During this week we saw the 29th anniversary of the revolution, for which I went along once again

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"David...?", she asked, slowing toward the end with the intent of me following up with a surname. "Just David; he'll know who it is", I added before casually turning once again to her husband – the Nicaraguan ambassador to be – "so how long till you open then?", I enquired, nearly diverting his gaze from our female company. We were provided with a vague schedule for which seemed to hinge on the Iranian president's approval; maybe a month he guessed. The reminder prompted a sigh from his wife, who had apparently just exhausted the Hotel's Thai and Italian menus and wasn't enjoying being prisoned by the unfamiliar snow.

"I don't suppose there's any tension with America for opening an embassy here in Iran?", I enquired, attempting to sympathise with some blurted rehash of Chomsky's Nicaraguan/World Court pièce de résistance. Since I was in deep, I threw in the name Chavez a couple times before retreating back in wait of a damage assessment. Impact was made regarding the torturous 80s; it also seemed that Chavez was maybe helping things (if only for new flight routes) and lastly, no problems were perceived in developing diplomatic relations with the Nicaraguans. "And what about you girls; have you not got husbands?", he suddenly popped, the ticker was now fully operational, "such beautiful girls; why not?", he tocked as the south American charm offensive could been seen visibly melting Tehran's month old snow.

Our loitering around the hotel entrance had run its course and in an effort to spare the girls of the simmering Latin blood (and myself from an inevitable diplomatic slip-up) we concluded our chance meeting. "So I'll be telling the president that David said hello?", remembered the wife, "yes, and wish him luck too", I added as my friends stood confused as to whether they should maintain a straight face.

"If anyone asks, you're a diplomat from the American Embassy*", I told my Americanised compatriot

Coincidentally, that evening I was invited to the leaving do for the Swedish Embassy's Cultural Attaché. Last I heard he was due a promotion, so the preceding hours to what was sure to be a proper knees-up were over-shadowed by a curiosity for what lay behind. "If anyone asks, you're a diplomat from the American Embassy*", I told my Americanised compatriot as we arrived at the uptown apartment, yet my ice-breaker took a tumble: "Oh, you're with the Swiss* Embassy!", a European diplomat later responded, knowingly playing it back at us with a wink.

I pointed out a mutual friend's urban art – traditionally framed and scattered among the apartment – as we found the room to dump our coats. Turning the light on revealed that two of the four walls were top-to-bottom with books, "how are they getting back?", I gasped before heading off to correct these mounting questions. "Here's some pistachios", I explained to our departing friend, thrusting forward a box of the most expensive ones I could find, "you can't leave Iran without pistachios; we've just saved you the shopping time".

"So what the fuck?", I exclaimed in unison with my compatriot, "why are you leaving us?". As he was explaining, I surveyed the room, making playful assumptions with the mixture of skin tones, accents and hip movements. Among the English speaking; young and old, yet another wall revealed itself to me, leaving me once again gasping; this one was filled with a generous offering of international catalysts, positively dripping with availability.

"So how many people work at the Argentinean Embassy?", I asked the coincidentally Iranian looking guy, "two", he responded; "I'm the deputy", he added with mixed frustration and pride. I was distracted as he effortlessly jumped between Persian and English, amused at how his Spanish tongue wrapped around the local dialect better than with English. He went on to inform me of their meager existence, for which seemed to sustain itself out of some stalemate, "there was some incident with a bomb a few years back", he partially explained, before finding a polite moment to exit in the direction of the hubble bubble pipe where he sat for the rest of the night, connected in solitude.

"So where are you from", I asked the very English looking chap waiting in turn for the hubble bubble pipe, "Dublin", he responded. My slip-up came, reflexively I asked him which embassy he worked for, and while I failed resolve the capitals of the republic and the north he came back, "what do you think?". I answered wrongly, "these British don't know there geography for shite!", he gasped ! I bowed my head in shame to him and the all the twenty other Republic of Ireland folk that were apparently also in the country someplace. He offered the hubble bubble pipe to me and I offered to wrap it around my neck before slipping off to seek exile among the few compatriots.

*There ain't one.
**What little diplomatic relations there are is conducted via the Swiss Embassy.

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Keep banging on the walls of Fortress Europe.

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"No, it's not that they aren't allowed to leave, the government aren't keeping them here", my father corrected me, as we filled the commute with the usual analysis on Iranian life, "it's just that nowhere else will have them!". It was over a year ago that I'd had this realisation, it came as such a surprise that I remember the exact square metre of road he said this. This sad reality shouldn't have came as a shock to me, but I don't hide it – I'm incredibly ignorant of immigration and VISA issues – and to all those that find me, call me or email me it comes as a shock too.

"Daveed, I want to buy a house in Cyprus, maybe we'll go live there", my uncle perks up, something on the TV must have prompted him, "can I get a VISA?", he gets there, "do you think they'll give us a VISA? Can you find out?". This is the latest idea, Cypress, the latest country and his latest expectation of me. I look up inquisitively when he gets to these questions, maybe I look like I'm thinking about it, I hope so. If he could tune into my mind he might hear this between the distortion – "what dear uncle gives you the impression that I – dressed in my jim-jams, sipping tea while trying to block out Turkish soaps – have the foggiest about immigration and VISAs". I probably give a 'hmmm' at this point, then I sip, "never dear uncle have I ever personally* applied for a VISA or immigration, I've never even seen the form(s) and never made an inquiry about such things". These things are not aired, partly through politeness and partly because he and all the others that come with their questions don't want to hear the second reason why: that I mostly never need these things while traveling.

I did some maths, "at the current rate dear uncle you'll hear news in five years, so – don't make any plans"

Maybe I'm tetchy due to help I gave in what became an unsuccessful application for a visitation VISA to Great Britain and the ongoing help in the – as yet – four year process of immigration to America, both of which seem to appear more like a sick joke. I'll begin with the America gig, I'm still unsure with this one whether it's legit – the papers and stamps seem official enough, provisionally it's a green light, it's just the, "your application is being processed, do not make any plans..." bit that baffles me, maybe it's just the way the Americans put it, everything seems like a scam. "Can you call them", my uncle asks, "can you check online", he repeats. They've given him a handy user name and password, "your application is being processed", do not make any plans...", it says when I login with nearly a word-for-word copy of the letter, but it looks neat and makes my uncle feel that things are moving along. Just to confirm, I called, guided my way through the labyrinth of options, tapped in enormous strings of digits and finally got it, "your application number is 'x', we are now dealing with 'y', do not make any plans...". I did some maths, "at the current rate dear uncle you'll hear news in five years, so – don't make any plans".

The Brit gig was simply obscene and insulting as well as very expensive, remember, this is just for a two week holiday. I was drafted in for translation - not that my uncle can't read English - more that, even by lawyer's standards the paperwork contained an extra special weave of verbosity. My uncle had failed the initial application, having stumbled on the interrogation process, the poor feller mislocated a small town among other things, how silly of him to say north-west, it was clearly south-east. But the British aren't too harsh, they give you the option to appeal, and at only twice the price of the initial process, roughly two month's average wage. But it was failure again, this time my uncle couldn't prove that all the land and property he owed around Iran had any value, deeds don't mean dollars, oh how they wriggled out of that one. The re-appeal was available but the game could have gone on with the embassy raising the bar, inventing more English and taking further money. Unless the family were to leave a deposit, like my uncle himself, the embassy expected it would end up being an asylum case at the other end.

A colleague was rejected a visitation VISA for Canada the other day and another for America. In the Canadian case I was told that six people were successful in just over a hundred applications for that day, this is good business and psychological torture. I hear chants of freedom coming Eastwards, but they seem self-serving - as my father once enlightened me, the jail is imposed by those who chant the loudest.

*I have had two VISAs, one work related for America, but it was all taken care of for me and another for Lebanon, which was never used and also arranged for me, yet not entirely necessary due to me having a British passport, it was simply a time issue.

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