The Terror Imposed on Bette In “Not Without My Daughter” Is Unimaginable


I barely put the book down, reading it in less than two days. The entire time I kept thinking that what I was reading was just to horrible to be true. But Betty MahMoody’s story of being trapped in Iran was most certainly true. She is a happy housewife in America married to Moody, an Iranian doctor practicing in the U.S. When he suggests they take their 4 year old daughter to visit relatives in Iran for two weeks, she agrees. When they arrive, they are welcomed by Moody’s family and she surrenders her passport at his request. The two week stay is anything but a vacation, as the home they stay in is filthy, crawling with cockroaches, and does not have American toilet facilities. Moody’s family eat and sleep on the floor, and Betty is forced to cover her head and arms in traditional Iranian fashion. When the end of the two weeks arrives, Moody tells Betty they are not going home. Betty will come to understand she can’t just go to the airport with her daughter and leave, because Iranian law dictates she must obey her husband’s orders- making her a captive in Iran.

Their marriage subjects them to the laws of Iran, which says that Betty is now an Iranian citizen and must obey her husband. He will not permit her to leave, and if she tries to go to the airport she will be stopped. There is no longer a U.S. embassy in Iran, so Betty seeks help from the Swiss embassy, but they can offer only limited help. She remains in Iran for more than a year because her husband is controlling her by refusing to let her use the phone or venture out of the house alone. At times, it was frustrating to read how much time was passing without Betty making any moves to leave. But I had to remind myself that the police in Iran watched woman very closely to make sure they obeyed the husband and did not run away- a crime punishable by death.

The book was fascinating, although at times the domestic violence Betty endured was difficult to read. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in the laws and culture of other lands, and in a woman’s plight to save herself and her daughter against all odds. I know I will be thinking of this story long after I finished the book.

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