Known to Iranians these days as the ‘US Den of Espionage’ – it was also where the CIA plotted their overthrow of Mossadegh – the compound now serves as headquarters of the Sepah, a conservative militia group dedicated to defending the revolution.Inscriptions like ‘Down with USA’ and ‘We will make the US face a severe defeat’ adorn the outer walls, the Farsi script considerately translated into English (just in case the Statue of Liberty drawn as a skeleton didn’t get the point across). People were afraid that America was going to attack us.’ In speculating on the reliability of this account, it occurs to me that the truth of what Nadia is claiming is largely irrelevant.
For a few seconds, as the doors begin to hiss, each grabs a handle and holds them open. Following their gaze, it doesn’t take long for us to figure out what’s happened. The other men in the carriage smirk; the women in theirs cover their mouths and giggle.Mohammad Mossadegh – Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister (and Man of the Year) – nationalised the company and expelled the British on fears they might conspire to oust him. In 1953, Churchill, in cahoots with US President Eisenhower, Iran’s royal family, the CIA, and millions in bribe money, pulled off a coup that would see the septuagenarian live out his final 14 years under house arrest.Shah Mohammad Reza – pro-Western, pro-women’s rights, profligate spender – was reinstalled, only to flee 26 years later amid festering opposition and the return of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a conservative Shiite cleric he’d exiled 13 years prior. But 43 years on, it’s a history that, on many counts, persists into the present for everyday Iranians. Fortunately for Nadia, I was much too piqued by her answer to air any protest against this loser-dom of mine. Tinder is for losers…’ Generally I don’t much care for it when people, even if only by inference, out me as a loser. It was our first night in Iran, and Nadia, our bubbly 28 year-old tour leader, was to be showing us around her country for the next two weeks on Intrepid’s Iran Adventure.Their exhortations grow louder as their struggles become more pronounced…and then, suddenly, in spite of their friend’s failing to show, both slide inside and let the doors clamp shut. The latecomer, in his rush to make the train, has bolted into the carriage closest to him – and it’s the women’s one. Nadia, who tends to make an impression on men, sidles up to the guy and whispers something that makes him turn redder still and his friends laugh all the more.