Whenever the story of Iran and all the intricacies shaping its politics are told through the eyes of western journalists, a surprisingly one-dimensional narrative shapes up. Iran is reduced to a battle of good versus evil; authoritarianism against democracy – it is the place where the forces of light and dark are poised to fight it out once and for all. Even though this sounds melodramatic, it is what happens in modern commentary all the time, and public perceptions of the country have thus hardly any reason let alone means to challenge this misguided mythology. Some of this reporting is certainly due to political opportunism and career advancement, but some of it may well be unintentional; a lot of supposedly bright people in the commentariat just do not know the region or the country very well, and it is hardly surprising that nuanced interpretations and regard for profound complexities in all camps making up the body politics in Iran do hardly surface. Politics in Iran is much more than a binary conflict between a conservative, religious establishment and modern, progressive reformists. Those believing in such myth-making have obviously never paid much attention to the complicated history of the place, and have decided to view the place through the eyes of western interests alone. A good starting point for at least partially remedying this sad state of affairs is a better understanding of the revolution which topple the Shah
in 1979, bringing to power Islamic forces und the leadership of
. Even if revolutions are historical accidents, they are most certainly always traumatic for the victors as well as the vanquished. Forty years after the events Iranian society has not managed to leave the trauma of 1979 behind, and it is therefore paramount for international observers of Iranian politics and society to start with events that shook the region in 1979.
Fall of the Shah
The BBC has a well earned reputation for producing great documentaries; in this instance, I am delighted to recommend
, a podcast series and dramatized documentary which tells the story of the revolution in 1979. Good acting and presentation brings to live historical figures and brings back the atmosphere of those days by using great narration and acting. All in all, it is a good starting point to develop a greater interest in the region at large and the country Iran in particular.
Without any doubt, Iran will remain a political hotspot in the future. Now that the Islamic revolution marks its 40th anniversary, media attention will focus on Iran even more than ever before. Here a few sources of information which readers may find worth checking out.
The story of
And his imprisonment in Iran captured the headlines at the time. Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist, has now written about his experiences in Iran, about his work there as a journalist and, of course, about his time as a prisoner. His book
Is on sale and a great read, and I can personally attest to this because I am almost done with the book myself.
Rezaian also appeared on
. Rezaian also appeared on
Where he talks in great depth about his experiences, his life and, perhaps most valuable, what motivated him to work in Iran and his desire to create a more accurate narrative of the country, reflecting reality rather than being subservient to any given political agenda. for this he needs to be commended.
American-Iranian journalist and author
Is a great and knowledgeable guide through the various complexities of Iranian society and politics. I am by far not done with all of his books, but one of them I highly recommend. I have read this particular volume quite a while ago, and its impact on my own outlook toward iran can hardly be overstated.
Will likely change your view of Iranian contemporary society and politics. I suppose it would be a perfect follow-up to the BBC
Recommended in this piece.
In this video on
Hooman Majd talks about his life, background and the book.