“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Roxana’s Revolution, a gripping story of individuals caught in events both inexplicable and out of control. We see the characters pulled between desire for something better for their beloved homeland and the growing knowledge that even worse is waiting for them, their friends, and their families. Eventually reality overwhelms, as it always does, even the most fervent hopes. —John Limbert When the media frenzy over the hostage crisis of 1979 worsens and anti-Iranian sentiment surges all over the United States, Roxana, a Wall Street attorney has no choice but to return to Iran. During a stop in Paris, she meets Steve Radcliff, an American reporter with a tenacious attraction to her. Back in Tehran, where circumstances are nothing less than volatile, Roxana learns that revolutions while exciting and historic on pages of a book are painful to endure. As one crisis after other spins out of control, the government imposes wearing of a mandatory veil. This harsh revolutionary rule and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran diminish Roxana’s hope to have a normal life. She rejects Steve’s marriage proposal and refuses to leave Iran with him. But a near- death experience and loss of her freedom in a border- sealed Iran propel her to enter a marriage doomed from its inception. In this novel, an Iranian woman’s life comes full circle as she takes a journey through Europe, and back to the United States. A dire situation takes Roxana back to Paris where a life-altering surprise is waiting for her.
Farin Powell practices law in Washington, DC. In addition to many legal publications, she has published short stories and poems in various literary magazines and poetry anthologies. She is the author of the book of poetry A Piece of Heaven and the novel Two Weddings.
“An ambitious novel of an Iranian woman’s personal and professional struggles during a time of war and unrest…Powell does a good job of capturing the intense emotions of a very dramatic time…a captivating plot with a well-developed protagonist.” —Kirkus Reviews
R oxa n a’s R e v ol u t ion
R oxa n aâ€™s R e v ol u t ion
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Roxana’s Revolution Copyright © 2013 by Farin Powell All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. iUniverse books may be ordered through booksellers or by contacting: iUniverse 1663 Liberty Drive Bloomington, IN 47403 www.iuniverse.com 1-800-Authors (1-800-288-4677) Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them. Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only. Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock
ISBN: 978-1-4759-8062-2 (sc) ISBN: 978-1-4759-8063-9 (hc) ISBN: 978-1-4759-8064-6 (ebk) Library of Congress Control Number: 2013904798 Printed in the United States of America iUniverse rev. date: 04/16/2013 Image of Demonstration, © David Burnett, from the book “44 Days: Iran and the Remaking of the World” Focal Point, 2009. Contact Press Images, Inc
To Reza, Hamid, Nahid, Nadi, and all those whose lives were changed because of the Iranian Revolution
I would like to thank Richard, and Bobby for being my first readers and critics. I’m grateful to Jimmy, Judith and Feri for their enthusiasm about my work. Special thanks to Soraya for her book club reading efforts, and finally, many thanks to Ambassador John Limbert for being a class act. Despite his 444—day experience in Tehran, he still believes that there should be dialogue between Iran and the United States. The world would be a better place if we had more diplomats with John Limbert’s depth of knowledge and cultural understanding.
June 1990—Paris Having touched death several times in her life, Roxana Ramsy has never been afraid of her own death. She fears instead for the life of her childhood friend, Lili, who’s returning to Tehran without her Iranian passport, having forfeited it after leaving a sensitive government job many years ago. Using her British passport, Lili is trying to enter Iran and free her father from jail. She is ready to endure any political consequences. Or she believes she is. After an emotional farewell to Lili, Roxana doesn’t feel like going back to her hotel room. She walks by the Seine until she finds a quiet area. She sits on the riverbank facing Notre Dame Cathedral. She cannot enjoy the scenes around her when Lili is facing danger. Staring into the water, she calculates the approximate time Lili’s plane will land in Tehran. Can Lili survive in prison? Will she ever see Lili again? She wonders. Anxiety crawls under Roxana’s skin like millions of invisible creatures. She hates the feeling, the numbness of her brain and the rapid heartbeats. She imagines that she should be used to fear by now. She gripped its hands every time Saddam Hussein bombed Tehran, and every time her husband abused her. She raises her gaze to the towering spires of Notre Dame and the picturesque scene across the river. Sitting on the bank, with her heart halfway across the world, she expects to hear sad music, the kind played during rainy funeral scenes in movies. Instead, she hears the ix
thunderous cry of Allahu Akbar, God is great—the same chant she heard so many times during her years in Tehran. The passage of a large Bateau Mouche and the cheerful buzz of its passengers interrupt her thoughts. Lili is in danger, and carefree tourists enjoy their boat ride on the Seine River. What’s wrong with this picture? She is in Paris, her favorite of all European cities, but she doesn’t feel the city is there. Roxana’s friends often tease her for considering Paris a mistress—a thrilling diversion from her problems. Since her first trip at the age of seventeen, she believed she owned a small piece of that city. Now, after living through the Iranian Revolution, Saddam’s cruel war, and a stormy divorce, she finds that Paris can’t remove the bitter taste in her mouth. No, this isn’t the city she used to know, the mistress she used to have. She has known for some time that the city doesn’t belong to her anymore, the same way she doesn’t belong to Paris, or any other city for that matter. The question, though, the one that has haunted her throughout the day, is how can she save Lili? All her life, Roxana has solved her friends’ problems. Why does she feel so helpless now? She starts walking alongside the river, remembering her life, Lili’s, and the lives of those she has left behind. She doesn’t know that by the end of the day, her own life will change forever.
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November 1979窶年ew York City On Monday, November 18, 1979, Roxana read the deportation notice once more. She took a deep breath to digest what she had read. The letter had the official seal of the Immigration Office; it was real. For a moment she felt she had been pushed off a cliff and was tumbling down with no one around to help her. What was she supposed to do? She had heard about immigration jails and forced deportation. Fighting tears, she wondered about her future. Her American dream had just been shattered, like a house of cards blown away in the wind.
Sunday, November 4, 1979. Roxana finished the final draft of her pleadings in an antitrust law case that her law firm was handling in Geneva. She felt tired. She put her legal pad down and took a ten-minute break. She fixed herself a cup of coffee and returned to her Queen Ann desk chair. Huddled over the steaming cup, she pressed her spine into the quilted leather of her chair and let out a deep breath. She looked out the window, taking in the beauty of the sunset reflected in the Hudson. A white charter boat drifted out of sight behind the Merrill Lynch building, which obstructed the left angle of her view. Occasionally, Roxana sat there and wondered what it would be like to work for a big company like Merrill Lynch but knew she had a long way to go before such a job could be within her reach. She needed a few years of corporate law experience. 3
She finished her coffee and realized that she should be grateful for the job she had—especially as she’d been so close to giving up on the idea of a job in New York City before Rubin & Stein—a small Wall Street law firm—hired her. If she’d heard, “You have a doctoral degree; you should be teaching law,” one more time during those lean months, she thought she’d scream. Yet the partners at Rubin & Stein seemed more than impressed by her expertise in international law, her awards, and the long list of law review publications—the exact things that had worked against her in previous interviews. Luckily for her, Rubin & Stein’s clients transacted their business in Europe, mostly in Switzerland. Her knowledge of several foreign languages and her ability to write pleadings for European courts landed her the job after only a thirty-minute interview. After reviewing her brief for a last time, she piled the legal pads—with instructions—on the secretary’s desk. Rubin and Stein were both in Geneva waiting to receive the materials. She was too tired to take the subway home. She called the firm’s limousine company and ordered a car—a reward her bosses allowed anytime she worked late or during the weekends. The limousine driver dropped her in front of her apartment building on East Seventy-Ninth Street. She remembered she had nothing to prepare for dinner, so she walked into the small convenience store near the building and bought a TV dinner, a can of Pepsi, and one vanilla ice cream cone. Back in her apartment, she ate her dinner by the light of a small lamp on the table next to the sofa and listened to her answering machine. After the first lengthy message, something about a New York Bar Association event, her friend Lili Cohan’s panicked voice crackled across the line. “Roxana, I don’t have your new office number. I’ve been trying to reach you all afternoon. Some students have taken hostages at the American Embassy in Tehran. Please call me.” Roxana’s fork fell to the floor. She put her unfinished TV dinner on the table, turned the TV on, and switched from channel to channel, watching the story unfold. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She turned the TV off, stared at her melting ice cream, and muttered, “Oh my God.” 4
As it was 3:00 a.m. where Lili was in London, Roxana didn’t call her, assuming she’d be asleep. Instead, she called her younger brother and sister, both of whom lived in New Hampshire. Her first call was to Bahram, who didn’t have much to say about the matter. He was busy at work and was preoccupied with a project he had to finish. So she called her sister, Neghar, to find out her take on the situation. Neghar had more time to chat with her sister and talk about the hostage crisis. After they hung up the phone, Roxana checked her call list. Nina had called too. She marveled that Lili and Nina, whom she’d known since childhood—and who, along with Roxana, had been dubbed “The Three Musketeers”—still kept in such close contact. She felt grateful every day to have them in her life, though circumstances kept them apart geographically. When Roxana dialed Nina’s number, she got her answering machine. Probably at the hospital, she thought. Although she was shocked about the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran, Roxana slipped under the covers that night, confident that the American hostages would be released within the next few days.
Amrika Held Hostage: Iran Crisis was the title of a TV news program Roxana hated to watch. Every day, she promised herself that she would not watch the program anymore, but every night she found 5