Categories: iran, bureaucracy
A friend of mine lost a blank check. First she called the bank to tell them. Then she went to the bank to give them an official, notarized letter for their files. It did not stop there… She had to get an official government letter as well…
I went to some government office/court today accompanying a friend who had lost a check and needed – I believe – an order to arrest anyone using that check. The offices were housed in a converted apartment building that had not been cleaned in god knows how long. The white walls were gray with dirt. The veins in the marble floors had been eaten away by something: maybe harsh cleaning fluid (the floors are probably cleaned once a month) or something else, who knows. The narrow stairways were packed with men neatly dressed in ill-fitting suits, sloppily dressed men in slippers and colorless collarless shirts, young men with big hair, dirty jeans, and bizarre t-shirts, women in black, soldiers, and police. Our task was to get about a million signatures so that we could, finally, get the warrant.
Well. Four signatures.
Each floor held a different surprise. It smelled like deodorant and unwashed men as we headed to the second floor.
On the second floor an older man sat on the floor with his head in his hands and one wrist sporting a loose handcuff. His accompanied soldier sat pitiless in a chair and watched while the man dry heaved into the nearby garbage can. Withdrawal? I think so.
After the second floor, we were sent to the first. "No, we used to sign these letters, but we don't anymore," a bearded man told us. "You have to go to the fourth floor."
We went up and waited outside a door. In front of us a man and a woman had their ears pressed against the door listening to the arguing going on inside the room.
"It's war," a well-dressed man told us. "Civil war."
"You just need a signature?" the man asks. My friend nods. "Go on in."
We go in. They are actually holding court or mediation inside the office. Chairs are set up facing the mediator/judge. A woman in a chador sits to his right. He is lecturing the four people sitting in front of him. We hand over our letter to a non-combatant behind a desk.
"Can you please get a signature quickly?" my friend asks.
"I'll call you," the man behind the desk says and ushers us back outside.
A fight breaks out inside, and we all move out of the way as the yelling spills out into the hallway. "Get out of here!" one of the plaintiffs yells at a young man in a t-shirt and loose-fitting jeans. A soldier follows them both.
After we get our signature, we are sent to another floor where a woman in a chador stamps the letter and sends us across the hallway to get stamps. "After that, go to the building across the terrace for the warrant." A tired man slowly slowly puts two stamps on the letter and then sends us for another signature. Here it smells like Iranian chicken sausages frying in fat (Hebrew National, where are you? What about selling kosher as halal?)
The judge who needs to sign the letter is holding court. "It will be about 20 minutes," we are told.
We wait. Court ends. The judge's door opens. We wait. We go back in the office. "Khanum [miss/ms/ma'am], you have only been here five minutes. I told you twenty."
We've been waiting at least 15 minutes by now. We go back out and wait. "Khanum, come in," the judge calls to us. We go in. He quizzes my friend, and then quizzes me. "Why did you come along?"
"Where are you from?"
"What are you doing here?"
"My husband is Iranian."
We go back out and wait. We wait. "See what it's like?" my friend says. "The judge works, but his employees do not. Government… This office is better than the tax office. When you go there, they just drink tea all day and tell you to wait."
The guy waiting next to us leans over to read our documents. He starts asking questions which my friend graciously answers while I think, "What business is this of yours?"
"Can you help this woman and her American friend?" the judge calls out.
A woman comes out of the office. "What did you say to him?"
"Nothing," my friend tells her.
She begins work on the warrant which she completes incorrectly and with great confusion. Her colleague redoes it for us. Forty minutes have passed.
"You see," the man says handing over my friend's document. "Twenty minutes. Exactly."