Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Escaping from tyranny

Most days the news brings us a story of some compelling human interest. While we are riveted for a few days, invariably another story grabs the headlines and we soon forget about the people whose story fascinated us just a few days ago.  It's rare that we get to revisit these people and find out what happened to them once the spotlight faded. The book "My Name is Mahtob" involves a young woman whose name we might not know, but whose story is likely familiar.

Mahtob Mahmoody was born in Texas in 1979 to an American mother and an Iranian father.  Her story eventually was told in the movie "Not Without My Daughter" starring Sally Field.  This book is the story of the young girl who was the center of that drama, and what has happened to her since the events in the book.

At age five, the family went to Tehran to visit her father's family, but he had no intention of coming back to the United States.  He was unpredictably violent and abusive, and refused to allow Mahtob and her mother to return to the United States.  He also censored their mail from relatives back home, and forced them to write letters about how much they loved their new lives in Iran.  At the same time, the war between Iran and Iraq was escalating, and bombings were a frequent occurrence.  Mahtob's controlling father at first refused to allow his wife and daughter out of his sight, but eventually he relaxed control enough for them to go out shopping for daily necessities, which ended up taking most of every day.  They planned an escape and when the time was right, they were able to flee and return to her mother's family in Michigan.

They went by new names and Mahtob's mother achieved some degree of closure by working on the book "Not Without My Daughter."  Mahtob was negatively affected by her experiences, and grew to hate everything to do with Iran, and her father especially.  Much to her mother's credit, she tries to get Mahtob to remember some good times with her father, mainly to keep Mahtob from becoming bitter and angry.  Her mother wanted a divorce, but filing would open them up to all sorts of dangers -- their location would be revealed to her father, and likely he would be granted unsupervised visits with his daughter, leaving him free to take her out of the country again.

This situation allowed Mahtob's mother to become a vocal advocate for safeguarding the rights of parents whose children were taken to other countries by estranged parents.  Mahtob spent her childhood afraid of being abducted by her father, yet at the same time sad about her estrangement from other members of her family.  This book is a very interesting look behind the headlines into the live of a resilient young woman who overcame huge obstacles to live a fulfilling life.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of My Name is Mahtob from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review

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