“Never without my daughter” recounts the hell experienced by a mother, sequestered in Iran by her husband with her daughter. A story that comes from the autobiographical novel by Betty Mahmoody and which was particularly criticized.
Never without my daughtera terrifying drama
Directed by Brian Gilbert, Never without my daughter (1990) is taken from autobiographical and eponymous novel by Betty Mahmoodyco-written with William Hoffer and published in 1987. The latter also participated in writing the script for the feature film with William Hayes, thus ensuring an adaptation close to the original work.
The story takes place in the early 1980s and follows Betty Mahmoody, an American married to Bozorg Mahmoody, an Iranian doctor. With their daughter Mahtob, they decide to go to in iran for a vacation, to get to know the family of the patriarch better. The cultural difference will quickly make Betty and her daughter uncomfortable, while her husband likes it more and more. He then goes force his family to move to Tehranconfiscating his wife’s passport and kidnapping her.
The title refers to the proposal made to him during his two years of confinement: to be expelled from the country, but alone, without her daughter. What Betty refused, before managing to flee with her child. Worn by Sally Field and Alfred Molina in the roles of Betty and Bozorg, Never without my daughter found its audience at the time, in particular thanks to the success of the written work, despite numerous criticisms.
A subtly racist work?
Indeed, Betty Mahmoody’s novel was initially well received. Readers are logically flabbergasted by this terrible story about a woman prisoner in a foreign country. It is also difficult not to be moved by this mother beaten under the eyes of her daughter. However, in Iran, the work was considered racistas recalled 7out7.
The story upset American and European opinions, among others, but was perceived in Iran as a work of propaganda, testifying to the state of misunderstanding between the Islamic Republic and the West.
Criticisms were also made by Iranians in exile and Muslims, again because of representation of Tehran and Iranian society. It is therefore beyond Betty Mahmoody’s account of her kidnapping that questions have arisen.
It was only afterwards that the subtly racist formulations concealed in this work were mentioned.
Can we read in the article “Never without my daughter”, story of a German feverpublished in 1992. From there, there would have been stigma against Muslim men. This was analyzed (in the cited article) by the IAF, a women’s association which defends the interests of mixed couples and which was created in 1972 when Arab-Palestinian men married to German women were expelled.
With Never without my daughter, mixed couples found themselves at the center of many discussions and controversies (…) Some couples were offered this book by members of their family, by friends, by acquaintances, worried and certainly well intentional but who had strong ideas.
Bozorg Mahmoody’s response and his daughter’s afterlife
The article goes on to mention “a constant fear that children will be abducted“. In a collective imagination, the idea has therefore developed that the case of Betty Mahmoody could be a generality. Several books and testimonies then came to contest his story. There was also the documentary Without my daughter (2002), which is none other than Bozorg Mahmoody’s response on this case. The man believes he was, with his daughter, a victim of the tense political context of the time between the United States and Iran.
Two opposing points of view, with inconsistencies in both the mother and the father. Years later, their daughter Mahtob delivered her version with Towards freedom, published in 2014. She recounts in it the memories of her confinement when she was barely five years old, and “the aftermath”, until she was thirty and the fear that accompanied her for years. Bozorg Mahmoody is him died in 2009 without ever seeing his wife and daughter again.