Frank, somewhat scattershot account by California-born journalist Moaveni (Lipstick Jihad, 2005) of life under Iran’s repressive regime.
In Tehran in the spring of 2005, sent by Time magazine to evaluate young people’s sense of their future on the eve of the Iranian presidential election, Moaveni, who then resided in Beirut, was also testing the waters to see if she wanted to move to Iran permanently. She was charmed by the feeling of thaw that permeated Tehran, the laxness about enforcing dress codes and the yearning for an open society run by a secular government. But the apathy about voting by this generation of Iranians, who cared more about securing material goods than about revolution or civil liberties, enabled the sudden, alarming ascent of fundamentalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the figurehead of an increasingly repressive theocracy. Despite such warning signs over the next two years as the arbitrary police destruction of satellite dishes and Internet censorship, Moaveni stayed, largely because she fell in love with a divorced businessman and became pregnant. (The couple’s hasty decision to get married was prompted by fear of “the morality police.”) She was required to meet regularly with a government minder to whom she had to reveal her journalistic projects and sources. “Mr. X” grew increasingly menacing, and the author was essentially cowed from talking to anyone or writing about injustice. Moaveni made peace with her decision “to put safety above the story,” she writes, though she admires those like her friend Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, who risked imprisonment and worse. Blessed with wealthy, influential relatives in a country where connections are everything, the author’s self-proclaimed naiveté is frequently appalling, though it certainly underscores the apolitical nature of a younger generation that dreams primarily of personal freedom from the Islamic regime.
Stylistically clunky and excessively detailed, but still a rare, rich glimpse inside a closed society.