The Not Without My Daughter Problem: How a Sally Field Movie Became an Iranian-American Headache

My husband is Canadian and renewed his Iranian citizenship years after fleeing the country as a refugee using his brother`s identification. This article mirrors a lot of what I experienced with my husband during our marriage. In fact, I never saw the movie until my husband abandoned us and left us financially destitute in 2011. The movie happened to be showing on tv one night which I thought was very timely. Watching the movie, I felt there were similarities to what my husband had told me about his trips home to Iran and how my husband had changed. I always felt it was the pull of family that made this happen, he was homesick. Can you imagine how you would feel returning after 20 years to visit with your family. My husband said the first time he returned to Iran hundreds of people met him at the airport to welcome him. He said his homecoming made him feel like royalty. I would imagine it would feel very euphoric. Since my husband abandoned us, my husband’s friends in Canada were very loyal to him. For some it took a few years for them to show their true colours but for others it was immediate where I had to get lawyers to help reclaim family assets from them. After he left, I contacted his family to tell them we were having problems and ask for their assistance and nobody could find my husband. I asked two different Iranians to contact his family and talk to them in Farsi to explain the legal problems we were having in the hopes my husband would help; not one of his 8 brothers or sisters could locate my husband over months. I lost everything because he refused to help so I do see similarities with what happened to us and the movie and how an Iranian family can turn on you. Lawyers familiar with my situation tell me my husband mapped out his plans, years earlier. The only difference that I could see over the years was the level of abuse escalated in the hopes that I would leave the children. I overheard him telling my daughter that he could get her a job coaching and playing soccer in Iran, earning $100,000 per year; at the time I was forced to live off $100 per week to buy food, gas, clothes,  entertainment, medication and anything else that we needed for a family of 4. My husband was a Muslim when it suited him and convenient.

This movie is similar to my dual Iranian-Canadian citizen husband and now the Azer family are facing similar circumstances to the movie. Click here to read the truth behind the movie “Not Without My Daughter.” Can the Iranians really say the movie is not an accurate portrayal of their culture? Now the young girl from “Not Without My Daughter” is telling her own story in her memoir, “My Name is Mahtob.” Click here to read the full article or excerpts below that mirror my own experience and knowledge of my husband and Iran.


Iranian-American Sayed, better known as “Moody,” convinces his wife to travel with him and his daughter, Mahtob, for a vacation in Iran, promising to return to their Michigan home two weeks later. Once there, his personality takes a 180. Moody, rededicating himself to Islam, reveals his intention was always for them to stay in Iran for good. He won’t let his wife and daughter leave, and becomes physically abusive toward Betty when she resists.

“Here’s the thing that was funny about that movie: It’s that the husband was such a great guy. He was so normal until he got to Iran, and then he became the evil villain,” … “When you do a movie like this, it allows the audience to go, ‘Wow, look, they’re all like that,’” says Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani. “Whereas when you do a movie with an American guy who is just as oppressive, you go, ‘Wow that one guy is crazy,’ but you don’t think all Americans are crazy. That’s the danger.”

For some, the movie scanned as a cautionary tale against Iranian men. Moody had lived in the U.S. for 20 years before his family “vacation.” At the start of the film, he gently tells his daughter he’s as “American as apple pie” — 20 minutes later they’re in Iran, and he’s beating his wife.

It’s not just Iranian men whom NWMD gives a bad rap. It paints a severe, borderline grotesque image of the Iranian people, from the moment Betty and Moody step off the plane and a horde of men and women in full-length black chadors ominously surround the couple. What’s unique about the film is that it shows Iranians at home, the implication being: This is how they really are. “It’s all so primitive,” Betty remarks at one point as she absorbs the culture around her. The few good-hearted Iranians that help her escape are presented as exceptions to the norm, and only because they’ve had exposure to the West. In one almost comically demonizing scene, Betty pleads to her husband’s family for help and they bark at her in Farsi, none of which is subtitled in the film (though knowing what they say wouldn’t make it any better), as the camera zooms in on their furious faces.




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