By Syma Sayyah, Tehran
My phone rang on Wednesday before the Norouz and my friend Feri from Brussels asked me if I could send her my pictures that I had taken from Bam and which were published in Payvand, to be put on display at an event that was staged and organized by YFSG during which they were to honor Mrs. Ebadi and present her with a cash award for Bam. Of course I said yes, but I said that I might be going to London the following week and I could send them to her from there. On second thoughts I had not been to Brussels for nearly 30 years, since my student days, where I had the best spaghetti in my life to this day (during this trip I discovered the secret, they add grated carrots to the sauce!). I said if I pay for the difference could I bring the pictures myself and spend a few days there too. Feri was delighted. We met for the first time a few months before, when she was in Tehran. She had been one of our readers and had invited me to join at the cultural program in order to build bridges of understanding between women in Iran and in Belgium. She had liked my little pieces in Payvand and had thought of me for the Iran Art and Cultural Exchange Partner.
We agreed that I should go to Brussels on Thursday evening, after spending a couple of days with my family in London and Oxford, and from there go to Ghent on Friday to set up the pictures for the program the next day, and then on Saturday to attend the event.
I managed to get the pictures printed in the size that was requested before the stores closed on Thursday and put them in my suitcase then e-mailed my sister in London to book me on the Eurostar to Brussels. I love traveling by train, since I find the airports so cold and impersonal, whereas trains are gentle. I find modern trains are restful and even peaceful for me; less rushed (and environmentally more friendly).
I was looking forward to seeing Feri again and to enjoy her enthusiasm and energy and wonderful laugh. Feri met me at the railway station and we went for a nice night out just the two of us. First she took me to this wonderful place a House for Women called "Amazon." (please see the pictures.) It is a house devoted to women for good causes related to women mainly. Its rooms are rented to NGOs at a very low rate, but if they can not rent a room then they are given a pigeon hole so they can have an address in order to help them to carry out their goals and be in touch with their target group. This way the goal of the organization is achieved which is to empower the weaker group to empower themselves and build strength, so that not everything is always about money.
They hold art exhibitions, concerts, seminar and other events there too. Mrs. Ebadi had visited the place during her last visit to Brussels and my friend Feri found herself to be her official translator. The ambience there was so warm and friendly. We then went to see a modern dance program called "Rain" which I found very interesting. Afterwards, we headed for a nice jolly yet casual and friendly new restaurant to grab a bite to eat and chat over things past and future.
The next day we went to Ghent in order to set up the panels. We were welcomed by two friendly members of YFHG. We saw several volunteers working very hard in order to prepare the hall for the next day's event. Feri works for Khayam Group in Brussels as well, and they had partly sponsored this event too. She had made a large panel where the Declaration of Human Rights Charter was written on it, as well as four others which contained Mrs. Ebadi's full Nobel Prize Speech, and a couple more with a poem and a pictures from Khayam (as an old master) and Sadegh Hedayat (as a new master) with a short biography on them. I had two large panels to post all my pictures from Bam on. We all got to work, but about 5 pm one of two members who were in charge of Mrs. Ebadi's program came in to inform us that he had just checked with Ebadi's manager Mr. Lahiji in Paris and he had said that Mrs. Ebadi may not come tomorrow. This group had printed her picture on their special newspaper edition and had set up a short video of her which was being shown on the walls around; besides they were going to present her with the award! Panic set in!
When we saw how distressed they were, I told them "don't worry we two are Iranians, and I know her and have talked to her". I told them that she had come to my house for tea to receive representatives of Iranian women groups. Also, I had been to Bam and my pictures were there on display. But above all I work in the Action-Operation committee supported by 44 NGOs in Iran that handles the funds that has been collected for Bam with Ebadi's name and support. I just wanted them to sleep that night in peace, as we hoped that she would be able to come.
As it turned out, Mrs. Ebadi was unable to come since she was meeting the Queen of Holland that day. This reception had been postponed from the week before because of the death of the Dutch Queen Mother and now it coincided with the event in Ghent. So there I was out of the blue most unexpectedly to receive this award on behalf of Mrs. Ebadi from the Young Flemish Socialist in Ghent in Belgium. When the time came, I was invited on stage and was introduced to the audience. I thanked them and mentioned that I was sure that Mrs. Ebadi wanted to be here as much as they did, and explained the circumstances. I hoped that they did understand. I also explained about the Bam group and their activities, the options that have been studied and decisions which have been taken, and I thanked them for their support. The Award of about US$5,000.- (250,000 Belgium Francs) was to be transferred to Mrs. Ebadi's Account in Iran for Bam.
The next day we went to this wonderful jazz bar for a brunch which had been booked by Feri's friends for her birthday, and we had first class jazz band entertaining us for some hours before I had to leave to catch my train back to England.
... Payvand News - 4/28/04 ... --