loose coat called a montoe and a scarf called a roosarie which Betty would need when heading out on the street at all times. Betty was confronted with a freshly slaughtered goat over which they needed to step over to re-enter the house.
As soon as they had been properly welcomed, everyone gave them gifts, but Ameh Bozorg specifically ignored Betty and gave Mahtob two gold bracelets instead. A large feast followed, where Betty saw people eating on the floor for the first time. Betty struggled to sit on the floor in her skirt but somehow managed to get in position and fill a plate of food. However, she and Mahtob couldn’t eat too much as the food was extremely oily, oil being a sign of wealth in Iran.
At their welcome party, Betty also met Reza and his wife Essey. Reza had stayed with Moody and Betty in Corpus Christi until Betty had twisted Moody’s arm to ask him to leave. However, she was grateful for the familiar face today. Betty asked Essey about their newborn son, and Essey shared her sorrow of him being born with physical deformities. Betty had noticed a number of the children at the party suffering from similar ailments and deduced it was on account of the consanguineous marriages within the family.
The next morning brought with it more disappointments in the shape of inadequate shower facilities, a dirty kitchen, dry bread, and smelly feta. Betty observed Moody had switched to using English like his second language by using it more formally. That day, Moody asked Betty to call home and let her parents know they had arrived safely. She wasn’t keen on doing so as she had lied to her parents about where they were going. Moody assured her he had told them about their trip to Iran, but when she called, her mother had been shocked to hear it. Betty had told her sons John and Joe where they were going, but they had been sworn to secrecy.
A steady stream of visitors kept them occupied. One day, they were honored by a visit from Aga Marashi, who was Baba Hajji’s sister’s husband. He was a “turban man,” meaning he held high religious office. During the turban man’s visit, Betty was incredibly uncomfortable as she was wearing a chador which had snot all over the part covering the mouth. Moody didn’t believe her until she showed the stains to him. With this incident, Betty began to wonder if Moody had regressed to his childhood self when he landed in Iran.
Problems began to surface very early into their trip. Moody asked Betty to start wearing the chador inside the house. Baba Hajji wasn’t happy with her being uncovered at home. Ameh Bozorg was not pleased with them taking showers every day. Mood refused to comply, and the conversation ended, but another crack had begun.
Betty found bugs in the rice and complained to Moody, who didn’t believe her, so the next time she spotted some, she spooned them onto his plate. Not wanting to offend, he ate the bugs. Both Betty and Moody hated the smell of burning black seeds that Ameh Bozorg used to ward off the evil eye. Betty severely disliked the lard that Ameh Bozorg cooked in, and her complaints about unsanitary conditions finally appealed to Moody’s ears. He tried to tell Ameh Bozorg to shower and to encourage her children to do so too. Ameh Bozorg considered Betty the troublemaker when it came to these conversations.
Finally, though, the shopping began, and Betty and Mahtob had something to look forward to. Driven by Zohreh or Majid, they began to accumulate treasures to take home with them. They bought plenty of jewelry, clothes, and even furniture, which alleviated Betty’s fears a little bit. They visited with family every evening, and one such evening saw them enjoying a very American living room filled with English books. They began to question Betty on what she thought of the presidents, which made her extremely uncomfortable.
At an outing to Park Melatt, Moody told Betty he had lost his job. She didn’t believe him at first, but then she noticed his eyes had dulled, much like those of everyone around him. A day before, they were to leave. Majid interrupted their joyous packing to tell Moody and Betty they couldn’t leave as planned. Apparently, they were supposed to turn in their passports three days before departure to secure the necessary permissions. As they hadn’t done that, they would not be able to leave.
As Betty was absorbing this piece of information, Moody broke it to her they weren’t going home. He had decided that they should all stay in Iran. Betty flew into a rage and demanded to see the entire family. They all gathered, and the family meeting began when Baba Hajji walked in. Betty related her worries before they arrived in Iran and how Moody had sworn on the Quran he wouldn’t force them to stay in Iran. She expected them to berate Moody for his blasphemy, but instead, Baba Hajji decreed Moody could do as he pleased with his family. Betty realized this was about exerting power over her.
Betty cried in bed that night until she was swollen. Her mind drifted to how pain had brought them together. She was a single mother to her two boys and working up the management ladder at her company when she started experiencing excruciating migraines. She was admitted to the hospital for extensive testing, and Moody was her osteopathic physician. He used manipulative therapy to relieve her pain, and over the course of the treatment, they got to know each other. When Betty was getting discharged, Moody asked if he could have her address and phone number. Over the next few weeks, Betty got to know Moody better.
She learned Moody came from a minor aristocratic family. They were all educated and idolized western society. He did not like to talk about Iran but related to Betty how Iranians were upset with the westernization of Iran. The Shah encouraged them to pursue a western education, hoping it would pave the way for modernization of the country.
However, people learned to value only the education part but not societal changes. They regretted having their street food replaced by fast food chains and did not bother to assimilate. They did assimilate one incredible detail, however: that westerners had a say in who runs their government. This realization ultimately led to the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Shah.
Moody had been a math teacher when he moved to the States and decided to become a doctor. Betty met him at the tail end of his internship, just before he was about to start his residency in Detroit. In this time, he courted Betty with all the might of an adolescent lover. There was always candy for Joe and John. He gifted Betty flowers, jewelry, and perfume, and when she forced him to visit his family in Iran, she realized she had fallen in love with him. They dated for three years, and in that time, Betty learned all the different ways Islam was similar to Christianity.
Despite their deep connection, Betty did not want to remarry. She told Moody she relished her freedom and wanted to keep it that way. He was happy to go along with it, but other forces were pushing them together. Betty had risen to a position at work which had never been filled by a woman. Although she was getting paid considerably less for it, she was living up to her own ambitions. She had achieved what no woman in her town had achieved.
She was also dealing with a kind of harassment that is only experienced by those in unique positions. Her supervisor made it clear that unless she slept with him, there would be no more promotions. Betty wanted to see more of Moody and needed her weekends free to pursue their relationship. So when Moody proposed in January 1977, Betty readily accepted. Seven years later, she sat in her room in Iran thinking about all the red flags along the way and wondering how she was going to get out of this mess.
The next few days passed in a fog, but Betty had the presence of mind to count the cash she had left over from their shopping trips. She counted out almost a hundred dollars in American bills and the equivalent of two thousand dollars in Iranian riyals. She hid it under the mattress at night and on her person during the day.
Apart from this macabre realization, life went on pretty much as normal for them. Betty tried to cook for the family, but as luck would have it, the market was all out of meat. All they could get was some beef, but Ameh Bozorg complained beef didn’t agree with them as it was not a meat consumed by the relatively fortunate.
Moody didn’t seem to be looking for a job, and all he did by way of inquiries was to send his nephews out to ask after the status of his physician’s license. He spent his days lazing about the house and began to attend anti-American rallies. It was on one of those days when Betty found herself alone with his family, all gradually succumbing to their afternoon slumber. She saw an opportunity to call the number of the US Interest section of the Swiss Embassy that her mother had given her on a stealth phone call. She wasn’t able to speak to anyone as she was trying to be as quiet as possible, but Fereshteh saw her on the phone and told Moody as soon as he walked in. He had an absolute fit and threatened Betty like never before against using the phone again.
Mahtob’s birthday was nearing, and Betty insisted on having a party on the day instead of on a Friday as was customary in Iran. A few days before the party, Mahtob hurt herself and needed stitches, which had to be administered without anesthetic. This unfortunate incident intensified the need to ensure Mahtob had an excellent birthday party.
Moody’s relatives took the day off to come to the party, and they all had a great time. But Mahtob found a couple of customs distressing. It was customary for grown men to open the birthday gifts for the child, and when Reza and Mammal began to do so for Mahtob, she couldn’t hold back her tears. The opening of the gifts presented another problem. The other children began playing with them, which distressed the five-year-old Mahtob into tears again.
Tears appeared to be a regular part of their lives now. When Betty and Mahtob headed up to the holy shrine of Imam Reza’s sister, to mark his birthday, an unsettling incident occurred. Moody tried to take Mahtob with him as men and women prayed separately, but Mahtob began to protest. Moody struck her to quell her dissent, and Betty objected. This resulted in both of them being assaulted right there in plain view. The coldness and lack of remorse confirmed to Betty they didn’t mean anything to Moody any more.
As soon as Betty was met with another opportunity to slip away in the next few days, she grabbed it with both hands. Running straight to the Swiss Embassy, she made her way to the US Interests section to ask them to help her get back to the States. She mistakenly assumed she would be able to stay at the embassy until it was time to go home. Helen Balassanian regretted to Betty that she could not allow her to stay here. She had to go back to Moody because as soon as she married him, she was an Iranian citizen. As such, she was at Moody’s mercy.
Betty spent an hour making calls home and gathering her wits before accepting her fate and heading home. She coached Mahtob to lie about their whereabouts and wondered at her daughter’s resilience at having to grow up so fast. Nothing could protect them from Moody, however. He banned Betty from ever leaving the house again.
The ban did not extend to pilgrimages with the family. To mark the occasion of Moharram, they all headed to Qum, the theological center of Iran. Moody, Mahtob, and Betty were accompanied by Ameh Bozorg, Fereshteh, cousin Morteza, his wife Nastaran, and their daughter Nelufar. Once again, they were separated by gender in the prayer chambers. Ameh Bozorg asked Betty and Mahtob to sit down in the first room they entered and went into another chamber deeper in the building.
Betty was surrounded by screaming and crying women, which was surprisingly hypnotizing. When Ameh Bozorg came back from the inner chamber, she started pointing at Betty and crying even more hysterically. Betty had no idea what she did until she caught the word Amrika in her chatter. Ameh Bozorg tried to tell Moody that Betty disrespected the occasion by refusing to go to the inner chamber but was caught in her own lies.
Life was pretty unbearable, but Betty had to do something to help themselves. She decided to stop taking the medication Moody was giving her and to speak to him about their living conditions. She insisted they move in with Ameh Bozorg’s son Reza, who had offered his place to them multiple times. Moody explained his offers had merely been taraf, which are vacant polite promises.
Betty was intent on leaving Ameh Bozorg’s house, so she pretended to be blind to taraf and forced Reza to come pick them up. Moody, Betty and Mahtob arrived to find Essey frantically cleaning up, indicating they didn’t expect the family to show up. That night Betty put her plan in motion and made love to Moody to assure him she had accepted his plan to stay in Iran.
Life at Essey and Reza’s began with relative peace. Betty was keen to draw Moody into her illusion that she had adjusted to her new life. Betty observed the various vendors that came to the streets to sell everyday essentials. Ameh Bozorg visited Moody and Betty and gifted them a pillow, which signified their permanent departure from her home. They didn’t stay for long as Ameh Bozorg was headed to the hamoom for a bath. This was her first bath in eight weeks. That night, Zohreh asked Moody to come to Ameh Bozorg’s house as she was feeling awfully sick. He returned from his visit grumbling about her hypochondriac attitude towards her bath.
The idle days were broken up by Reza’s request to ask Betty to teach Essey how to cook American food. Gathering the required ingredients required repeated visits to the market, and Betty used these trips to commit the city to memory. Despite this new occupation, Betty could see Reza and Essey were growing tired of their presence in their house. Moody was aware of this and suggested they head back to Ameh Bozorg’s house. Betty and Mahtob panicked at this suggestion, but Mammal and Nasserine asked them to move in with them instead. They needed help with housekeeping and baby care, and Betty’s contributions would be highly valued.
Betty found Nassine’s home was clean, but she was an awful cook. They had western furniture but never used it as they preferred to make do with the carpets. She was happy for the help as she was now free to tend to her devotions with heightened fervor. Betty was busy handling her new home whilst Moody whiled away his days. He was also beginning to relax his surveillance of Betty. He allowed her to go out on her own now but asked her to make a trip to find the prices of necessary items and a second one to purchase them. The idea was to judge the amount of time a trip would take her and monitor her remotely on the second one.
On one of these trips, she met a shopkeeper who spoke English and allowed her to use his phone. She called Helen and discovered she had left a message for Betty with Moody. She discovered Moody’s family had told Helen they were away at the Caspian Sea. She also discovered Moody had been instructed to bring Mahtob and Betty to the Swiss Embassy for a welfare check. He had ignored the first notice and reacted unfavorably to the second.
The shopkeeper was called Hamid, and he offered to help Betty in an effort to prove Iranins are more helpful than what she had experienced. Betty had an interminable wait at the bakery for lavash and was terrified of Moody’s reaction. Moody bought the story but grew increasingly sullen and belligerent over the next few days.
Moody insisted Betty’s parents should sell all their assets and send them the money. As they had unceremoniously disappeared, they were in arrears on their bills and obligations, which would complicate a return for Moody. The pressure wasn’t easing up in Iran as well. Moody hadn’t found a job as a doctor as no one accepted his American medical degree. His eyes conveyed increasing trouble every day.
A taraf invitation to dinner resulted in Betty calling Mammal a liar, prompting Moody to fly into a rage. He started assaulting Betty in full view of their host family and Mahtob. Mahtob tried to stop him but was also hurt in the process. When Moody’s rage was somewhat lesser, Mammal led him away. Nasserine came in to comfort Betty, and in her efforts enlightened Betty to the fact that Reza and Mammal both behaved that way.
Over the next few days, Betty reminisced how she had ignored a number of red flags about Moody before they came to Iran. Betty hid her bruises and scars with her roosarie, but they were still quite visible. Hamid saw her condition when she visited him and told her he could have someone “take care” of Moody. They decided against it as it would alert Moody that Betty had friends in Iran.
As time passed, Betty realized Moody was not as powerful as he fancied himself to be. Just as his younger cousins were obligated to respect him, he was obligated to respect everyone who was his senior in the family tree. One such family elder called Aga Hakim invited Moody and Betty to dinner. Betty was expecting a boring evening but instead found herself in the company of a wise, intelligent man who taught her the chador was more Persian than Islamic. He told Betty she didn’t have to wear chador in his home.
Out of the blue, Moody decided it was time for Mahtob to attend school. He had used his influence to enroll her in a government preschool. Betty didn’t like the place at all, but the kindness of the principal, Khanum Shaheen, touched her. Betty thought the school was appalling and the facilities shocking. Betty demanded Moody see the school for himself, hoping he would decide against it when he saw the low standards of education.
Moody acknowledged it wasn’t the best, but it was incredibly difficult to have access to one, so Mahtob would have to make do. That night, as Betty heard Mahtob pray something should prevent her from going to that school, a realization came upon Betty. She told Betty that one of the lessons of prayer was that one should be open to all possibilities. This school might play a vital role in getting them back home to the States.
Mahtob cried so much at school that they asked Betty to come sit in the school office whilst she was in class. On her first day at the school, Betty witnessed their preferred method of punishment, heaping humiliation upon the students. The teachers in the staff room asked Betty to teach them English. In return, they would teach her Farsi. Betty knew this was the answer to her prayers. She agreed, and they began a routine of mutual education.
In their interactions, Betty learned the teacher who had approached her to make the request, Mrs Azhar, used to be the principal of the school. But when the Shah was ousted, the new regime installed people with religious fervor to high positions regardless of their qualifications.
Further help arrived in the form of Judy. One evening, Moody gave in to Mahtob’s insistence to go to the park, where she saw a little girl wearing American clothes very similar to hers. They met her mother and uncle and discovered the lady was visiting her children’s grandparents. They were thrilled to learn Moody was a doctor as they were looking to obtain a medical visa for her brother-in-law.
As Moody and Ali got talking about the visa, Betty walked away with Judy and told her she was being held hostage. Judy asked how she could help, and Betty told her of her need to send letters to the US. Judy arranged to invite Moody, Betty, and Mahtob to a going away party her mother-in-law was throwing her. She planned to introduce Betty to Rasheed, who knew how to get people out of Iran through Turkey.
At the party, Judy took Betty into a room on the pretext of having her type a letter for a medical visa validated by Moody. In that room, Rasheed shared his details with Betty and told her they would try to get her and Mahtob out in two weeks. Betty then gave Judy letters for her parents and sons. She also typed up Moody’s letter and spent time reminiscing about life in the States. Moody was equally happy with the outcome of the party. Rasheed had offered him a job at his clinic, and he was ecstatic about the employment he was about to have.
By now, Moody had grown tired of the weekly gatherings at his sister’s place. When he refused to go over one Friday, Ameh Bozorg suddenly fell so ill that her daughters summoned Moody to say that she was dying. Fully aware this was just a ploy, Moody nevertheless headed over to her house and examined her. She remained “sick” for two days until the Friday Moody and Betty had planned to spend away from her. When the day had passed, she sprung back to health like a spring chicken and announced a pilgrimage to the holy city of Meshed. Moody went along with the charade, but the minute she was on the flight, he muttered it was all in her head.
As instructed in her letter, Betty’s brother Jim called Moody and offered to send them tickets to come home. He related the extent to which Betty’s father was sick, but Moody caught the lie and refused to let her go. He instructed Betty to write a letter home and ask her family to sell all their assets and send them the money. She did as she was asked but was terribly upset about it. As the winter chill set in, Moody reluctantly agreed to let Betty buy a coat for Mahtob. Moody did not accompany them on this trip as he now had complete faith in Nasserine, who was a loyal spy for him.
Helen called Betty at home, and Betty pretended she didn’t know who it was. But Moody was sure something was brewing without his knowledge. He told Nasserine the embassy was trying to track Betty, and they would all have to be careful as they were likely to grab Betty off the street. Moody had now grown lax in his surveillance, and he let Betty go to the market alone with Mahtob. Betty ran to Hamid’s shop and called Helen. Helen told her two women had come looking for Betty at the embassy and she must be careful and refuse all their offers of help. Betty wondered who these women were and if they were connected to Judy.
The next day, another strange woman showed up at the house asking for Moody. She said she was diabetic and her family didn’t believe her. Her husband was fighting the war, and she desperately needed Moody’s help. He told her he couldn’t help, but he strongly suspected she was a CIA agent. This brought another dimension to Betty’s understanding of her own sheltered experience. Had her cries for help reached as far as the States?
Meanwhile, Rasheed told her his people couldn’t take children. Betty insisted she would carry Mahtob, but he said it was no use right now as the mountains were covered in snow.
Moody decided that in 1984, they would not celebrate Christmas, but Mrs Azhar and Khanum Shaheen bought Betty some gifts, including an Iranian Constitution, The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam, and a book of Islamic guidelines. Betty was able to validate her IUD was illegal and was subject to capital punishment. She also discovered that if Moody died, Mahtob wouldn’t belong to Betty but to his family. This prompted her to stop wishing death upon Moody.
Moody’s laziness also increased as Betty had expected it to. He no longer bothered to go on the school run with Betty. Khanum Shaheen noticed this and told Betty she could not allow her to use the phone or leave the building, but if she was ever late, they could overlook that.
Betty used this offer to go to the Swiss Embassy to visit Helen, who warned her against the two women again. Helen said the American government would issue her and Mahtob new passports, which wouldn’t have the required visas to return but could be used for other purposes. Helen told her the two ladies were called Trish and Suzanne and were trying to reach Betty every day.
When Betty asked how she could get in touch with them, Helen took her to her manager’s office. Mr. Vincoup reaffirmed the dangers of getting involved with Trish and Suzanne. When Betty asked about an escape through Turkey, Mr. Vincoup told her about a woman who had tried it with her daughter. Her daughter died of starvation and exposure, and the woman was found wandering a village, disoriented with all her teeth missing. Betty insisted on getting Trish and Suzanne’s details, and they reluctantly handed them over.
Betty contacted them and arranged to meet the following day. She created an excuse to come back late by offering to make pizza for everyone the next day. She told Moody that after school she would go to the cheese shop, which would cause her to be late in coming home. She met with Trish and Suzanne, who offered to take her away right away, but Betty refused. She asked them to firm up the plan and get back in touch when it was ready. Trish accused Betty of not really wanting to leave Moody, and she wondered if that was an accurate assessment.
Betty and Moody were now socializing with Aga Hakim and his wife regularly. Aga Hakim encouraged him to translate their grandfather’s works into English. Aga Hakim had translated them from Arabic to Farsi, and now Moody would do the rest. Moody and Betty turned Mammal and Nasserine’s unused dining room into a workspace dedicated to this purpose.
During one such translation session, Betty grew teary eyed over the mention of duties towards one’s dying father. When Moody asked what bothered her, she referred to the story and asked her how he could keep her away from her own dying father. Moody responded that since her father was not muslim, the principle did not apply to him.
Aga and Khanum Hakim asked Betty and Mahtob to attend English language Quran classes in an effort to have Betty see the beauty in Islam. They wanted her to convert but only of her own free will. They also encouraged Moody to allow Betty out more often. Betty started the recommended Quran classes and met another woman who was from Michigan.
Ellen invited Betty and Mahmoody to visit her and her husband, Hormoz. During the visit, they related the story of how Hormoz had enforced his decision upon his family. He had also given Ellen the freedom to return to the US and decide for herself whether she wanted to stay there, and Ellen had decided in favor of Iran. Betty was shocked to hear that.
When she eventually got to spend time alone with Ellen, Betty learned Ellen had stayed in Iran because her parents were too old to support her and she had two children. She learned that Hormoz regularly beat her and the children. But her life depended on him, so she stayed. Betty asked Ellen if she could help her by creating excuses for her to leave the house alone. Ellen agreed, and they devised plans on how they would get Betty out by herself.
They were awoken by an air raid one night. Betty panicked, but Nasserine was firm in her faith that they would all be ok. The next day, the city awoke to curse the attackers and their suppliers. Betty and Moody drove around with Ellen and Hormoz to survey the damages. Everyone in the car apart from Betty agreed the US was supplying arms to both sides, but Iran was getting a worse deal as they couldn’t buy the arms directly. All their money was being spent on defending themselves. They chose to believe that the air raid was proof that Allah was on the side of Iran as the bombs had hit the supply house of an anti-government movement.
Another air raid at the market caused Betty and Mahtob to run home. The bombing coincided with the Friday prayer, and Baba Hajji had font to pray in the area that came under fire. When he didn’t return at his usual time, Ameh Bozog assumed he had been killed and began mourning. She began wailing and tearing at her hair. It was all for naught as he walked home in a few hours. He was covered in blood and flesh, but he was unharmed, albeit disappointed. He wanted to be a martyr like his brother.
The Persian New Year, Nowruz came around when everyone bathed and cleaned and readied themselves for the new year. Although the parties were momentarily interrupted on the day, they resumed the next day. It is customary to give gifts at Nowruz. Ameh Bozorg gave Moody a desk and bookshelf and Mahtob a silk dress from Mecca. She didn’t give Betty gifts, but Betty didn’t care.
During one of the Nowruz parties, Moody met a doctor who offered to help with his license. Great news followed soon after that with the arrival of a job offer from the same hospital. The license still wasn’t sorted out, but they really needed an anesthesiologist, so they were going to ignore that technicality. This cheered Moody up immensely, and he showered smiles and kindness upon Betty and Mahtob.
A teacher approached Betty at the school and gave her a number to call. She called the number to find a lady called Miss Alavi on the other end. Miss Alavi wanted to meet with Betty, but her office was far from everywhere Betty was allowed to frequent. The opportunity presented itself on a day when Nasserine, Mammal, and Moody were all tied up with work. She scribbled a note for Moody that the kids were irritable, therefore she was taking them to the park.
Betty met Miss Alavi at the park and warned her her husband may come. Miss Alavi spoke to a woman nearby to ask that at some point she may pretend like some of the children under her supervision were hers. Betty noted how easily people in Iran participated in each other’s intrigue. She wondered if it was the result of living in one regimented government after the other. Miss Alavi told Betty she would help her get to her brother in Zahidan on the border with Pakistan. She didn’t care about the money but had promised her mother, who had recently passed away, that she would help every foreigner who needed her help.
Moody came to the park as predicted, but the women managed to pull off their ruse and went back to speaking to each other. Miss Alavi told Betty they would need to get her on a flight to Zahidan before Moody even realized they were missing. She said they would attempt the escape on a Thursday, two weeks hence. This was a far more sensible plan than the one proposed by Trish and Suzanne.
Betty called Helen to advise her of her new contact. Helen asked her to come to the embassy as she had some letters, their new passports, and other important matters to discuss. Betty asked Ellen to provide an alibi so they could head to the embassy. Ellen agreed to do so but pulled out at the last minute.
Moody was unnaturally grumpy that day and the next, and Betty wondered if he had an inkling of what was going on. He instructed them to not leave the school on their own, but when he didn’t show up to pick them up, they headed home. They found him sprawled on the floor, bawling about baby Nelufar having fallen from the balcony.
They raced to the hospital, which happened to be just across the street from the embassy. Betty prayed that Mahtob would not show recognition for their whereabouts. They found out she had been taken to another hospital and her mother Nastaran had gone home. They headed home to support her and wait for her father, Morteza. He arrived soon after with the sad news that she had died.
Days of mourning followed the sad event, and Betty managed to secure the role of childminder for all fifteen children in the family. This gave her the opportunity to make some essential phone calls. She arranged to meet Helen at the park and couldn’t reach Miss Alavi. The call that did not go in her favor was with Ellen. Ellen had told Hormoz all about Betty’s request and plan to escape, and he had insisted she tell Moody now. Ellen believed if she didn’t do so, she would be violating her Islamic duty. Betty begged her not to and promised to tell Moody herself. She could not believe her undoing may come from a fellow American.
Moody’s temper became more out of sorts every day. He instructed Betty to stop accompanying Mahtob to school all day, which sent Mahtob into a peal of shrieks. She wouldn’t listen to either of them, and Moody flew into a rage. He began hitting and attacking both of them right there in full view of everyone at the school.
He promised to kill her in the cab back home, and she knew he wasn’t making empty promises this time. Betty escaped and ran away to make a call to Helen. Helen asked her to come to the embassy, but she was in Ellen and Hormoz’s neighborhood. Hormoz insisted on driving her wherever she wanted to go.
They went to Mahtob’s school, where the teachers told them Mahtob was sullen but silent. Helen and Mr. Vincop also arrived at the school to check on Betty. Khanum Shaheen was livid at embassy interference in her school. She refused to do anything to help Betty. Helen and Mr. Vincop insisted they go to the police, but Betty knew that if she did, she could get deported without Mahtob. She refused to go. Hormoz stepped in and said he would speak to Moody and ensure that Betty is safe. Assured of her safety, Helen and Mr. Vincop left.
Moody arrived, and they all headed to have a reasonable discussion. Moody was furious Betty had dragged Ellen and Hormoz into their private affair. They heaped insults at each other at their friends’ place. Hormoz took Moody away on the pretext of buying cigarettes for Ellen when Ellen asked Betty not to fight Moody. She told him to keep listening, and he would eventually go quiet. Betty thought this was ridiculous, but she did as asked. To her horror, they sent Betty and Mahtob with Moody despite their promise.
It was a tense night. Moody spoke in hushed tones to Mammal and Nasserine, and it looked like a conspiracy was brewing. Mahtob developed a sick tummy due to all the stress and struggled to get ready for school the next day. Moody tried to take her to school alone, and Mahtob protested and got tummy sick again. Moody rushed into the bathroom after her and dragged her out. She screamed, and he struck her.
When Betty tried to defend her, Moody turned upon her with all his wrath. This time he assaulted her like never before, and Mahtob was badly hurt as well in trying to save her mother. Mahtob ran to Nasserine’s room, but she and Mammal had locked their bedroom and left the house. She ran downstairs to Essey to get help but didn’t come back up. Moody locked Betty in and dragged Mahtob off with him.
Their friends tried to help by speaking to him, but Moody did not want to accept any counsel. In the days she was locked up, Betty thought back to how her life had evolved to this point. How she had overlooked numerous red flags through the years and ended up in this mess? She thought back to when they had first got together and moved to Corpus Christi after getting married…
Betty had assumed the role of Moody’s administrator, and together they were raking in the dough. They entertained and traveled frequently, but Moody began slowly imposing his way of life on her. When opening Betty’s bank account, he put his own name on it as Iranians didn’t put women’s names on bank accounts. His role as Joe and John’s stepfather left much to be desired on account of his demand for unquestioning obedience.
Then there was Reza. Reza had lived with Moody in his bachelor pad and moved in with Betty and Moody when they got married. He ordered Betty around and kept a keen eye on her. He demanded she do certain chores when he asked and refused any job that was not of a high-ranking nature. Betty finally persuaded Moody to get him his own apartment, and Reza begrudgingly moved out. He returned to Iran shortly after the event to marry his cousin, Essey.
As the revolution unfolded in Iran, Moody grew more patriotic. He threw away his entire stash of alcohol and started talking about how the American media was biased. Their home became a meeting place for students, and together they drafted a letter to send to American media outlets asking them to reconsider how they spoke of Iran. Betty rose to the defense of her country and called a truce by drawing the line at political conversations.
Moody spent a lot of time listening to Iranian radio and even withdrew his citizenship application. Betty began to consider divorce but didn’t quite know how she would maintain the living standard she had become accustomed to. That’s when she realized she was pregnant.
This news turned Moody into a doting husband again. He showered Betty with gifts and attention until the baby arrived. He was hoping for a boy, but Mahtob arrived in all her glory. He left them alone the first night and returned the next day to announce he had decided to call her Mahtob. Betty had wanted to name her Maryam, as it was more American, but she gave in to Maryam being her middle name.
Over the next few days, they met many more Iranians in Texas, and they started calling him uncle. All this was going along brilliantly until a group of Iranian students took over the American Embassy. Politics was not so much fun anymore. Iranians were now the target of hate crimes in the midst of the hostage crisis. They started getting calls threatening their safety, which prompted them to think about moving back to Michigan. They visited for an interview with the local hospital and almost immediately decided it was a great move. As soon as they came back, they sold their home and moved to Alpena.
Locked in this apartment in Iran, she thought about how far away Alpena seemed. Her prayers changed from a safe escape to being reunited with Mahtob. On one such day, Betty realized Moody had left his briefcase behind. She managed to open it and call Helen using the telephone cord he had stored in it. She told Helen she was locked up but she would find her way out.
In the meantime, even Essex moved away with her children. Moody came and went as he pleased. He complained about their lack of a son and threatened to take another wife. Betty couldn’t care less, but she worried that he might find her IUD and kill her. To avoid any more problems, she removed her IUD herself and destroyed it.
Miss Alavi mysteriously showed up outside the apartment. She told Betty everything was arranged for her Zahedan trip and she would find Mahtob.
Betty began to stitch dolls clothes out of the clothes Mahtob had outgrown. Mahtob sent one of those back with a message that the other children would dirty them. Now Betty knew she was safe and was not at Ameh Bozorg’s place. Betty read every book in the house and started praying in an attempt to gain peace. Moody was shocked to see her follow him to prayer one morning. Pleased as he was, he told her she ought not to pray in English. Betty dutifully began to learn them in Arabic.
A neighbor called out to Betty one day and asked if she was okay. Betty related her plight and asked if the woman would post a letter for her. The woman agreed and picked Betty’s hastily scribbled note from the street. Help came from strange directions and completely unexpectedly.
Mahtob was sick, and Moody’s nephew Mostafa came to fetch him. This helped Betty realize Mahtob was only three blocks away. Betty began to pray in earnest. She made a binding prayer as instructed in Moody’s books and went with faith.
An air raid brought Moody and Mahtob rushing in to find Betty unharmed. Mahtob was terribly ill, but she was restored to Betty. Moody took her away the next morning but gradually allowed her to spend more time with Betty, eventually letting her stay for good. He even stopped locking the apartment.
Betty learned that Moody’s nephew’s wife had subjected Mahtob to much questioning, asking if her mother was planning to escape or if she had taken Mahtob to the embassy. Mahtob had refuted all claims.
Essay and Reza moved back downstairs. Essay invited Betty and Mahtob to the celebration of Imam Mehdi’s birthday at the home of a woman who had made a binding prayer much like Betty. Imam Mehdi had disappeared centuries ago, and it was believed that he would reappear on the final day of judgment.
Betty was surprised this party was nothing like anything she had seen in Iran. Everyone was dressed glamorously and bedecked in splendid jewelry. Betty knew one of Moody’s nieces would tell him she had made a wish, so she decided to tell him she had wished for them to be happy in Iran.
They visited Ameh Bozorg, during which she and Moody got into a fight. Moody left her alone with Ameh Bozorg and her daughters to run an errand. She found their attitude towards her changed, so much so that they insisted Betty use the phone and call her family. It took much convincing, but Betty finally did it. Her father was desperate to see her as his health was gradually failing. She called her sons at her ex-husband’s place and discovered her older son had started his first job. She was shocked that Moody’s sister had turned on him like this.
More family discord followed in the form of Baba Hajji coming over to ask Moody and Betty to leave Mammal and Nasserine’s home. Moody was profoundly offended as he had given both Reza and Mammal so much. More air raids and lack of good apartments sent them to a relative’s place to hide form all the night bombing. Betty was groped by a driver when she was out with Essey and begged Essey not to tell Moody lest he stop allowing Betty to go out at all.
Betty was beginning to understand that Moody had a problem with settling into a peaceful life. Throughout his life, he had constantly uprooted himself from one place to the other, and now he was taking Betty and Mahtob along. Moody’s growing discontent gave Betty some reason for hope. She broached the subject of going back to the States, but he told her the CIA had tried to recruit him, but he had refused. He could expect to be arrested if they went back. Betty didn’t believe him, but she went along with it.
On a trip to the market, Betty called Helen and found out Moody’s green card had expired. He now needed Betty’s permission to enter the United States and was in his own way a hostage in Iran.
They found the perfect home, which had enough space to set up a home as well as Moody’s clinic. The family pitched in as promised, and soon they were to have their own place. Moody’s hospital paid him much less than he expected, so he switched to two days at the hospital and set up his private practice.
Moody gave Betty enough cash and travel vouchers to purchase all the finer touches their home needed. On the ride home, Betty encountered a bus driver who tried to molest her despite Mahtob being in her arms. The next day she heard a story of a worse outcome at Ellen’s place. A 13-year-old girl was raped and murdered when she went out to buy meat at 5 AM. Iranians hypothesized it was the Afghans committing these crimes.
Betty’s mother talked Essey into giving her Betty’s phone number, and they were able to establish a routine to speak. Betty also became good friends with family friends of Moody’s, sisters named Chamsey and Zaree. They lived in the States for most of the year and only came to Iran for two months a year. Chamsey eventually learned of Moody’s treatment of Betty. She stayed silent as per her promise to Betty, but her attitude towards him cooled considerably.
Mahtob’s birthday rolled around again. Moody didn’t want to invite his family, so they had a small celebration with their closest friends. Ellen mixed up the time of the party, and Hormoz berated her in front of everyone, providing further encouragement to Betty to leave Iran. There was a problem though. All her reliable contacts had disappeared. Miss Alavi and Rasheed were both unreachable.
Like an answer to a prayer, someone put her in touch with Amahl. Amahl had a reassuring presence and confidence that was a comfort to Betty. He told her to call him as much as possible, and he said he would actively work on getting them out.
Meanwhile, Moody found another school for Mahtob. It was only a little better than the other school, and this time Moody made a generous donation to put in toilets. Betty met another American woman called Alice, who Chamsey also grew fond of. She told Betty to sever ties with Ellen on account of her lack of personality.
Moody invited Ameh Bozorg, Baba Hajji, and the Hakims over for dinner. His sister insisted they eat dinner after ten and not at six, but he gave her no alternative. This time, it was Moody who was commenting on the sloppy table manners of his family.
Betty learned the pasdar were greatly feared. She learned when they arrest a virgin, the men rape her first as it was decreed that no woman should die a virgin.
Betty ran the clinic efficiently and met a woman who had been educated in the US. She was taking manipulation therapy with Moody for stress related pain. Her husband had been arrested for having an American education, and she had no idea how to help him.
Amahl had good news for Betty this time. He planned to get her home for thanksgiving through the Bandar Abbas port. He asked her to get her Iranian as well as American papers ready for departure. Betty asked Helen for help in getting these documents but didn’t tell them of her plan to escape.
Betty planned a thanksgiving party with Alice, and they ventured out on several shopping trips. Alice showed Betty where she could make long distance phone calls from, and Betty gleefully told her family she would be home for Thanksgiving.
That was not to be. The arrangements were taking their own time, and Betty spent Thanksgiving in Iran. She learned from her brother Jim that their father had sunk back into a deep depression after Betty didn’t make it back as promised.
As a timely reminder of their perilous existence, Betty and Mahtob narrowly escaped a bomb that had been planted on their street. Further reminders came in the form of the closing of their neighborhood shops. The pasdar took away all their wares, and that was the end of their business. Life in Iran seemed to be at the mercy of the government.
Christmas rolled around, and they were still in Iran. Betty had been using toy shopping trips as an excuse to venture out every day. She now presented Mahtob with all these toys, brightening her day. Moody’s entire family came to give Betty Christmas wishes and showed much more affection for her than Moody.
Betty organized a party for New Year’s Eve, but Moody kept rushing away to work. Chamsey’s husband was a doctor as well, and he refused to perform surgery that evening. They wondered why Moody couldn’t do the same.
Betty was still in Iran after the holiday season had passed. Amahl was still confident that he would help Betty get out. In one of these despondent moods, Betty was confronted by the pasdar about her socks not being pulled all the way up. Instead of being afraid this time, she attacked the woman back in English. She told her that neither did she want to wear socks that don’t stay up nor does she want to stay in this country, but if the pasdar knew where she could get reliable socks, she would be grateful. The woman muttered her understanding and left her alone.
Betty had news that her father was sick and might be on his last leg. Betty was distraught, and Chemsey and Zaree came over to support her. Zaree berated Moody for not letting Betty go to see her dying father. They offered to look after Mahtob and unwittingly caused a problem for Betty. Moody lied to Betty’s father that they were all going to come see him. Betty knew he was lying to her family and to Chamsey and Zaree.
The next day, he demanded Betty leave without Mahtob. He wanted her to sell all their assets in the US and bring the money back with her. Amahl warned against doing so and expressed that he didn’t think Betty could leave soon enough as she would need an Iranian passport to do so. He expected Moody would need at least six weeks to arrange for a new one.
Moody had an unsuccessful day at the passport office, and he sent Betty to accomplish the task the next day. Betty had no hope of getting it done, but to her dismay, Moody had arranged for someone to meet her there. It appeared they would be issuing her the passport that very day. Betty didn’t believe it would happen, and when it did, she ran to Amahl to seek advice. He looked over the passport and told her they had printed her country of birth as Germany.
Moody was furious she had not come home straight from the appointment but bought the excuse that the buses caused delays. He took her to the passport office to personally ensure the correction was made.
Moody booked her flight for January 31st, and Amahl planned to get her out three days before that. They would go through Afghanistan into Pakistan, and she would be picked up by Amahl’s men on her way to Mahtob’s school. The plan fell through when Betty arrived home to find a furious Moody and Mammal waiting at the gate. Moody vowed to lock her away until it was time for her to fly.
That night, Chamsey, Zaree, and the Hakims came over to bid farewell. Chamsey warned her not to go as Moody was sure to lock Mahtob away with his sister and would permanently separate them. Mammal walked in as they were having tea with the Hakims and caused an outburst in Betty. He leered at her with the ticket, and she yelled that she would not go.
It all came pouring forth, and Aga Hakim was horrified to learn of Moody’s treatment of Betty. He gently asked questions until Moody was forced to say Betty didn’t have to go. When they departed, Moody told Betty she would leave come what may. She managed to make a call to Amahl from their neighbor’s house and learned the planned route had too much snow to be viable.
That night, Betty thought about what had brought them to Iran. They had been perfectly happy in Corpus Christi until Moody lost a small child to a routine surgery. He was suspended from the hospital pending an investigation. That night, Betty’s father received a diagnosis that he was sick with cancer.
Their seemingly tranquil life was being turned on its head. Moody slipped into a deep depression and brushed off all suggestions to practice osteopathic medicine in Detroit fell on deaf ears. They used up all their savings, and Betty began a part time job. Her job was not enough to keep their lifestyle, so she insisted on selling the house. This caused repeated arguments between them.
They managed to make a little money on a buyer’s offer, but they had to move out within two weeks. Moody whined and refused to pack, and Betty finally decided it was time to push him. She forced him to go to Detroit and get that job. He got it almost as soon as he walked in, and they found a house to rent as well. Things were beginning to look up.
Mammal called and told Moody he needed surgery for a gastrointestinal issue. He asked for advice, and Betty asked Moody to offer to pay for it in the States. As soon as Mammal arrived, Betty detested him. He was insolent, and his unkempt form offended her. Moody insisted she take days off work to look after him until his surgery (and even after it).
Betty realized Mammal was keeping an eye on her and telling Moody about her daily activities. So far, some semblance of normalcy had returned in their marriage on account of their distance. Now that was under threat as the house Betty lived in had been sold. Betty found herself giving in to Moody’s demand that they move to Detroit. Mammal came along.
Mammal had been insistent that they should all visit Iran, and when he mentioned it before his departure, Moody put an August date on it. Betty began to feel unsafe. She instinctively felt that if they went to Iran, she would be stuck there.
She went to consult a lawyer, who told her there could be danger in going to Iran, but she could take no legal action until something happened. She could not have Moody lose custody of Mahtob unless he actually did flee to Iran with her. She could not put Mahtob in that position, so she decided to go along to safeguard her. This did not make the journey easy. Her body revolted every time they changed flights, and she could not shake off the fear.
Betty woke up the next day filled with fear. Moody sent Mahtob to school and insisted they go to SwissAir to hand in her passport. She reminded him she was due to go to the market with Chamsey and Khanum Hakim. Moody insisted they go to SwissAir first.
When they arrived at Chamsey’s house, neither of them could control their emotions and got into a fight. Chamsey tried to interrupt, but Moody stormed off with Betty. He dragged her to Aga Hakim’s house. They wrapped up the errand and went home. Mahtob felt the fear in the air and begged Betty to take her to the US that very day.
Betty prayed for a distraction, and it arrived in the form of her friend Fereshteh and an emergency call from the hospital. Fereshteh offered to stay with Betty so Moody could go without concern. Betty asked Fereshteh to drive her to a florist to buy courtesy flowers for that night’s dinner invitation. Fereshteh wanted to drive her back, but Betty asked for fresh air. She called Amahl to tell him she could only get away now. He gave her the address of an apartment. Mahtob was sad as she had left her bunny at home, but Betty reasoned with her to stop crying.
They arrived at the apartment, and Amahl sped up his efforts to get them out. He kept visiting them and bringing them food. They had to take the most perilous route they could have chosen, through Turkey. Amahl made Betty call Moody to tell him she was at a friend’s place and arranged for a time to meet with him. She learned he had gone to the SwissAir office at the airport to pick up her passport.
Parting from Amahl turned out to be harder than she expected. They were both in tears, and Betty promised to let him know when she made it to Turkey. She was shuffled from car to car and driven towards the city of Tabriz.
They were swept into a truck and managed by a kindly man called Mosehn. He took them to a barn, where a woman looked after them and kept them warm. She fed them tea, bread, and cheese regularly. They saved the sunflower seeds she brought them. Just as they were about to savor a chicken meal, Mosehn arrived to take them away. They were in a precarious position as he had all their valuables.
They felt like they could trust him but could never know for sure. He told Betty he never goes across the border with anyone, but he would with her. This made her feel infinitely better, but then they were separated into different vehicles. Betty thought he had left her after all. They raced ahead in the truck, which was shot at by a certain guard. The driver argued with him and eventually got through.
He then left Betty and Mahtob on the side of the road and told them he would be back. Betty wasn’t so sure. She assumed they had been abandoned and would freeze to death. However, he did come back and took them to a house in the village. They stayed there for an hour and changed Betty’s clothes from Kurdish ones into those of the region.
Mosehn returned as per his promise, and they resumed the journey into the icy mountains on horseback now. This was incredibly difficult as they were exposed to the elements on all sides and even fell off the horse. The journey through the mountains was long and treacherous. By the time they got to the border crossing, Betty’s legs would not carry her. She kept falling and had to be carried by two men. The difficult part culminated in a Turkish-Kurdish village, where they spent the night to regain their strength.
After this, they were driven to Mosehn’s home, where they changed clothes once again. Mosehn gave Betty a package that she stashed in her bag, and they got into a car with his mother. They were driven to the city of Van, where their driver helped them get bus tickets to Ankara. Mosehn’s mother left halfway through the journey. Betty opened the package he had given her to find he had changed her Iranian currency for Turkish currency and had returned everything except the gold necklace. Betty didn’t care because she was safe.
The driver left them a few hours before their bus journey but returned on second thought. His eyes filled with tears both times when he left them. They checked into a hotel in Ankara but were asked to leave as their passports didn’t have any stamps. They called the embassy, but the attendant didn’t pay attention to them and told them they should be taken away by the police.
The hotel manager helped them find another hotel, and they spent a blissful night sleeping and bathing in comfort. The embassy apologized for the night manager’s behavior and helped them get back to the States.
Betty’s father was overjoyed to see her. Their return gave him the strength to carry on for a few more months. Bett resumed life with her family and was reunited with her sons. She wrote this book to help other women be informed of the risks in traveling to certain countries. Betty sent money to Amahl and wrote to Hamid to let him know of her escape. She learned Amahl’s escape had not worked out yet, and Hamid had lost his store to the government. She was forwarded a letter from Ellen telling her Moody had moved without notice, and the snowman she and Mahtob had built on their last day in Tehran had vanished like them.
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