I’m prepared for anything – or so I think.
‘Hopefully it’ll all be fine.’ ‘Don’t get arrested.’ ‘Hopefully we’ll see you again.’ I’ve been hearing a lot of this over the last few weeks. I’ve been extremely reticent about going public with the project, and have only told a handful of people about my plan, so as not to draw unnecessary attention. I’m too afraid of getting on the security service’s radar for ‚propaganda against the system‘ before my journey has even begun. Friends tell me that they were refused entry because they had cameras in their rucksacks, being put on the next flight back to Germany.
The first passport check. I give the policeman my passport.
Policeman: ‘Where are you going?‘ Me: ‘Teheran.’ Policeman (surprised): ‘Willingly?‘ I’m silent. He wants to know what I’m doing there. I explain that I’m visiting relatives – from that moment on, it’s the standard lie throughout the shoot.
We’re sitting on a plan to Tehran. I’m afraid.
When we land, the women put on their headscarves.
We set foot in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Lucas and I split up. He stands in the immigration queue for foreigners. His turn comes immediately. I’m waiting in the queue for Iranians, with at least fifty people in front of me.
I notice the officials stamping Lukas’s passport, and I’m a little relieved, at least.
I prepare myself mentally for my turn. ‘Only speak English,’ I say to myself. Unlike with Farsi, of which my knowledge is rudimentary, that way I won’t be inferior to the official.
Now it’s my turn. I slip my passport through the slot. ‘Hello,’ I say quietly. I attempt a small smile. I think the official is surprised for a moment. Behind him stand two other policemen, staring over his shoulder.
‘He looks like Harry Potter’
comments one official in Farsi with a laugh, confident that I won’t understand. They don’t exchange a word with me, instead simply stamping my passport. I realise that I’ve cleared the first hurdle. A weight is lifted from my mind – but we’re not out of the woods yet.
Lukas is already waiting at baggage reclaim. He sees me coming. ‘Daniel, you ok? You’re so pale!’
The suitcases arrive quickly. Almost too quickly. I haven’t quite got over passport control before the next hurdle presents itself. An old baggage carousel on which the bags are X-rayed before you’re finally allowed to leave the airport.
All bags have to go on the conveyor belt, including our camera bag with three cameras, lenses, two microphones, a sound recorder and all sorts of other odds and ends.
The man in front of us is pulled out of line, and has to open his suitcase in a security area. I don’t want to look too closely, trying not to draw attention to myself. I stare at the end of the conveyor belt. First suitcase, second suitcase, camera bag.
I stare at the bags, grab them purposefully, turn ninety degrees and march directly to the exit. Any second I expect to hear the police shouting after me. But I march briskly onwards … done!
Outside Ali is already waiting for us. I give him a hug and the strain melts away. He laughs at me – I look so pale! I laugh awkwardly. We’ve arrived.
* * *