EARNIE GRAFTON / Union-Tribune
Abbas Kazerooni, who left Iran at age 7, is now 28 and a student at California Western School of Law. Also an actor, Kazerooni’s first book, “The Little Man,” is about his life.
Their plan was for Marzieh to take Abbas with her to live with relatives in the United Kingdom and for Karim to join the family sometime later.
Iranian’s book focuses on his tough childhood
By Ozzie Roberts
Abbas Kazerooni couldn’t have known, as he stood in Tehran Airport trying to coldly hold back tears as his mother wept and hugged him tightly, that it would be the last time he’d ever see her.
The 7-year-old also could never have fully understood that he was about to take his first steps into a world filled with grown-up horrors that he would have to handle all by himself.
His parents, Karim and Marzieh Kazerooni, were desperately trying to get their son out of the country before he turned 8 and became eligible for the army. The threat of war with Iraq was looming, and the Kazeroonis feared their son would surely be killed.
But on this day, airport authorities informed the Kazeroonis that Abbas was the only one who could leave Iran. That meant if he were going to join relatives in the United Kingdom by way of Turkey, he would have to do it all on his own. And Marzieh’s fears for her son nearly tore her apart.
Now, two decades later, still haunted by memories, Abbas, 28, a professional actor and a student at California Western School of Law, has written his first book about his life.
“The Little Man,” published by Tate Publishing, LLC, and selling for $17.95, is the first of a two-book series and includes the scene at the Tehran airport that Abbas says remains one of his hardest memories with which to make peace.
His mother died suddenly of a heart attack three years after that day. And the guilt, sometimes, is almost overwhelming.
“Now looking back, I wish I hadn’t done that – stopped myself from crying and holding her,” Abbas says with glazed eyes. “My mother began crying and crying; she became more hysterical than I’d ever seen her before. And my father (ordered) me not to cry or (show any emotion) that would further upset her.
“I fought hard to hold back my tears, and now my last memories of my mother are of (her like that) and me not comforting her.”
The book, Abbas says, is dedicated to his mom. But the chemistry between a mother and her son is not its only theme.
Somewhere, after finally landing in Turkey, where a sleazy so-called friend of his father immediately left him on his own, the young man picked up moxie.
He did odd jobs in and around the place where he stayed. He also deftly budgeted the sizable chunk of cash his father had given him after withdrawing savings and hocking nearly all the family’s possessions.
And, with long-distance help from his father, he used persistence and charm to enlist the help of an official in the British Consulate to finally get him to England after four months in Istanbul.
“I figured out that my biggest weakness and my biggest strength was my age,” Abbas says. “and I learned how to use it to my advantage.”
In his adopted new home, where one of his older cousins and his wife would adopt him (making him a naturalized British citizen), Abbas picked up more than an accent.
“They sent me to England,” he says, “and I became British.”
Abbas became a high-achieving student athlete with a focus on performing arts and law. He has acted professionally in theater, on the radio and with the BBC, HBO and other television production companies. He had a role in the 2004 HBO production of “The Hamburg Cell,” a fictionalized account of the 9/11 hijackers.
“The Little Man” touches on all of that. But although the writing was cathartic, it couldn’t lessen the pain of certain memories: that scene in Tehran Airport; his grade school days soon after he learned of his mother’s death; and one of his darkest nights in Istanbul.
At 7, nearly 8, Abbas had become streetwise, but not streetwise enough. He headed unaccompanied to a food shop after hours.
Before he got past a dark alley, a drunken robber grabbed him, bashed him against a wall a few times and drew blood, pressing a knife to his neck before taking a meager sum of money.
An adult who had befriended Abbas may have saved his life when he came into the alley searching for the youngster and scared the mugger off.
“I thought I was gone,” Abbas says. “I had nightmares about that incident for the next three or four years.”
He says he strongly believes that his life has made him a strong person. But every so often he asks himself: “Was it all worth it?” Did his family’s decision actually save him from certain death in the Iranian military?
But all that is food for the second book, he says.