The Other Iran
Van de revolutie tot vandaag
From the revolution to the present day
Peyman Jafari is Dutch, although Iranian by birth, so he knows exactly what he can add to his Western readers’ standard image of a radical Islamic state. In The Other Iran he delves into a much more complex reality, offering insights that are genuinely new.
Conspiracy theories, for example, dusted off once more by the country’s rulers after the elections of 2009, seem rather more plausible in the light of interference in Iranian politics by Russia, Britain and the US over past centuries as described by Jafari. But his book concentrates mainly on the revolution of 1978-1979 and the decades since. With extensive and thorough research of his own, Jafari adds to what others have written about the country. He shows that while the revolution of 1979 is usually attributed to protests by religious leaders and left-wing intellectuals, in fact economic decline, rioting in the slums, and strikes and arson attacks on factories, including General Motors, were no less influential.
The Islamic Republic established in Iran after 1979 is a constitutionally complex blend of democratic and theocratic principles. Jafari looks at the long factional struggle between religious leaders over the extent to which Islam and the state are inseparable, but he also pays close attention to social change and to new social movements that have made Iran the most dynamic country in the region. He paints a convincing portrait of a youth culture that adopts elements from the West while at the same time expressing trenchant criticism. The band 127, for instance, sings with typical irony about the Western image of Iranians: ‘I’m a suicidal bomb, be careful, I might go off at the end of this song.’
All too often we look at Iran purely from a political standpoint, disregarding income inequality and youth unemployment, which have at least as much influence on people’s daily lives and therefore on their voting habits. It was his promise to fight poverty that made Ahmadinejad the winner of the 2005 presidential elections. Whether he also received the most votes in this year’s elections is for future historians to say.
- A critical contribution to the debate about Islam and democracy
- Goes beyond the cliché’s about ‘mad mullahs’ and ‘Gucci-wearing youth’
- An image of the Iranian people as a source of change, rather than as victims of those in power at home and abroad