Before The Emergence Of The Axis Of Evil

Sue Chehrenegar

© Copyright 2004 by Sue Chehrenegar

Photo of a set of drums.

        As people the world over develop a growing awareness of the potential threat posed by multifarious terrorist groups, I hear from my husband repeated stories about how the rudiments of Al Queda first made themselves felt in the land of my husband’s birth—Iran, the country located between Iraq and Afghanistan.  While still a young student, my husband suffered from the efforts made to indoctrinate school children with the teachings of Islam. Although the Jewish students were free to excuse themselves from these lessons, my husband, who had been reared as a Baha’i, was not.

        My husband has recounted for me one attempt by “pre-Al Queda” to mount surveillance of and actions against his own father, a respected Baha’i teacher.  One time his father wanted to underline his suspicions that such surveillance was aimed at removal of the Shah.  Therefore, this businessman and teacher quietly removed, before the eyes of government officials, the Shah’s picture. Of course, history has shown that his efforts were unsuccessful in preventing the theocracy that now rules in Iran.

          My husband’s awareness of these subtle attempts to increase the presence of the Islamic leaders arose from both his day-to-day relations with his perceptive father and from his frequent contact with his cousin.  His cousin was at one time a member of Savak, and he eagerly taught his interested relative the need for countless government precautions against any “enemy infiltration.”

        Ever since September 11, 2001 my husband has pointed out to me his perceived  “holes” in the nation’s homeland security.  In late September of that year he bemoaned the fact that he could not do more to help.  One afternoon he said, “I feel like I ought to go out and sit under a bridge.”  About one week later Grey Davis, then the governor of California, called up members of the Reserve. He wanted them to patrol several of the state’s bridges, thinking that such structures might be at risk.

         On another occasion my husband and I were driving past the loading dock at Beverly Center, a popular mall on the west side of Los Angeles.  My husband said, “See, there is no one guarding there. That is very dangerous. A terrorist could get in there and plant a bomb.”  Fortunately, that prediction did not yet come to pass. My husband did, however, influence the thinking of his older son, who started to watch for terrorists while he was taking passport photos, especially when those posing were fluent in Farsi.

         Very soon after I first met the Iranian student who would become my husband, I noted his desire to imitate all types of clandestine movements.  He enjoyed assuming an air on officialdom, always ready to trick the unsuspecting.  When I was a patient at UCLA, my husband used his skills to sneak into my room long after visiting hours had ended.

        One time my husband held a job with a film company here in Southern California.  The director was most impressed with my husband’s ability to maneuver a car in a fashion that was typical a police officer. My husband whisked his assigned vehicle back and forth in the parking lot, the site of the filming.

         The Iranian student who I met in February of 1979 also liked to drive through the alleys, an action he had seen taken by the cops in Baltimore, where we both then resided.. In addition, he struggled in halting English to share many stories about his contact with his cousin.  My favorite story relates how my husband once used his knowledge to foil an entire assemblage of Savak agents.

        One day when my husband’s cousin had stopped at the home of his aunt, the mother of my future husband, he grandly announced that that night he would be attending a unique celebration.  It was to be a gathering of all the Savak agents, with special entertainment provided for them at the Shah’s expense.

        A very attentive young man stood in the kitchen when this announcement was made.  That extra pair of ears belonged to Bijan, the determined teen I would later marry.  Bijan knew a great deal about the lengths to which his cousin would go in order to maintain the security of the Shah and those under the monarch. He had once seen his cousin fire a cook, because that cook had allowed a free tasting of the dish that was being prepared for an official dinner.  Later, at the urging of Bijan’s more forgiving father, the cook had regained his former position.

        With this experience firmly in mind, Bijan now peppered his cousin with questions.  When was this affair taking place? Where would the agents gather?  Exactly how would they be entertained? Most importantly, could he, a youthful relative, be permitted in to see the performance?

        Bijan’s cousin glibly divulged the answers to all of the many questions.  He was not reluctant to share with others the location and time for this gathering, as well as providing tempting insights into who would be performing on stage.  This Savak agent gave away such privileged information, because during the planned program Savak agents would be everywhere.

        Bijan’s cousin had assumed that, since Savak agents would be massing together both inside and outside of the auditorium, the prohibition against entrance by the uninvited would be strictly and easily enforced.  Some nine hours later a surprised Savak agent would discover that his assumptions had been formulated without a proper analysis of the facts.

        The facts were exactly what Bijan had been after.  And the facts were what Bijan had received.  He had gotten the location for this special event, the time at which it was scheduled to start and even the name of the popular music group that would be on stage.
He had also received, but had discounted, the information that he would not be allowed in to see the band perform.

        This enterprising and clever youth now put into play the plan he had devised for penetrating the circle of Savak agents that would doubtless surround the building where this special musical presentation was supposed to take place. Step number one was a trip to the location where the performers were practicing. He stopped by to visit, acting like a fan whose primary, no sole, interest lies in having contact with the members of a much-respected music group.

        Now it should here be made clear that in the Iran of the early 1970s there was little need for the protection of entertainers.  So Bijan had no trouble visiting with the band that would later be entertaining the large collection of Savak agents. During the course of that visit Bijan made a discovery that eliminated a need for the remainder of his “plan A.”
Bijan’s discovery impelled him to quickly form a “plan B.”

        Bijan discovered that the group’s usual drummer had called in sick.  That band member would be unable to play the drums at that night’s performance.  Ever resourceful, Bijan confidently asserted his willingness and his ability to fill the drummer’s shoes.  The band, placing primary importance on the success of their coming performance, agreed to let Bijan take over in the seat behind the band’s large drum set. As Bijan had predicted, the band members did not think like Savak agents, in other words like men who would have immediately wanted a close scrutinizing of Bijan’s credentials.

        Hence, as the band loaded all the instruments onto its truck, Bijan was there to help.  Then when the band’s truck left for the auditorium, Bijan was one of those on board.  At the building entrance, the truck’s occupants immediately acquired access to the auditorium.  The Savak had earlier checked into the background of all the listed band members, and the Savak had approved the entrance of the band members on that list.

        Once again things proceeded as Bijan had predicted, and the Savak had failed to take into account the possibility that there could suddenly be an unlisted band member with those in the band truck. Consequently, Bijan, the young man who had been told by his cousin that he couldn’t possibly be allowed into this special gathering, soon found himself carrying the drums onto the stage. As the curtain went up, a drummer named Bijan was providing the band with its rhythm section.

        In that crowd of Savak agents there was only one man who was instantly aware of the penetration of the affair’s supposed security.  That one agent was, of course, Bijan’s cousin.  That man, who prided himself on his ability to catch potential interlopers, must have felt chills going up and down his spine.

        There on stage was someone who had evaded the Savak’s elaborate protections.  Even worse, it was not just any someone; it was someone who, like the agent, had family ties to the well-known shop owner whose name, when translated, meant, “face painter.”
The young cousin of a respected Savak agent had cleverly outwitted his surprised relative.

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