Nest of Spies

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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 groups 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.


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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 claims 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 door, 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 him 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.


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.

-Ali, right?


-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.


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..., he thinks to himself 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 a 36" 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!


Neda, who's hair now is lose, leans over a card board on which she translate a Persian text into English: THE IS NO TIME FOR IMPERIALISM IN IRAN ANY MORE...


Neda discreetly opens the door and peeps in the room where a woman is leaning on a bed, reading. Neda holds a plastic bag with 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 Liz... and you?

-Neda... Very pleased to meet you.

Neda pulls a pomegranate from the bag and offers it to Liz.


-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 Liz, 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?

Liz 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've I met when she visited Tehran a few weeks before all this happened left it behind. I guess it's a manuscript, not yet published... Quite intriguing I must say. Anyways it's the only thing I have to read. Do you read Italian?

Neda smiles as she scrolls her index over the title. -Il nome della rosa... Do I pronounce it right?

-I guess. Sounds right. Better than me. I have a terrible American accent in Italian... Like in Farsi.

Liz cracks the pomegranate open. Red juices drips over the white sheets. -Like for accents, I guess I have no talent for peeling fruits...

Both women laugh...

-We better eat this outside I guess, suggests Neda.


Liz and Neda stroll along the grassy yard eating pomegranates.


Another American woman opens the door to the empty room, turn on the light and freezes when she sees her absent roommate's sheets covered in blood!

Add Il nome della rosa on display in a bookstore as: Le Nom de la rose, Prix Médicis Étranger 1982