In 2011, after years of living in Dubai, I returned to the capital to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding.
It was the first time in more than a decade that I had been to a city where people were celebrating the end of a repressive government.
I had seen my share of oppression in Iran, but nothing like this.
I would have loved to see it in a city like Dubai, but I was never invited.
When I returned, the city had changed dramatically.
A new regime, led by the ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had assumed power in a chaotic election that lasted just over three weeks.
The regime was in the process of removing the country’s entire parliamentary and legislative branches, which would have meant stripping the parliament of its constitutional authority.
It would also have meant removing the government of a young, inexperienced president.
As I left, I noticed a small group of people, all in their 20s and 30s, standing near the main gate to the Grand Mosque.
They were chanting slogans and holding up placards that said, “We want democracy.”
I didn’t realize at the time that it was the same group that was cheering the election of the next president of Iran.
But as the crowds grew, they became a part of my daily life.
My first job as a prostitute, which was to escort women around the city, was to protect the city from outside interference.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the government began arresting and detaining women, often for a short time, for prostitution.
They would be arrested, interrogated, and sent to prison camps.
The women were forced to wear a veil or cover up for fear of being accused of prostitution.
Once they were arrested, they would be held for over a month in an “interior ministry” where they would have to work at odd hours and endure severe beatings and forced labor.
During my time working as a “escort,” I would sometimes sleep with other women who had also worked as prostitutes.
Sometimes, they were forced into prostitution themselves and forced to do the work.
Sometimes they would share rooms with other prostitutes, and in some cases, would also sleep with men.
It happened all the time.
Many of the women I worked with told me that they felt unsafe and unwanted in the brothels.
“We had to be careful not to sleep with anyone,” one woman told me.
Another woman said, I felt scared every time I got home from work.
When the regime was passing laws restricting women’s rights, some women told me, “If the government won’t stop us from working, we’ll have to take matters into our own hands.”
I decided to stay and take care of the “girls,” even though I knew that they would soon be going back to their homes.
The “girls” I worked for often would go to work in a brothel, which were mostly owned by the men who had come from Iran to Dubai.
I often asked the men if they had a job.
Sometimes the men said, yes, but only if they paid me.
I was not paid until the women were done with work and went home.
But it was not uncommon for me to be called to work by men and ask for money.
I remember being asked to take care, “of the girls.”
Sometimes they said, you are the one who owns the brothel.
When they said this, I was confused.
I knew I wasn’t the one.
It just didn’t make sense.
I did not know how to get the money.
They said, If you want to go home, I will send you some money, and I will come pick you up.
Sometimes when they went to pick me up, I would say, “Thank you, but you have to go back.
We don’t want to keep you.”
I would be told that I couldn’t leave the brohouse for a few days and then return.
“If you do leave, you won’t be able to get back to your country,” they would say.
I didn´t want to leave.
I just had to wait and see.
The men who came to pick up the women would ask, “What are you doing?”
They would say: “You are not allowed to go outside.
You have to stay inside the bro house.
I don´t know what to do with you.”
When I left the brohouses, the women who worked there told me the same thing.
“I don’t know what I can do,” I told them.
“Why are you leaving?”
“You can’t leave because of me.
If you leave, the bro houses will be closed.
If that happens, the government will take over and all the women will be deported to Iran.”
They told me they would never be able for them to return to their home countries.
The brotheys were