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Attacked & Bashed in Iran

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Published on 16 February 2012

Peking to Paris 2010 Attacked in Iran Car 61 1935 Bentley Derby Monday the 4th October Another lovely day as we climbed up the sweeping mountain road to exit the Turkmenistan border into Iran. After six hours and the usual bureaucratic border delays we now take in our stride. We entered Iran at 1.30pm, with about 550km to go before we arrived at our overnight hotel in Gorgan. In good spirits with the car running well and a fantastic smooth winding mountain road in front of us and due to the delay at the border we knew we would not make our Gorgan hotel by nightfall but this was not a concern for us as there was no timing for this leg of the rally. The car conquered the 1700m ascent over the mountain without a hitch, and by 7.30pm we were only 40km away from our hotel and thinking about dinner. How things in a rally can change in an instant, we had just exited a roundabout in a small town and were joined by eight motorbikes, some had two riders and some had three onboard, we thought they were young guys just having a bit of fun, they surrounded the car with one of them in front of the car trying to stop us, the noise from the bikes was deafening. Suddenly things turned very nasty, they started yelling and screaming, we could not understand them, but when they began to punch us through the window we realised we were in big trouble. In fear for our safety we dared not stop and gave the bike in front of us a little bump just to let him know we would not be stopping. We wound up the windows and then they turned on the car trying to break the mirrors off, all the time yelling and riding like crazy. With our attention focused on the front of the car trying not to hit any of the motorbikes and cause an accident we didn’t notice what the other motorbikes and their riders were doing at the rear, we just waited for the rider in front of us to move a little and as soon as he did, we put our foot down and sped away. Arriving at the hotel shaken we were to discover that our problems had only just begun, during the attack one of the bikes had opened the car’s rear door and stolen our navigators bag containing our passports and money. The police were at the hotel, where we made out a full report of the incident. With Iran laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol we couldn’t even have a drink to drown our sorrows. We just wanted to have a shower and go to bed but as luck would have it there was a major stuff up with the rooms (no fault of the rally organisers’ but that’s another story) there was not enough rooms to go around, so with six people in one bedroom we called it a night. Tuesday 5th October Attack number two. After a lousy nights sleep we made our way to meet with a rally helper 30km short of Sari, so we could go to the foreign affairs office to get our new travel documents in Sari. We waited for two hours on the side of the road when a young man came along on a motorbike, I smiled and gave him a photo of the car, he started talking but I told him I couldn’t understand then he became very angry he started yelling and he grabbed my arm trying to grab the small amount of money I had in my top shirt pocket, but this time I was ready and gave him a big push which unbalanced him on his bike, while he was unbalanced we drove off and called the rally helper, and he said to go straight to Rashat. Wednesday 6th October Bad news day. Today we were told the only way to get out of Iran was to go to the Australian Embassy in Tehran and get new travel documents. We arranged for two rally entrants from New Zealand, Bruce Washington and his son Ben whose car had retired to drive our car across the border into Istanbul and we would try to rejoin the rally there. As we would be meeting them in Turkey we came up with Team ANZAC. In recognition of the Australian New Zealand Army Core that fort in Turkey at Gallipoli in the First World War After a long days drive to Tehran we checked into our hotel only to be asked for our passports, after a lot of discussion about stolen passports we convinced them to accept the police report as security together with full payment for our stay up front. Thursday 7th October Now the fun begins. After making arrangements the previous day we arrived at the Australian Embassy at 7.30am. They were so efficient and helpful and apart from trekking halfway across the city in peak hour traffic to get passport photos we had our new emergency passports soon after lunch. What a great effort by the Australian Embassy. We were thinking we would soon be out of Iran only to be informed that we needed an exit visa from the Disciplinary Force of Islamic Republic of Iran, Department of Aliens Affairs (DFIRIDAA) and they are closed on Thursday afternoon and Friday that is the weekend in Iran. So once again up the creek without a paddle. Friday 8th October Nothing to do and no beer. So sad, no beer and we were unable to do anything, this was the lowest point in the rally for us. Feeling sorry for ourselves, a phone call soon brought us back to reality with news of a bad rally accident in Turkey, no one was hurt badly but the car was a write off, we also received news that the two New Zealand drivers in our car, Bruce Washington and his son Ben, were driving in freezing cold snow rain fog and very muddy conditions in the dark, well at least the car was going well. So maybe our warm hotel room in Tehran with nice cups of tea wasn't so bad after all. When you think about it there is always someone doing it tougher than you and we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves. Saturday 9th October The Islamic way or NO Highway. The morning began with the taxi ride of our lives across town in peak hour traffic to the Iran Embassy; how we made it I just don't know, about six near misses, they are the worst drivers in the world. Arriving at the Embassy an hour early so we could be at the front of the line. When the gates were opened we were pushed back to about third through the door, never mind we were happy that we would soon be on our way out of Iran. But as luck would have it, the Australian Embassy faxed our letter requesting an exit visa upside down and all the Iran Embassy had was a blank piece of paper and on Saturday the Australian Embassy is closed. We were very lucky that our rally helper had hit it off with the lady at the Australian Embassy and had her private number, one call and the fax arrived about ten minutes later. The Iran Embassy informed us that we had only obtained a letter of approval to make an application for our exit visa. So another traumatic drive across town to the Disciplinary Force of Islamic Republic of Iran, Department of Aliens Affairs (DFIRIDAA) Now the fun really begins six forms, three passport photos, seven fingerprints. This just gets you to the first floor for an interview; we thought all was going fine. What a foolish thought as then one of the many officials said to us, “if you entered the country by car and now you want to fly out, where is the car?”. We explained to him that we had other drivers drive the car to Turkey, but we could not convince him. The official wanted a customs letter to prove the car had passed into Turkey and he would not budge. At this point we were getting quite use to the made dashes across town, this time to customs to obtain a letter stating the car had left Iran. Back to the DFIRIDAA and after another two hours we had two stamps in our passports and we were allowed to but an airline ticket and exit Iran. What an experience, by 7.00pm we were in bed totally exhausted. We were put through the washer with the Islamic System but that's how it is, however, apart from our Iranian Robbers every other Iranian that we came into contact with along the way was so helpful. During our stay we experienced so many acts of kindness; we were offered food and lodging, we were invited to a wedding after the groom’s father heard of our plight, there were offers of money by people that we had never met before, we were driven all over the city each day, taken out to dinner each night and our flights were upgraded to business class by a travel agent, once told of our problems. These acts of kindness will live in our memories long after those of being robbed are forgotten, the people of Iran would have to be some of the kindest and friendliest people that I have met in all of my travels. Special thanks to the Iran Automobile Club, The VW Club, Mr Ramin, Mr Emad, Mr Vancik the Iran rally champion and without his help as “Mr Fix-it” we would still be in Iran, and thanks to the people of Iran for all their hospitality. How lucky were we: Arriving home in Perth I was sent a news article from Iran that reads: On November 29, Shahriari was targeted by a bomb attached to his automobile by unknown terrorists on a moving motorcycle as he was on his way to Shahid Beheshti University, where he was a professor. Shahriari's wife, who was accompanying him at the time of the attack, narrowly escaped death with injuries. In a similar attack on another lecturer the same day, terrorists tried to assassinate Fereydoun Abbasi, another academic with the University of Shahid Beheshti. Abbasi and his wife -- who was also in the car -- managed to escape the incident with minor injuries, as he was reportedly alarmed when the bomb was attached to car. In the end we made it to Paris coming 18Th overall and 12th in our class. The car completed every time trial and was within the allowed time for all sections of the rally. With not one breakdown. We won the TRUE GRIT TROPHY but we lost our gold medal because we changed drivers while getting our new passports.