Interview with Lori Foroozandeh on Being Held Prisoner in Iran
An Incredible Interview About Personal Strength and the Power of God in Times of Struggle
You mentioned abuse while you were a child. Do you think that lead into drug use? I’m sure it did. When my adoptive family got me at 6 months old, I had a LOT of cigarette burns and rashes all over from not getting bathed or my diaper changed. Then when I was 10 -11 yrs. old my adoptive brother started molesting me. I emancipated myself from my family at age 15 to get married and get away from my brother.
Then you started attending Northern Michigan University? How did you meet Mohammad? He was visiting his children from a previous marriage. Beth (his ex-wife) and I were friends before I met him, and she told me she had to go into the witness protection program to get away from her ex husband because she was afraid she would end up dead or her kids taken away. But when I met Mohammad I thought Beth must have been crazy. Mohammad found Beth because he was close to the police department (in every county due to being a snitch) and they got the information for him. I was living in family housing at the University.
Tell us about your move to Iran. I had a 13 yr. old son (Doug) when I left, and I had asked him if he wanted to go with us or stay with his dad back in the USA. He chose staying with his dad. (In hindsight I’m so GLAD HE DID). We went to NY first and Mohammad had some secret dealings with his (COUSIN) he received a LARGE sum of money and then we took a plane to Iran. When I arrived I couldn’t speak Farsi (the persian language) and his family accepted me and were kind. They even held the traditional sacrifical lamb event, and I had to step over when welcomed to their home. I was an animal lover and this bothered me. I had to keep my head and body covered with a chadora or a roose a ree which was a scarf. The chadora was a big black wrap around piece of cloth. Paradoxically though I loved Iran, I taught English to girls aged 10-21 in a school called Zabanoomazan Language Institute. I loved my students and the feeling was reciprocated. I loved the fact that no one knew my past and loved me for who I was, that was until Mohammad started beating me.
Was the culture in Iran very different from the United States? The culture in Iran is so different. First thing I learned when we arrived at the airport and they took my passport, was that I needed my husbands written permission to leave the country. Mohammad had lied to me and told me how much more Iran was modernized now. When we got into a a nice limo like car at the airport the first thing I saw was a building that said “DEATH TO AMRIKA” then I saw women who were being slapped in the face for walking too close to their husbands.
They hang women quite regularly for sins like adultery. But a man only needs two people to back his story to get his wife killed. I think they don’t want to divorce her so they kill her. I saw them hang them with contruction cranes, and they want the children to watch too. They consider “compassion” as letting the womans mother walk her to the noose and spend five minutes with her. They consider Friday their day of rest and only have that day off work. All the shops shut down in the day from 2-4 for lunch and nap time. After dinner the men go smoke opium together.
Tell us about the events leading up to your being taken hostage. I had heard rumors from Mohammad and other women that something was going to happen on 911 (they picked that date because it correlated with our signal for distress). We didn’t know what or where just that something was going to happen. I tried to call home on the 9th,10th and the morning of the 11th, and the operator said no international calls being placed at that time.
Mohammad said we had to leave the country in case something happened and the USA retaliated ( i still didn’t know what they would retaliate for) we went to the Shiraz bus station and were going to catch a bus to Istanbul then a plane to America. About ten minutes or less two convoy cattle type trucks pulled up and took me one way and Mohammad another (that was literally the last time I saw Mohammad. I was blindfolded and taken to this camp in the hills. There was a L shaped cement building which we were led thru to the outdoor camp where we were handcuffed to one other person for the entire time. We were beaten, raped and starved for six weeks, the girl I was handcuffed to was Faresh she was from Bahrain, she told me that anyone who was American or who had ties to America were being picked up. She was a younger girl and when the guards saw that after they took one of us girls to rape us we would communicate sympathy to one another when they came back by facial expressions. This angered them so they started publicly raping us because then we were too embarrassed to look each other in the eye then. Fareshes parents and brother had to watch her get puclicly raped, and eventually her brother worked something out with the guard (I have no idea what but they were from a rich family) and one night we were finally going home. I told you what happened the night before we left. When we got out of the camp there were two men waiting to help us get back to Shiraz where I went to Ostandary (a place for foreigners in trouble) there is no embassy in Iran so they flew me to Dubai and then home.
When I got home I weighed 70 pounds, my teeth were knocked out, and I had suffered traumatic brain injury. But once I got home I didn’t care anymore started doing drugs again, stripping, and you name it I did it. Then I met John my true knight in shining armor. He sold his John Deere dealership to stay home and take care of me. I got clean in 2008 and have been ever since. I was diagnosed with bipolar in 2005 and am on meds that help tremendously. Is that it? I’m sorry still emotional after 12 years you’d think I would be less emotional but I’m not. I have a few more questions, but we can postpone. Oh OK go ahead we might as well wrap this up.You mentioned when we were talking earlier that you heard the voice of God just before you escaped. What was that like? When I felt the tap on my shoulder I turned around thinking someone was coming to take me away and beat or rape me again, but no one was there, then I heard a low clear voice tell me “Lori your going home” and I just felt warm and content for one moment. But I had no idea we were going home and the next night we were on our way.
So you got back and things didn’t go well at first like you said. Then you decided to write a book about the things that happened. Why? I kept being told that I should write a book about it, that it’s cathartic, it would take my mind off other things, yeah right I thought. So I sat down and started typing and for three months didn’t stop. I never have read my book from cover to cover because I’m scared to, but I let John proof read it for me chapter by chapter then I submitted it to a literary agent who edited the grammar and spelling. Then I self publbished. I really don’t know if it has helped me by writing it, but others tell me it has helped them (which is great). Everytime someone contacts me to speak or do a signing or something else, I have to embrace the whole book again and the nightmares come back and the flashbacks. Luckily my seizures have been few and far between though.
I love the title. How did you come up with it? A movie a long time ago called Brian’s Song it had James Caan I think in it, it was about a football player who got cancer and his struggles with life. I just loved that movie so it was after that.
Is there a message in the book you want to get across to readers? Yes you can overcome anything if you try. Don’t fall into a pattern like I did when I first got back from Iran, just focusing on all the pathetic things that have happened to you, that is the easy way out. Rise above that and be wise and break away from the crowd by turning your tragedy into a lesson learned and help to others when they are down on their luck. Portions of my book sales go to Amnesty International, The humane society, my drug addiction hospital and Henry Ford Hospital which has treated me since 2005. Thank you Justin for allowing me to tell my story, your a good man and on the right path to being a pastor.
When we first started talking you mentioned being interviewed on the Discovery Channel. What was that like? Was there any political or media response to what happened to you? The Discovery Channel (Fit and Health) did a mini documentary on me regarding my story. Even though a few facts were minimized if not wrong, they overall did a good job. I haven’t heard that there were ANY RESPONSES from that interview. Which I think is weird. I’m the third story in a series of three. This was aired on Dec. 27th 2012. The interview was nerve testing for sure.
Thank you so much for the interview. Your story is truly inspiring. What’s your life like now? I’m very happy now with the love of my life. I wish everyone well and never give up in the face of adversity. We have two choices in life to LIVE it or EXIST in it, I choose to LIVE it, and I hope you do too. I also have a blog that list all the links to stories or interviews regarding my book on the right of the page. www.lorissong.com