I got the idea to write The Persian Woman some years ago when I was running an international security business, operating out of Brussels. One of my associates was an expatriate Iranian woman, whom I shall call Janelle. She was a wonderful lady, bright, multi-lingual, and gracious. We became friends. In time she invited me to meet her family, then also living in Brussels. This included her sister, a quiet young woman who liked to ride horses bareback in the Parc Leopold. The sister, whom I shall not name, rarely spoke and always averted her eyes downward in my presence. I wondered if she was just shy or if she was carrying some dark secret that shut her off from strangers. I found her quite mysterious.
Eventually, I learned from Janelle that her sister had been studying in Iran to become a concert pianist. Her specialty was the romantic music of Chopin. But the Islamic regime there disapproved of this music and forbade her to study or even play it. She refused to comply, so the regime threw her into the Qsar, a frightful prison for political dissidents. There she was forced to recite long passages from the Qur’an while kneeling on a stone floor, beaten on the back of her legs with wooden poles, and whipped with leather scourges.
“I can’t believe anyone would do that in the modern world,” I said.
“Do you believe this?” Janelle asked. She turned her sister around and unzipped the back of her blouse. Her sister’s back was a snakes’ den of purple scars and raised welts.
From this troubling encounter arose The Persian Woman. How many more like her were in Iran or other Muslim countries? What were their lives like? How could they ever fit into the modern world? I decided to tell their story. The Persian Woman is the result.