© Made by PA0ABM
Adventures of a Dxpedioner
by Roger Western G3SXW
This page is a chapter from the book
IRAN, EP2IA 1970-79
I lived in Tehran, the capital of Iran, for a total of seven years in
two spells of three and a half years each, 1970-73 and 1976-79.
These years were to form the basis for much of my life thereafter,
both personal and ham radio. They were wonderful years and
fascinating times. I married an Iranian girl and my one son was
born in Tehran. We only left the country when the Shah was
deposed in a mostly bloodless coup détat in January 1979.
Amateur radio played a significant role at that time.
The Early Seventies
I arrived in Tehran with a suitcase and a Dictaphone as a wet-
behind-the-ears marketing executive, a 24 year-old bachelor, to
become Area Supervisor for my pharmaceutical employer,
Beecham. I was to be in charge of marketing our antibiotics in
Iran, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus and Afghanistan. What an exciting prospect for a keen DXer! To travel
regularly to these countries with such exotic prefixes. As it happens amateur radio licenses were
completely unavailable in Iran at the time and gradually the DXer in me slipped into a coma for a little
while. Perhaps this was a good thing as many other important things were happening in my life at the
time. To concentrate on my career was a good thing, not to mention getting married and becoming a
During this period I travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan several times and managed to operate as YA1R.
(See the ?Afghanistan? section). I also visited Cyprus frequently and even moved there to live for one
year 1971-72 because my immigration status in Iran was ?irregular?. The fact is that I was living in Iran
and running a representative office (non-trading) on a tourist visa. They caught me and ?asked? me to
leave. I did so fairly quickly! By that time I was already married. Meeting her for the first time was not
easy. She worked in the travel agent that I frequented but how to make contact? You didn't just
approach a woman who is a stranger in Iran. Eventually I found out her name and telephoned the office.
We arranged to meet and the rest is history, as they say. To start with it was the language of love, as
neither of us spoke the other?s language. I soon learned to speak modern Farsi!
Even the year in Cyprus was frustrated on the radio front. There had been some silly security scare
whereby a couple of RAF (British air force) chaps had been suspected of spying so they shut down
amateur radio completely. It seemed as if I was jinxed at the time. Everywhere I went they shut down
radio licensing! Instead I enjoyed the wonders of Cyprus, a beautiful new baby, the delights of my work-
colleagues and the fantastic climate. I did manage to operate on the air for one afternoon as 5B4ES at
the English School when they had a special licence for one day.
But mostly it was a matter of concentrating on my career. During my monthly visits to Israel (nearly forty
visits in 3.5 years) and bi-monthly visits to Turkey I never even made contact with the local hams.
The Late Seventies
Having laid the foundations for a proper commercial organisation I
returned to Tehran in 1976 with the same employer, Beecham. Now
amateur radio licences were being issued and I quickly got on the
air as EP2IA. I then had two years and more of running pile-ups to
my heart’s content. Wonderful times.
At that time there were plenty of other licensed radio amateurs in
Iran, mostly ex-patriates and mostly American. My good friend Bill
Snider, now K6KM, was EP2SV and was very active from home,
including contests. Dale Jones, K5MM and later GU5CIA, didn?t
have a residence permit so couldn?t get his own call but used to
operate from Bill?s place. Also, Doug Woolley, EP2VW, was in town,
working at the American Embassy. He is now ZP6CW. In fact, there
were three of us FOC members there at the time as we also had Marvin, W4ZMQ, who was EP2PZ. He
was quite a character! I also got to know Jim Card, K3VJH, from Maryland, very well.
In fact, it seemed that Iran was jammed full of ex-patriates at that time. The political policy was to
encourage foreign expertise to help develop the country. It was rumoured that there were a half-million
Americans based in the country - half military and half civilian. It was certainly a good time to be in Iran.
Tax-free, with all modern conveniences: restaurants, shopping, night-clubs, even a race-course. For
those who could adjust to the culture-shock life was great. But I estimated that about one-third of newly-
arriving ex-patriates would leave within six months, unable to tolerate the extremes of climate, the dust
and the pollution and the complete anarchy on the roads.
I was active on the air every spare minute. Starting with
my old Yaesu FT-DX-400 which I then sold to another EP,
who happened to be Japanese (which I thought
especially ironic!) I then bought a new Ten-Tec station.
This was the Triton IV, an excellent CW rig. I also
acquired a Dentron MLA2500 amplifier and a MT3000
tuner. These were bought from EP2VW when he was
being posted out of Iran so I got them at US domestic
prices. A great deal!
For antennas I bought the whole job-lot from Bill, EP2SV, when he was being posted out of the country.
This consisted of a forty-foot aluminium, triangular tower, in five eight-foot sections, a tribander, rotator
and wire dipoles for LF. One famous day we loaded all this on top of my car and somewhat precariously
drove the short distance to my apartment. There I lived on the ground-floor but there was a strong flat-
roof at about 30 feet. We had a great antenna-party to make the installation, with Jim Card in charge.
The beam finished up at seventy feet above ground and seemed to work extremely well. I still own the
amplifier and the tower, some 25 years later!
Tehran lies at the foot of a mountain-range at about 4,000 feet elevation. The take-off to the North was
therefore fairly blocked but there was nothing we could do about that. It actually seemed to affect signals
less than might be expected. Those mountains went up to 13,000 feet and started a mere mile or so
away. Long path was good!
Iran is in the middle of a ham radio desert (the Middle East), with extremely few stations active on the
bands. Therefore, quite often I would be the only signal heard from this area, or even the only signal on
the band. I had a pretty decent signal too and was often told ?you?re 599+ and the only signal on the
band?. That was nice!
I had had plenty of time to mull over which call-sign suffix to choose. In fact several years! I used to
spend evenings just sending call-signs on my keyer and listening to the side-tone. The call-sign had to
be EP2 plus two letters. I chose EP2IA as being the snappiest-sounding at high speed, dit-dit dee-dah.
Second choice was EP2SS and third choice was EP2EA. But my first choice call-sign was available.
In those days ‘pile-up style’ meant running very brief rubber-stamp QSOs. The modern trend of sending
‘5NN’ at 40 wpm hadn’t quite taken off. I would send name, QTH and QSL route at every contact but
was very brave (for those days) by only sending each information-element once, and at high speed. I
was probably thought of as being very unfriendly on the bands, but there was a constant demand, with
folks waiting patiently for the previous QSO to finish.
During two years I made some 27,000 QSOs. For the seventies that was a huge number of contacts.
Bud, W4YE, did a magnificent job as my QSL manager. An unsung hero. I used to photocopy and mail
my hand-written logs to him weekly. This was in the days before computers and the Internet.
I also worked hard on the LF bands where it was clear that EP was most needed. In particular I recall
working the West Coast on 40-metre long-path. Merle, K6DC, was like a beacon booming in at 599
every day. But experiments on 160 metres were something of a failure because I couldn?t hear. We had
fixed up a transverter for the Ten-Tec Triton IV but all it delivered was 80 metre signals at about 2-3 S
units down from the main band. Needless to say, any weak 160 metre signals were swamped. So, I had
the embarrassment of CQing several evenings running and seemingly ignoring the large number of
Europeans who were calling me. The morning after each such session I would be called by a European
DXer on the HF bands to let me know that he had spent an hour replying to my 579 signal the night
before on top-band and I had simply continued CQing. Oops!
One day we had a visit from an American friend who was passing through on business. He couldn’t
operate, as he had no licence, but he was interested to listen to the bands from this strange part of the
world. I left him to it. Moments later he shrieked my name and I went running to the shack, convinced
that he had a dire emergency. He said: “Listen, there’s an EZ8 on 80 metres, he’s over S9’’ . His face
was full of excitement and incredulity that he could hear such a strong signal from Turkmenistan. I gently
pointed out that this is about 200 miles up the road, so he would be loud on 80 metres, wouldn’t he?
This was a source of great amusement to us both and a great example of how disorientating it can be to
operate from a strange part of the globe.
I became a ‘contester’ before being a ‘DXer’ and had spent many years contesting before moving to live
in a DX location. What a marvellous opportunity, to contest from a rare location. Pretty nearly every
weekend I was on the air, at least handing out some contest points.
In those days one of my favourite contests was Worked All Europe when Europeans work non-
Europeans. Now I had the chance to take part from ‘the other side’. This would be a new experience,
sending instead of receiving the QTC messages. In 1978 I did the contest seriously, single-operator, all-
band and won it with the biggest score outside of Europe. It was surprisingly difficult to keep up-to-date
with sending the QTC messages, finding enough Europeans who were prepared to receive them.
Of course, the other contest that seemed particularly appropriate was ‘All Asia’ and again a contest that I
had often done from back in UK but the first time I could experience it from the Asia side. One of my
proudest moments was when I won both WAE and All Asia (CW of course) in the same year - both sides
of the equation, so to speak.
It is always an advantage to contest from a rare country because the majority of entrants need you for
the multiplier. Similarly, I won the Asia plaque in the FOC Marathon, in February 1978.
In July 1978 I went back to UK for annual leave and had debriefing meetings with my employer. I clearly
recall being asked what I thought of the political situation and answering that the Shah’s days were
numbered. When asked how long it would be before the revolution I said ?maybe a year?. How wrong
can one be. Almost as soon as I returned to Tehran the lid came off the boiling-pot and the revolution
took off. This was truly an example of ‘people power. They had been held in check for years by fear of
‘’Savak’, the secret police, who had convinced the population that every fourth person was an informer
so no-one was prepared to say anything at all that smacked of politics.
From September 1978 the country started to close down. By November there was a general strike that
prevented most things from happening - only the telephones kept working, supposedly because the
revolutionaries needed them. But we were stock-piling food and booze and fast running out of fuel for
the car. Electricity was intermittent as was water. By this time most foreigners had left the country but my
employer was generous enough to leave the decision to us. Our biggest fear was uncertainty. During the
whole experience I did not come close to personal danger. Once I witnessed soldiers firing semi-
automatic rifles into the air to disperse a crowd and one evening I recall hearing tanks trundling down
the nearby main road. That is the extent of military action that I witnessed.
That fateful day arrived in January 1979 when a well-connected in-law phoned to tell me ‘You are
leaving tomorrow’. He had it on good authority (then proved to be accurate) that the Shah was going into
exile a day later. By this time there were no scheduled flights but we had bought and paid for open
tickets and had developed good contacts in British Airways and in DHL, the freight-forwarding company.
We were after all almost the last British nationals left in the country. The British Airways station-manager
for Iran did a fantastic job under the most intolerably difficult conditions. It was impossible to plan
anything as information was so scant.
The arrangement with DHL was that they would send a consignment as excess baggage, loaded
against my ticket. This was the only way they could operate, even though it was incredibly expensive to
work this way. I am not surprised that DHL went on to become a very successful enterprise - it was
managed in those days by extremely resourceful people who recognised that political turmoil often
throws up opportunities for profit.
So nine of us (from four British families) headed to the airport as soon as curfew was lifted at dawn. We
carried with us suit-cases packed for a 2-3 week holiday in England as we imagined that this might be
the time period that it could take for things to settle down again, allowing us to return and carry on with
our lives. Little did we realise that we would never again see Iran. The immediate problem was that we
were almost entirely out of gasoline for the cars. This was a one-shot attempt - if we failed to get a flight
out of the country we had no petrol in the car to get home. These were grounds indeed for desperation!.
There was barely any traffic on the roads because everyone had run out of petrol. We didn?t know
whether there would be any flights.
The airport was a seething mass of humanity. It took an hour just to get inside the main terminal
building. At one point I suggested that our party stop trying to make our way through the crowds towards
the British Airways desk and I go on alone. I managed to get to that desk and spoke to the British
Airways check-in girl. She was expecting us (DHL had arranged this) and told me to simply wait in a
designated corner of the terminal. She would keep us informed and we WOULD be put on any plane
that arrived. We should just trust her! We spent the next 3-4 hours sitting on the floor, waiting. Ted had
brought a couple of salad-dressing bottles which he had filled with brandy. This Dutch courage helped
us through this nail-biting time but the disguise was a very sensible step in those delicate days.
Then a rumour began to circulate that a British Airways plane had taken off from Kuwait and was
heading our way. There had been no aircraft movements at all, all morning. Sure enough the BA girl
signalled to us to check in but this was easier said than done. It again took ages to gently push our way
to the front ? the terminal was filled with Iranians desperate to flee the new regime. As we reached the
desk, as if by magic, the DHL consignment appeared through the crowd. This consisted of a chain of
several trolleys and others who were desperately trying to board the plane assumed, understandably,
that this was our personal luggage. Their logic was that without this huge amount of “luggage” there
would be room for more passengers. This was the most scary moment because some chaps in that
immediate crowd were getting seriously upset and began to threaten us. But, after 6-8 hours in that mad
terminal-building we eventually boarded a plane to London. It was full, almost entirely of Iranians. When
the pilot announced that we had crossed the border into Turkey the plane erupted into spontaneous
applause, such was the enormous feeling of relief. The cabin-crew were marvellous and immediately
broke out the complementary champagne which they kept flowing.
Throughout this period the emotional strain was considerable although in practice there was little
physical risk and no-one that I knew suffered harm. In the long run we lost nothing except a freezer full
of food and a storeroom full of beer and vodka. All our possessions were eventually returned to us some
months later but the stress and anxiety only became measurable many years later and with the benefit
of hindsight. The impact of stress can only be felt some long time later. it’s not noticeable at the time.
Amateur Radio to the Rescue
Amateur radio played a considerable role during this period and was a major blessing. Communications
by normal means were at best sporadic. Locally we often used the telex machine to swap notes. I recall
to this day a real-time on-line telex chat with Marvin, W4ZMQ, who was vividly describing an attack on
his military installation by helicopters. The next day he was evacuated to Bahrain.
This was especially the period when I felt brotherhood with Steve, G4JVG who was working at the
British Embassy and licensed as EP2SL. He was responsible for the pyramid system of disseminating
communications amongst the British community in Iran and did a great job right until the last. Steve
remains a valued pal to this day and we have much to reminisce about whenever we meet. It?s really
interesting how a shared experience leaves its mark. Whenever we meet we don?t need to say anything
but we just know what is going through the other’s mind.
Especially, of course, amateur radio contributed enormously to a sense of well-being by allowing me to
keep in regular contact with my mother, who was a licensed radio amateur - G3NQD. We ran regular
skeds every Friday morning (the local sabbath) on 15 metres SSB which, apparently, quickly grew a
wide audience. I was able to reassure her that we were all right and that the media were exaggerating
the situation insofar as personal safety was concerned. Towards the end we made that sked daily. The
very last several QSOs from EP2IA were with her. This was my very own, personal experience of
amateur radio coming to the rescue in a time of serious crisis. I was also able to pass quite a number of
?love and kisses? messages on behalf of local friends. I certainly didn’t bother to check whether this
was permitted under the terms of my EP2 license!
As a postscript it is worth reporting that after we had left Tehran the revolutionary local Committees
(Komit’s) suspected anyone and everyone of being enemies of the new Islamic regime. They convinced
themselves that the big antenna meant that I was a spy. It took some clever persuasion on the part of
my in-laws to convince them that this was actually a powerful antenna to receive television pictures from
UK ! The family later did a magnificent job of dismantling the whole antenna array and station, packing it
all up and shipping it back to England. Thank you, Uncle!
The Highs and Lows
In Iran I experienced every emotion, every high and low experience. It was truly a roller-coaster. It taught
me a lot about life. That country even twenty years later is still suffering, as seen through the eyes of a
Westerner. But the people spoke. They could not accept what they saw as Western (American)
decadence. Material wealth was a secondary issue for them. The ways of Islam were being ignored.
Of greatest poignance was a visit to our local bank to collect cash with which to pay the staff. This was
normally done by cheque but systems were collapsing all round us. I went in a company car with two
bodyguards only to find that the bank had been burned-out overnight. This was the Bank of Hong Kong
and Shanghai, known to its customers as ?Hongkers and Shangkers?. The building was completely
gutted but up a stone staircase at the rear we were led into a darkened room, reeking of smoke from the
fires that had been extinguished only a few hours earlier, to find a row of desks. These were manned by
bank clerks who were doing their duty, lit by a string of bare light-bulbs. They cashed my cheque,
sufficient to pay some sixty people their monthly salary, just as if nothing had happened. How resilient
people can be in times of crisis. I was so impressed at their professionalism. It was a most surreal
A similar experience was when they burned down our local booze shop, across the road from our office.
On investigating we were beckoned inside by the owner. Stepping through the rubble of destroyed and
blackened stock we were ushered into a back-room which was less damaged by fire but much damaged
by the water which had been used to put out the fire. Here we found soggy cartons of vodka, in half-
bottles, with labels destroyed and all covered in grime. It seemed especially ironic that in this totally
unsaleable state the price for vodka had suddenly quadrupled. This taught me a lot about the economics
of supply and demand.
A Good Uncle
My friend and confidant of those days was my uncle-in-law. He was the member of my wife?s family
who spoke most English and guided me countless times through the vagaries of social differences. We
shared much bonhomie through those years. He held a senior post for the city of Tehran.
It was through the efforts of this Uncle that I acquired my amateur radio transmitting licence. He knew
the officials concerned, introduced me to them and guided me through the procedures. It says a lot
about the causes of the revolution when I explain that my application for an amateur radio transmitting
licence was finally signed-off by an American. That is how far the Americans had infiltrated into the
everyday running of the country.
One day I was driving through the city, going about my normal business, when I was pulled over by a
traffic policeman and given a ticket. This policeman confiscated my driving licence and left me, with no
explanation that I could understand, with a form in Farsi. This demanded that I present myself at the
local court-house, which I duly did in the company of Uncle. When our turn came to approach the
magistrate?s bench in a chaotic and noisy court-room, to find out what law I had broken, Uncle burst out
laughing on hearing that my transgression was nothing more than failing to pay a parking fine. The
magistrate was full of courtesy. He explained in fluent English that children sometimes remove the
parking-tickets from the wind-screens and as I was a valued guest in his country I would not be fined. I
merely had to pay the parking-ticket (about $2). This, yet again, was an example of fear of the unknown
causing a hundred times more emotional stress than was actually warranted.
The same unwarranted stress was caused one day when a uniformed policeman knocked at our front
door. This was at a time when I was in contravention of immigration laws so I was generally more than a
little nervous. Apparently I turned white in the face but the policeman merely wanted to know if the car
which was parked outside our house belonged to me ? I had left the window open and this left it
vulnerable to being stolen. The unknown can be a serious enemy.
Thankyou Uncle. You contributed considerably to my life in those difficult days.
The Value of Ham Radio
During these years I benefited from amateur radio in so many ways, in so many unexpected ways. Of
course, being rare DX was magnificent and I learned a lot about operating. But I also learned that the
hobby can provide life-long friends and solace.
There was the day that I spotted a shiny, new, aluminium two-element quad antenna. It was obviously a
radio amateur (quite rare in Tehran in those days) so I stopped and knocked at the door. An American in
military uniform answered the door, somewhat suspiciously. This was Rick, EP2DX and now AI5P. We
have remained pals to this day.
But also solace. The actual means of communication, for example staying in touch with my mother
during those difficult times, but also a meeting of minds. Like-minded individuals supporting each other.
Amateur radio is like a world-wide club. Every member is accepted as an OK chap.
The amateur community at that time shared a lot together and benefited. Another pal to this day is
Alf/EP2TW from Northern Ireland, who is now 5B4AFB. And every time I have a QSO with Doug, now
ZP6CW, it brings memories flooding back of our two families sharing happiness.
So much could be written about these days, it could make a book in its own right. Suffice to say that
there were far more happy days than unhappy days, that I learned a lot about life and about amateur
radio and that they were times not to be missed. It?s all about sharing. Sharing the good times and the
less good times and then moving on to bigger and better things, feeling enriched.
We never did get back to Iran. After about three months my employer, who took care of us superbly,
found me another job based in London. For some years there was serious risk of recriminations by the
new Iranian authorities so we felt it unwise to visit the country. Such a shame that my relationship with
this country should end in such a way.
© G3SXW, Roger Western ( all rights reserved)
Up Two, Iran 1970-1979
G3SXW qrv as EP2IA
PA0ABM, the family
VP6TC, Lost in the wind
W7SE, Walt Marshall -SK-
ON4UN, John Devoldere
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