My own special day

My own special day

* For the benefit of myself and my iranian family, I have taken out the names of the people involved as well as places to protect their identities*It’s taking a lot of courage and bravery from my side to talk about this issue. The issue I’m disclosing is about my Iranian father. Today I’d like to tell you his story on my own special day – my 30th birthday.

My father came to the UK in the late 1970s on a student visa to study Civil Engineering in a university in Hertfordshire. Whilst in London, he met my mother (who was a nurse at the time) and they began dating and getting to know each other. He and my mum naturally over time and through their relationship growing and blossoming – fell in love. In June 1980, they got married in a registry office and had a small intimate reception with family and friends. After being happily married for three years, my mother gave birth to me in October 1983 with my dad by her side. It seems my father got his way with giving me a full Iranian name (in Persian, Kamran means beloved and successful). Things were good. We were all in awe of each other.

However, my father’s student visa eventually ran out. Still being really happy with his marriage and family and living in London, my dad tried to cling onto London life by getting work as a minicab driver to avoid being deported as he didn’t want to go back to Iran. At this time, Iran was in war with Iraq. Eventually, the Iranian and British authorities caught up with him and threatened his Iranian family if he didn’t cooperate and move back to Iran. My dad had no choice but to leave behind his wife and young son and go back to Iran. My mum lost the love of her life and I was her only comfort.

My dad would correspond over the years with my mum as they wrote letters to one another. As the devout Christian she was, my mum always had hope of seeing dad again. But eventually, the letters stopped. My mum wondered through all the options of why the letters stopped.

I now assume my dad realised that it was near impossible to come back out to London to live and work again especially as relations between the UK and Iran weren’t at its best. So he decided to start his life again in Iran. As a Muslim, you are allowed up to four wives and with this loophole, he decided to find love again, this time with an Iranian woman.

My mum never heard from him ever again. She carried on wearing her wedding ring until in 1992; she gave up hope of him returning again and divorced him. To say she was heartbroken was an understatement. It drove her into a deadly cocktail of comfort eating, unhappiness, loss and depression that she never fully escaped from.

Although my mum was unhappy, she never let me see it. The sixteen years I was afforded with her were the best, most loving, fun and caring years of my life. No one could ever take that away from us, not even my dad.

My mum passed away at the age of 46 from on-going diabetes, depression, encephalitis (brain virus that affects speech, memory and thought) and breathing problems months before my 17th birthday.

As a young adult, I formed quite a negative view of my dad. After starting poetry (which was influenced by my mum’s death and the emotions within that), I blamed my dad for a lot of things

and only gave recognition to him because his sperm helped create me. This passed on into my views of my own identity as I denounced my Iranian side and identified myself as Black instead of Mixed-Race. I even changed the pronunciation of my Iranian name to sound more British.

Years later and I still hadn’t heard anything from my dad. To me, he was dead. Non-existent. I could’ve let this affect my life and act like a spoilt rebel who didn’t have his daddy. Instead, I vowed to myself that I would be the best dad I could be – a better dad than he was to me.

The curiosity in me did look for his full name on Google, Facebook and genealogy websites, just to see if I could find anything. Nothing was found. But it wasn’t until 2012 when l was asked by a friend if I had tried my hardest to find my dad that it dawned on me – I needed to do exactly that. So I did. I wanted to have enough accurate information about my dad to educate and inform my daughter. I wanted her to form her own honest opinion of him.

Over the course of a year, I searched his name on Google to see if I could find anything on him. Nothing. I tried to find records on him on various genealogy sites. Nothing.

I asked all my friends on Facebook for advice and the right way to go about this and was given some good pointers. In particular, my close friend -who is Iranian – helped me with so much information: contacts, different avenues to investigate, asking her family here and in Iran about my father and that side of the family. I applied and wrote to TV shows like ITV’s Long Lost Family and BBC1’s Heir Hunters to either be on their show or for advice. Nothing.

I phoned customer service numbers from the genealogy websites and from family advice centres for some leads. I called and emailed the Society of Genealogists and got the postal address of a place in Iran that holds all birth/death/military records and sent a letter to them in English and Persian. Never got a reply.

I got in touch with universities in Hertfordshire where he studied to try and get information on him, but the Data Protection Act prevented me on receiving any details on my dad. I sent emails to English-Iranian newspapers. Nothing. I got in touch with the Iranian Library in London. They couldn’t help and said it’s hard to find people in Iran, which I found out to be true.

I tried everything and put my hardest efforts into finding my father. I never gave up though even when things were against me.

I messaged all the people on Facebook with my surname and middle name in their name. Most people weren’t interested and didn’t know anything. One person in particular (even though she didn’t know me or my dad) replied back to me and vowed to help me find him. Out of nowhere, she found someone with exactly my dad’s name, possible occupation, and approximate age living in Iran. And from finding these details, my new friend was able to find this man’s birth certificate and his phone number. With my permission, my friend called the man but got a woman answering the phone. She tried again and the man answering the phone denied any knowledge of me or my story.

Feeling disheartened, disappointed and in desperate need of assistance; my friend gave me the details of an Iranian TV channel based in London. She thought they might be interested in my story and could possibly offer help. When I approached them, they were very intrigued and wanted to make an honest documentary from it. But after my friend insisted in not being involved in case her identity was found out and sought out by this man, the documentary was scrapped for not having enough evidence.

Meanwhile, a good friend of mine told me that there was a local Iranian Community Centre in North London that would be worth contacting. So I called and talked to them about my situation. They vowed to help me. They said that they had a similar situation with someone else and the manager’s cousin who lives in Iran helped to find that person’s family. I emailed them with all the information (including the phone number my friend had obtained of the man with my dad’s name), documents and photos I had of my dad to help them on their search.

In the course of a year, the contact in Iran used all of his contacts to trace my father and his family. He worked tirelessly and unselfishly to find him. It was hard work but he managed to find my uncle in northern Iran. My uncle didn’t know anything about me. (He and my dad haven’t spoken for a while due to a family conflict)

He didn’t know his brother had created a family abroad but he did know that he did go to study in the UK. I had an Iranian relative that I knew was mine. He was alive and well – he was my uncle. I was beyond happy.

My Iranian contact kept working hard to help me find my father. He kept giving me regular updates. He gave me different avenues to go down. And he always assured me that my dad will be found.

I was just grateful to have help and support. He was a Godsend.

On Christmas Day last year out of the blue, I got a message from my contact. HE FOUND MY DAD!!! He found him in Iran living with his wife – and his two daughters. Yes I have two stepsisters!

My contact had been talking to him on the phone for months and finally met him. My dad was in shock. He never thought he would hear from me again. He was told about me, my life, my family. He was told about my mum’s death, which broke his heart.

Still, my dad expressed pride in me and my achievements. He was proud of me – wow! I never ever thought in my lifetime that this day would happen. I’m still in shock now. I have stepsisters, I have Iranian family – I’m a big brother, who would’ve thought it?

My dad does want to Skype me and talk – to tell me his side of the story. He also wants to come to London and visit me in person. But there are obvious reasons why that can’t happen at the moment.

My dad has to keep me a secret from his wife and blood relatives. In Iran, things are very traditional especially with families and marriage. If anyone finds out about me, his wife could leave him and he would be frowned upon and disowned by his family for lying and concealing such a truth and leading a double life whilst in the UK. I wouldn’t want to do anything that could get him in trouble or jeopardise his life in any way. That might sound weird after how he made my mother and I feel, but my mum was never the type of person to seek revenge. Being adult and civil about things was instilled in my upbringing. At the end of the day, I’m just happy that I found my dad again when my mum couldn’t and that I have my dad back in a better capacity than ever before.

I’ve been told by my Iranian contact that my dad is a kind-hearted, good-natured, warm, loving and caring gentleman. He is handsome, looks after himself and we have a lot of similar features. The fact that I can even talk about my dad in this manner is such an amazing God-given blessing.

I prayed so hard for this day and God granted it to me in such a beautiful profound way that it’s impossible to doubt that God exists in all we do.

I have real information to tell my daughter and wife about. That is priceless in the evolutionary history of my family – especially my Iranian roots.

I pray that this is the beginning of my father and me getting to know each other with the opportunity to bond. I still have a lot of questions to ask, but I also have a lot of questions answered. My life feels more complete. A lot of the observations I had in youth concerning my family totally make sense now. Another puzzle piece has been filled, all thanks to God. He used His vessels to help me and to assist me in the goal of finding my dad.

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