Not Without My Daughter

1991 film by Brian Gilbert

Not Without My Daughter is a 1991 American drama film depicting the escape of American citizen Betty Mahmoody and her daughter from her abusive husband in Iran.

Directed by Brian Gilbert. Written by David W. Rintels, based on the book by Betty Mahmoody and William Hoffer.
In 1984, Betty Mahmoody's husband took his wife and daughter to meet his family in Iran. He swore they would be safe. They would be happy. They would be free to leave. He lied.


  • [to Betty] Gardens have always had a special place in Persia throughout our history. In fact, the word "paradise" is a Persian word. It's hard to believe, isn't it, that the idea of paradise will always be intimately connected with Iran. Whenever I think of what's happening to my country, I try to remember its gardens.


  • [to Betty] Nananana Eempossibill, Mahtob/Tob goes to father.


Moody: I don't know how to say this to you. We're not going back. We're staying here.
Betty: [pauses] What do you mean? How long?
Moody: I want to get a job here in a hospital.
Betty: What?
Moody: I want us... to live in Iran.
Betty: [softly] No... No...
Moody: There's nothing for me in America.
Betty: No... What? Are you crazy? We're Americans. Your daughter's an American! Moody, honey, you're upset about your job. I understand that. We're going to go back today and we're going to fix it.
Moody: I want Mahtob to grow up here.
Betty: [increasingly angry] No!
Moody: I think she should become a Muslim!
Betty: [screams] No! No! [pauses] You lied to me. You lied to me! You held the Koran and you swore to me that nothing was going happen. You were planning this all the time. You lied to me!

Betty: Baba Hajji, you're a religious man. How can Moody swear on the Koran and do this to me?
[Mammal translates, Babba Hajji gives an assertive answer and the entire family starts yelling at Betty in Farsi]
Mammal: Allah will forgive him!
[yelling continues, Betty starts crying]
Betty: No, no! Ameh Bozorg! Ameh Bozorg, please help me, please!
[Ameh Bozorg yells at Betty]
Betty: No, you can't do this! God damn you! God damn you! You can't keep me here! You had this planned all along! Damn you!

[Betty and Mahtob are praying together in the bedroom]
Betty: Dear Lord, hear our prayer.
Mahtob: Dear Lord, hear out prayer.
Betty: Please help us leave Iran and get back to America.
Mahtob: Please help us leave Iran and get back to America.
Betty: Please let nothing separate us.
Mahtob: Please let nothing separate us.
Betty: And keep us always safe in Your care.
Mahtob: And keep us always safe in Your care.
Betty: Amen.
Mahtob: Amen.

Nicole: [in the American Interest Section of the Swiss Embassy] My name is Nicole Adjamian.
Betty: Yes. Betty Mahmoody. This is my daughter, Mahtob.
Nicole: Please do sit.
[They all sit down]
Betty: Thank you. We're so glad to see you. I spoke with my mother in the United States and I know that the State Department is into this. We're just very happy to be here. We'll sleep anywhere for as long as it takes until you can get us out.
Nicole: [confused] What are you talking about? You cannot stay here.
Betty: I can't go back to my husband. I want to go home to the United States.
Nicole: That may be, but you are in Iran. You are married to an Iranian?
Betty: Yes.
Nicole: Then you are an Iranian citizen.
Betty: No. No I'm not. I'm an American citizen and my daughter is an American citizen. We were born in the United States. We have American passports. I mean, we don't have them with us. My husband has them. We've never changed our citizenship.
Nicole: If you marry an Iranian man, you automatically become an Iranian citizen. The laws regarding women are very strict. You cannot travel anywhere without written permission. You have no rights to the children. They go to the man in a divorce. I'm sorry, but you will have to go back to your husband.
Betty: [on the verge of tears] But we'll never get out of Iran. We're being held hostage. It was almost impossible to come here.
Nicole: Mrs. Mahmoody, there are many American women here in similar circumstances. [pauses] May I ask you why you came to Iran?
Betty: [pauses] I don't know. I don't know. I was afraid to come. [sniffles] I wanted to please him. I trusted him. I was frightened to come, but I never thought this would happen. I thought of him as an American. He's changed. Oh God, he's changed.
Nicole: Look, Mrs. Mahmoody. Many came back after the Revolution feeling guilty about being away, about turning their backs on Iran and on Islam. Now Iran is an Islamic State and that's a wonderful thing for many Iranians. Well, if there is anything I can do, maybe if you need to organize telephone calls to the U.S. or if you want to write letters home, let me know.

Betty: Have you become Muslim?
Ellen: Mm-hmm.
Betty: Did you convert?
Ellen: Well, I wanted to, I guess. My husband was happy I did. It made things a lot better.
[Ellen sees her husband waiting for her]
Ellen: Uh, I... I got to go.
Betty: Ellen, it's been so...
Ellen: No, really.
[Ellen runs to her husband]

Betty Mahmoody: [about Ellen's husband] Was he violent?
Ellen: No, not in the States, never. They're not supposed to, you know? It's not Islamic.

Betty: My father's ill. He could be dying. I have to go and see him.
Houssein: I don't think your father would have wanted you to go back if it meant losing your daughter.
Betty: Why can't I go and see him, come back, and leave later with Mahtob?
Houssein: You can't leave Mahtob here, not with Moody's family. They're from the provinces, and this regime only encourages them. There are some people who consider a girl ready for marriage at nine years of age. Child brides are not unknown.


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