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Last updated: 23 march, 2010 - 12:36 GMT

An Iranian Passport Problem

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Nahal Tajadod is an Iranian living in Paris, who makes occasional trips to Tehran to see friends and family. However, when she needed to renew her passport on a visit to Iran in 2005, she ran into a long chain of difficulties which prevented her return home.

It all started because the Iranian passport system was being computerised at the time of her application. A process that should have taken three days took weeks.

Nahal began to look for loopholes and shortcuts, and was offered help by the local photographers who took her passport picture.

They said they knew a doctor who was very well connected and who would help her.

So began a sequence of increasingly strange encounters.

The doctor was a pathologist, and suddenly a corpse was involved. It transpired that the doctor was carrying out an autopsy on the cousin of a senior passport official, which was soon to open more doors for Nahal.

Next Nahal found herself queuing at the passport office alongside one woman who was trying to send prostitutes to Dubai, and another trying to bribe the official with a cockerel hidden under her chador.

In the midst of the chaos, Nahal had to field increasingly impatient phone calls from her screenwriter husband, Jean-Claude Carriere, who could not understand what was delaying her return to Paris.

In a final twist, when all seemed lost, it was a visit to the master puppeteer of Tehran which provided the ultimate solution.

Nahal went to the puppeteer to discuss his involvement in a French arts festival organised by her husband.

While she was there, he was visited by a senior government official, who found out about her difficulties.

It was this chance encounter which at last opened the right doors for her, and her passport was finally renewed.

Nahal Tajadod spoke to Matthew Bannister about her frustrating, yet amusing, ordeal. She told him her story in French, while Jean-Claude Carriere translated into English.

Nahal Tajadod's book Tehran, Lipstick and Loopholes is published by Virago.

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