DEFIANCE: A Chronicle Of Courage
By Chance DeWitt
(AKA Tom Eck)
Review by Mikel Miller
This true story of Zahra chronicles her struggles to escape oppression in Iran and build a new life in the USA. As the Foreword says: “It is the story of one woman’s courage, perseverance and honor, both inborn and acquired. It is a chronicle of virtues we all pursue but seldom, if ever, fully achieve.” The author’s writing reads like a movie script, filled with tension that rises and falls from scene to scene, and I can see those two sentences scrolling across the big screen.
The book reminds readers how the CIA can help overthrow foreign leaders, sometimes at cross purposes with the U.S. President. But the author also includes the chilling account of how the U.S. government can pursue alleged criminals at home with arrest, intimidation, freezing all assets, and manipulating false witnesses in court.
Zahra’s story could come from today’s headlines but it began in Iran during the 1970s, when her stepfather was a general in the Shah’s inner circle. Connections with international partners helped him amass a fortune but, in early 1976, he sensed trouble was coming. “I have reports that the American CIA is now involved with the mullahs,” her stepfather explained to her. “In fact, one of the mullahs whom the Shah exiled to France almost eight years ago is working with the CIA. His name is Khomeini.” He and his partners began liquidating assets, and Zahra helped smuggle almost $1 billion in U.S. currency and diamonds into foreign countries.
Informed readers may recall the Carter White House efforts to save the Shah, and the humiliation of U.S. hostages after his exile. “Power does strange things to people,” Zahra’s stepfather warned her. “Right now, I cannot tell you what will happen, but I think we should prepare for the worst.” Her stepfather and mother fled Iran, but she and her husband remained. Authorities confiscated their home and, after two years of hiding, they paid a guide $300,000 in U.S. dollars to help them and their two small children cross the rugged mountains into Afghanistan. Opportunistic associates killed the guide, took their vehicles, and they continued on foot. Dehydration and starvation forced them to stop, and she thought her infant son would die.
Throughout the book, the author helps the reader feel Zahra’s anguish. “She took the faintly breathing Ali into her arms and clutched him. He did not move and was now so light she thought of him as a feather about to drift away forever. ‘Mommy, do you remember when you said that we would not die unless we wanted to?’ asked Maryam. ‘I do, my little lamb,’ Zahra responded. ‘Mommy, I think…I want to die now.’” A well-armed search party led by her stepfather crossed the border region into Iran and found them.
After they fled to Spain, the stepfather agreed to pay $1.5 million to become legal U.S. immigrants, plus a $60,000 cash bribe to an official of the American Embassy in Madrid to expedite their paperwork. Arriving in Los Angeles, they began rebuilding their lives free from government oppression—or so they thought—but their nightmare lasted another six years.
As the author writes at the end of the Foreword: “We can all learn from Zahra. Not what it takes to muster the resolve to resist, but of what we should heed in the despotic direction of governments in general.” That would also look good scrolling across the big screen. Meanwhile, you can buy the book on Amazon
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