I don’t often get too political on here, being from Northern Ireland it’s a touchy subject but also one so eloquently intertwined intill my life. For those who have heard of Bobby Sands, you’ll be aware of this IRA prisoner who became famous as a hunger striker in 1981 in Northern Ireland. In the end he sadly starved himself to death in the Maze Prison. During the hunger strike, which he was the leader of, he was also elected as an MP, ironically into the British Government. A government he detested with a passion. 33 years later, I finally got a 30 day visa for Iran (that took a hell of a lot of work). I was still nervous crossing the border from Turkey that day. I expected all bags to be checked and many searches and possible refusal of entry at Bazargan.
In the end, I got into the country of Iran easily – a quick bag check and itinerary check and we were in. Due to the fact that the visa had taken so much work and effort, I decided quickly that I would milk the entire 30 day visa – we would use it all, stay exactly 30 days, tour as much of Iran as we could and then leave and that would be it. Indeed, I am glad we did it that way. I don’t need or want to go back there. It’s a nice country, but the difficulty getting the visa, and then how it later influenced my visa refusals, it’s not worth it anymore, sadly. During that month, we managed to visit all of these places (though I didn’t write a separate blog post on each one) – Alamut Valley / Alamut Castle, Bandar e Golmankhaneh, Bayaziye, Bazargan, Chak Chak, Dakmeh, Esfahan, Gazor Khan, Kaluts, Kandovan, Kerman, Khalate Talkh, Kharanaq, Khoor, Lake Orumiye, Maku, Marvdasht, Mashhad, Mahan, Mesr, Nasqh-e Rostam, Orumiye, Osku, Persepolis, Qazvin, Rayen, Sadegh Abad, Salt Flats near Khoor, Shahr-e Kord, Shiraz, Tabriz, Tarjrish, Tehran, Yaseh Chah, Yazd, Zarad Band.
However, there was one important part of this journey I failed to document fully yet – Babisandz Street. While backpacking in Iran, I headed to Bobby Sands Street. You might wonder why there is a Bobby Sands Street in Iran. So, back in 1981 when the Irish Republican Army prisoners were on hunger strike and protesting against the British government, Iran supported them. But the story is even deeper and crazier than that.
At the time, Tehran actually had a British Embassy (rare and odd to think of that now, I know). That British Embassy was of course victim to many attacks down the years, both before and after the famous 1979 revolution. Of course we all know the reason for the revolution was linked to USA rather than the UK, but the hatred remained against both “countries”.
In the aftermath of Bobby Sands death (through self hunger strike and starvation in a Northern Irish prison), rioters and protesters pulled down any reference to UK in Tehran and in particular they went to the street that housed the then British Embassy.
The British Embassy was forced to close in the end because the protesters took down the street sign and renamed it Bobby Sands Street – a mark of genius as the then British government were living with the shame that their Embassy address officially was on Bobby Sands Street. A shame for them, and while they tried to move the Embassy to the Swedish embassy, there was no chance of that. The British Embassy in Iran would be either or Bobby Sands Street or nowhere at all.
My trip here was quiet. My ex girlfriend was with me of course, and she took the photos. It was a nice touch how the blocks on the road were green and white on the way in and that of course no proof of the British Embassy was really here. The Brits clearly tried to hide it.
For me, personally as a Northern Irish nationalist I support both Sands (for his protest, not for his terrorism) and the Iranians here (also from their renaming of the street but not for their terrorism). However I don’t support Sands own beliefs for a 2 country amalgamation into 1 on the island of Ireland. So while I am from Northern Ireland like Bobby Sands, I am a Northern Irish nationalist rather than an Ireland island nationalist. As a tourist who carries my Northern Irish flag, I also flew this in respect of Sands here on the street named after him. God rest his soul.
There is also a Bobby Sands Cheeseburger shop in Tehran, but we didn’t go there.
Here are some good links about the Bobby Sands story and Iran:
2011 attack on the British Embassy in Iran
Belfast Telegraph Story About British Embassy in Tehran
Rest in peace, Martyr Bobby Sands.
Here is a video of me at Bobby Sands Street / Babi Sandz Street in Tehran, Iran: