We were just standing on the street watching a small traditional festival in a town outside Shahr e Kord when a giant man with a huge scar across his face came up and asked what we were doing. It was not long before he told us he was Iranian secret police and we would have to go with him to the station.
We were worried to say the least. We had done nothing wrong but we had no idea what to expect. The judicial system in Iran is known for its vigilance and long sentences with seemingly little evidence or explanations so it was hard not to panic a little.
I’ve been arrested a few times. Just childish things, normally not knowing when to keep my mouth shut is the major problem but there is a huge difference between an aggressive officer that does not like having his authority questioned in somewhere like Australia and being taken by the Iranian secret police.
We arrived to 20ft walls and a gate was opened by an armoured soldier holding an AK-47 complete with bayonet attached, I personally thought the bayonet was overkill but how do I know how much potential there is for close combat here.
Once inside we were taken to a small office and sat next to one another, which was a bit of a relief.
We started to talk to one another and were instantly instructed not to. I was the calmer one in the situation but I still could not help being nervous. They took our passports (One Australian and one Danish) and began to ask questions.
I’m just going to say right now that after two weeks in Iran this was the only negative experience we had the entire time and we quickly forgot about it once back into the public.
The questions began and the very first question they asked was if we were Jewish. We were a little shocked that that was what they lead with but I suppose there is a lot of tension there. We answered no. They then asked if we had been to Israel and after what we thought about Israel. I answered it was just a country and I didn’t really care about it either way. My plan was to remain neutral the entire time, to not like or dislike anything so nothing could possibly be held against us. The questions continued for a lot longer than was comfortable.
Eventually they came round to the Danish cartoons that were published in a Danish newspaper. We had actually joked about this happening, we are both Australian but were both of Danish decent and living in Denmark at the time we visited Iran. The cartoons were pretty ignorant one was depicting Muhammad with a bomb for a turban and some others I can’t remember.
They asked us if we remembered them. I said no. They can’t ask anything else about them then. My friend said yes, he is the one with the Danish passport. They then asked what he thought about them and told us that they were very offensive cartoons drawn about their god. It was so incredibly uncomfortable. My friend was nervous and he was being really short with them and I was worried they would get offended. He didn’t even know he was doing it. I suppose we were both worried at this stage.
They asked a bunch more questions like why we were there and what we were doing and after about 30 minutes to an hour they had finished writing up a statement. They then handed it to us and told us we needed to sign it. A fingerprint was required as a signature. We kind of looked at one another because it was written in Farsi and well we had no idea what it said.
We really only had two options though. One was to sign it the other was not to sign it.
We kind of hesitated; they could sense this and told us it was completely fine. I was like alright well we’re either getting out of here or I’m ending up with a bag over my head getting my fingernails ripped off confessing to something I have not done (this thought actually crossed my mind about 100 times during our time in there Haha so morbid but if you’ve ever watched banged up abroad then it’s a legitimate fear). I put my thumb in the ink and then on paper and my friend did the same.
They handed us our passports back and told us we were free to go.
The whole thing seemed like a complete over reaction by both sides. We didn’t need to be taken anywhere to be asked questions like that but we also really had no grounds to refuse and on the other hand we probably should have been more relaxed and not immediately assumed we were going to be telling our story to the anchor of banged up abroad when we were released in 15 years.