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Bodyguard to the Stars: An Illegal Job That Often Doesn’t Pay

August 29, 2019
IranWire Citizen Journalist
5 min read
Although the job of being a bodyguard is banned in Iran, some celebrities still hire them
Although the job of being a bodyguard is banned in Iran, some celebrities still hire them

The following article was written by an Iranian citizen journalist on the ground inside the country, who writes under a pseudonym to protect his or her identity.

Tall, muscular big men in the same type of dark suits, wearing earphones and sunglasses, feel like big walls when they stand in front of people. These bodyguards and security teams can be seen at social and cultural events and public spaces in Iran, often protecting celebrities and Iran's very rich. 

Ahmad Reza is one of them. Currently, he is the head of a security team of a big mall in Tehran. He says he likes his job, which he started eight months ago. Prior to that, he worked as a bodyguard along with five of his friends. “My whole life was spent in the gym lifting and exercising. It’s not a joke. If you really add the time for sleep and fights to that time, there won’t be much left in our lives.” he told IranWire.

 

No Pay for a Demanding Job

Ahmad Reza talks about the early days of his job. “At first I was very motivated and felt like I was built for this. I was in touch with some celebrities, which was nice. But I don’t know what fame has done to them — they think everything should be free of charge.

“My first client was a very famous celebrity. His fans, who were in contact with his Instagram page’s admin, managed to have a surprise party for him. He asked one of our friends to bring two more friends to take him to the restaurant. We went and took care of him for four hours. After the birthday party was over we took Mr Celebrity back home. One of us asked him to please pay our fees. He turned mad and said, “Now I know why my friends don’t have any non-celebrity friends. I thought you were good kids and wanted you there on my birthday and did not expect a gift or anything from anyone. But you expect me to pay you for inviting you to cake and dinner? Even if I pay, would you accept it? Paying for what? I should pay you because you stood next to me! I’m not an arrogant man, you saw how many people came from across the country and paid a lot of money just to spend the night with me, but you ask me to pay you? Things people say about us is all nonsense, that we are wealth and bathe in tubs of milk. I worked hard for my money and don’t give it away for no reason.’ And then he left the car as if we owed him something.”

Despite this experience, Ahmad Reza decided to continue. “To be honest, we were very sad that night. But Mehran, who was the eldest and whose idea this was, knew a lot of celebrities. He said: ‘look at tonight as promotional work for ourselves.’”

They were hopeful, but more problems emerged along the way, even when they set up their own business. “We decided to get the money first and then do the job. Our rate for regular kids who only did bodybuilding was 150,000 tomans ($15) per hour and 500,000 tomans ($50) per day, but for the kids who knew martial arts and self-defense, it was 250,000 tomans ($25) per hour and 800,000 tomans ($80) per day. But not even once did we get the full payment from a celebrity.”

He says in the beginning he promised expert bodyguards a monthly salary of 20 million tomans ($2000) and regular bodyguards a salary of 5 million tomans ($500), but since the clients did not pay them, he could never pay his employees what he had promised them. 

“We decided to work only for wealthy kids, since they loved to pose with us,” Ahmad Reza said. “If this job had nothing for us, we at least went to parties that we could not even imagine in our wildest dreams. They paid us well and made sure we had fun too. They were the best clients we had, but there were not too many of them.”

But the problems of a bodyguard in Iran are not limited to celebrities not paying them. They also face harsh criticism from society. Bodyguards made headlines in September 2017 when the famous actor, director and comedian Mehran Modiri traveled to Mashhad to attend the premiere of his movie 5 PM. People — both conservative and reformist journalists, as well as many fans — took issue with the fact that Modiri was accompanied by a team of bodyguards, and many mocked him. They obviously believed he thought he was more important than he was, and drew sarcastic comparisons with Hollywood stars, posting photographs of Modiri in his Mercedes Benz with his huge bodyguards next to a photo of Tom Hanks getting on the New York Subway. 

In an interview a few days later, Modiri said: “I don’t have bodyguards and that team was hired by the premier’s organizers in Mashhad.”

 

Interrogated for Protecting People

Ahmad Reza described the time police raided one of the parties and arrested all the guests. “We proudly stood up and said we were the protection team, but everyone was released the next day except us. We were asked to explain what we meant by ‘protection team.’ We were interrogated for two days until Mehran found a contact and got us out. However, they told us to stop what we were doing immediately, since the next time won’t be this nice.” 

In 2018, Chief Police Commander Mohammad Ashrafi was asked about firms that provide bodyguards and security services to celebrities and others. He told Tasnim News: “The police do not issue any permits for such a job, and there is no legal basis for such jobs to exist.”

When talking about the legal restrictions to his job, Ahmad Reza mentioned a conversation he had with Ahmad Irandoost, the well-known Iranian actor. 

“Very friendly,” he said. “He told me: ‘Bro, I was Jennifer Lopez’s bodyguard in the US, but I quit and came back. My job was an important and established job in America but that’s not the same story here, which is not even defined — and is absolutely illegal.”

Ahmad Irandoost claimed he had worked as a bodyguard in Hollywood for celebrities including Jennifer Lopez, Nicholas Cage and Mariah Carey, and also as the bodyguard for the United Arab Emirates ruler Sheikh Mohammad. He was introduced to the director Mehran Modiri and then featured in the television series Barareh Nights, for which he got the part playing the giant. This, apparently, was his start in Iranian television and cinema. 

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