I’d like to take a moment to introduce Niaz Maleknia. Niaz is a photographer based in London. You can see her incredible work here www.niazmalekniaphotography.com.
I first heard the story you’re about to read whilst on a panel at Conway Hall for an exhibition called When Women Gather, a fabulous exhibition by a mutual friend and colleague Grace Gelder. That day on the train ride home Niaz’s story just wouldn’t leave me alone. When I walked through the door I texted Niaz and asked her if she’d share it on the blog. The story tells the journey of her escape from the Iranian Revolution and a particular pair of beloved shoes.
The Red Shoes
by Niaz Maleknia
I left Iran in 1979 as the Revolution broke out.
I had been sleeping in my parents’ room with my brother as the political climate in Iran was becoming aggressive. At first this was a novelty and quite exciting. The excitement stopped when one night my father woke us up and told us to get into the car and not to say a word in Farsi. I wanted to take my favourite doll, her suitcase and my favourite red shoes, which I had bought at Harrords a few months earlier.
I left with only my doll.
Arriving in Tehran was a frightening experience. We had to crawl on the floors of our apartment so that it did not appear occupied. The lights had to be turned off so that we did not expose my uncle who we were hiding from the Islamic army.
After a few weeks we managed to secure flights to London. London was the place we would visit in the summer time when Iran would begin to sizzle. We had a flat here. My parents hid money in the lining of their cases and we boarded the flight to London.
I thought we were only going to be in London for a few weeks or at the most a few months. The Shah left Iran and then it began to seem unlikely that we would ever go back.
London in the early 80s was a cold bland place. It was not home. My mother at this point was diagnosed with a brain tumour. She was already trying to deal with being in a new country with no family or friends and adjusting to a new life, she now had to deal with the illness. She suffered from three forms of cancer all her life.
Eleven years later I went back to Iran and visited the sight of my old house. The house had been bombed down in the Iran Iraq war. Under the rubble I found my red shoes and my old drawing book. I have both with me in London now.
The Revolution took me away from my home and most certainly had a negative impact on my relationship with my mother. My mother also never saw her father when he died. It was a loss at all levels.