Nest of Spies
Neda is the daughter of Sunni Palestinian Winemakers who emigrated to Iran after having been evicted from there land in near Jerusalem. As a kid, she attended an American school in Israel/Palestine until the 1973 war. She is fluent in English.
Neda was part of a left wing student group which took part in the seizure of the US embassy in November 1979. Because of her knowledge of the English language and American culture, she became a valuable asset to the cause although she was more driven by left leaning ideals then Islamic ones. She was eventually recruited by the Iranian espionage services to infiltrate European extreme left groups.
As a Sunni Palestinian, she never felt Iranian. As a Marxist, she never felt Islamist. These convoluted allegiances were great characteristics for spy. Also risky ones.
In September 1979, 2 month before the seizure of the US Embassy, Susan, the US Embassy employee, is interviewed by an Italian journalist (O.F) who leaves a bag behind containing a xeroxed copy of a not yet published manuscript: Adso of Melk, The Name of the Rose.
- 1 TEHRAN POLYTECHNIC, IRAN, 3 NOVEMBER 1979
- 2 MAIN AUDITORIUM, TEHRAN POLYTECHNIC
- 3 OUTSIDE THE US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 4 NOVEMBER 1979
- 4 US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 7 NOVEMBER 1979
- 5 FEMALE HOSTAGES ROOM, US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 25 DECEMBER 1979
- 6 COURTYARD, US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 25 DECEMBER 1979
- 7 FEMALE HOSTAGES ROOM, US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 25 DECEMBER 1979, LATER
TEHRAN POLYTECHNIC, IRAN, 3 NOVEMBER 1979
The corridors of the Polytechnic are overcrowded as Neda, a 19 years old medical school freshman, holds on to Ali and Hussain, all making their way towards the main auditorium. A general meeting has been called by several student organizations but most attending don't seem to know where to go next. Arriving at the auditorium's guarded door, Ali states his allegiance to the People's Mujahedin and points to Hussein and Neda to clear them as well. The three walk in but as Neda passes through the doors, one of the guards stops her.
-Cover yourself sister, this is not a discotheque.
Upset, Neda looks at her two comrades.
-I told you, I'm not following if that's going to be the way.
Hussain, looks at the guard who keeps his arm extended to block Neda, then back at Ali who raises his shoulders, helpless. About three hundred students are already inside the auditorium. Mostly men. The few females attending are veiled.
-Come on Neda, just do like he says. We gotta get going.
Neda pulls a scarf from her pocket and wears it, not pleased.
MAIN AUDITORIUM, TEHRAN POLYTECHNIC
Neda, Ali and Hussain have joined a small contingent of the People's Mujahedin who have gathered in a corner of the auditorium.
-I told you guys, I'm not into this Imam's Line thing. If we don't stand our grounds from the start, they're going to wipe us out. What do you think? Once we'll be in, we're going to have a round table discussion?
-She's right, this is not what I had envisioned. They're all from Poly Engineering, and the ones carrying guns are not even students, they're like the Imam's protection men, Hezbollahi...
-I'm like the only girl here!
-No, I've seen a couple when we got in.
-Yeah, a couple. How many are we here? A thousand!
An Engineering student approaches followed by two shadier men carrying duffel bags. The student walks up to Ali.
-Ok so we're scheduled to storm through the South gate at 06:00.
Hussain steps forward. What do you mean we're scheduled? When was this decided. Wasn't the point of this whole gathering to discuss the strategy?
-Well, no... The plan has been ready for days... We just couldn't divulge it to prevent leaks.
Hussain looks back at his comrades. Neda looks down in disbelief.
-So the girl has to team up the two other women. They're the scout crew. Which university are you attending, sister?
-University of Tehran, Med school!
-So you must know how to use your hands then.
-Well, I grew up on a farm, so besides the scalpel...
-Right on, says one of the two shadier guys stepping forward and dropping his bag in front of Neda.
He pulls a 36" bolt cutter from the bag and hands it to her.
-Know how to use one of those?
Neda grabs the heavy tool from both handles and raises it up before the guy squeezing it defiantly.
-Well, you'll never achieve anything this way.
The guy grabs the tool, walks up to the iron railing cordoning the bleachers around the speaker's desk. He then places a section of the railing between the cutter's blades, lowers one of the handles to the floor, blocks it with his foot, then presses on the other handle, cutting through the half inch steel bar like butter.
-Here. Now practice until get it right. One of our girls will bring you a proper chador.
OUTSIDE THE US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 4 NOVEMBER 1979
Lance-Corporal Tyrone Washington the Third's shift ends at 06:00 but the next Marine hasn't shown up to replace him yet. For the past weeks, Washington has spent the cold Persian nights on the roof of the US Embassy's staff living quarters, scanning the compound's perimeter with Starlight Scope mounted on his M-60 Machine Gun. Since they landed in March, the 13 men unit of the Marine Security Guards have been on high alert night and day.
The streets of Tehran are dimly lit on this early November morning. The silhouettes of three black chadors crossing towards the South wall of the US Embassy Compound are missed by the National police cars parked at each end of the street but they light up in Washington's night vision scope. -A little early for 3 Muslin women to roam down the streets of Tehran..., thinks the Marine as he loses sight of the trio behind a wall. He pans his scope to the right to see if they show up through the iron gates when Sergeant Willow arrives to relieve him.
-Tyrone my man, times up! Two eggs and crunchy bacon waiting for you at the cafeteria.
-Hold up a sec, just on to something, answers Washington as he keeps his attention focused on the gate.
-What'd you see.
-These 3 women crossed the street just a minute ago and I can't locate them anymore.
-Man, you pervert. These ain't x-ray glasses. I you wanna see one of them Iranian girl's boobs, you gonna have to get under them black sheets.
At the same moment, Neda gets by the gate and pulls the bolt cutter from under her veil. The single street light's ray bounces of the metallic blade and flashes into Washington's scope, blinding him for a second.
-What the fuck!
US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 7 NOVEMBER 1979
Neda, who's hair now is lose, leans over a card board on which she translate a Persian text into English: THERE IS NO TIME FOR IMPERIALISM IN IRAN ANY MORE...
FEMALE HOSTAGES ROOM, US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 25 DECEMBER 1979
Neda discreetly opens the door and peeps in the room where a woman is leaning on a bed, reading. Neda holds a plastic bag containing pomegranates. The woman on the bed is in her late thirties and wears hexagonal shaped eyeglasses. She smiles at Neda and addresses her in basic Farsi.
-Please come in.
Neda makes a few steps forward, leaving the door open, then responds in English.
-Hi, I hope I'm not bothering you. I brought you some pomegranates. I hope you enjoy them.
-Oh! Wow... You speak very good English.
-Thanks... You're alone? Where is your friend?
-Oh, she went to the chapel, in the other building.
-And you? You don't celebrate?
-No... Not really in the mood... But please... Come in... You can close the door if you want.
Neda looks at the door behind her, then quietly pushes it leaving it ajar, then walks back towards the woman who moves to an upright position on the side of her bed and invites Neda to sit next to her.
-I'm Susan... and you?
-Neda... Very pleased to meet you.
Neda pulls a pomegranate from the bag and offers it to Susan.
-I thought maybe for Christmas, you'd be happy to eat a fruit.
-Yes... and red on top... very festive.. and thoughtful of you... thank you.
Neda is quite shy and intimidated by Susan, a serious looking woman, a generation older than her, yet youthful. She looks at the sparsely decorated room. A desk. A mirror. Two chairs. Two suitcases containing carefully folded clothing. On the bed rests a twisted bundle of xeroxed sheets.
-You're working? Am I bothering you?
Susan grabs the bundle and shows the cover to Neda.
-No... no.. this is actually in Italian. I don't read it very well but I can manage. This journalist, from Rome, who I've met when she visited Tehran a few weeks before all this happened left it behind. I guess it's the copy of a manuscript, about a manuscript, about a manuscript... maybe not yet published... Quite puzzling, I must say, in light of all what is happening. Anyways it's the only thing I have to read. Do you read Italian?
Neda smiles as she scrolls her index over the title. -Adso da Melk, Il nome della rosa... Do I pronounce it right?
-I guess. Sounds right. Better than me anyways. I have a terrible American accent in Italian... Like in Farsi.
Susan squeezes the pomegranate open. Blood red juice drips over the white sheets as she pulls out the seeds. -Like for accents, I guess I have no talent for peeling fruits...
Both women laugh...
-We better eat these outside I guess, suggests Neda. Let me ask the guard.
COURTYARD, US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 25 DECEMBER 1979
Susan and Neda stroll along the grassy yard. Neda grabs a pomegranate from the bag.
-This is the proper way, you crack it open then carefully pull the seeds... Here.
She offers a handful to Susan.
-Thanks... Sweet... Yummy...
-I'm very sorry but you understand that I can't talk to you about much more then fruits.
-I know... But just speaking to someone new, the fresh air. It's great thanks.
The two women continue their walk, enjoying each others company.
FEMALE HOSTAGES ROOM, US EMBASSY COMPOUND, TEHRAN, 25 DECEMBER 1979, LATER
Susan's roommate opens the door to an empty room, turn on the light and freezes when she sees the bed covered in blood!