While Donald Trump works to destroy Barack Obama’s efforts to forge a bridge to the country that was once an American ally….
That country tries find itself …..
There is vast difference in its people vs it’s political/military efforts across the Middle East…
America COULD move back in Obama’s direction of connecting with the counties people…
But That will probably have to wait for the departure of a Republican from the American Presidency….
Forty years ago, Iranians swelled with pride, hope and the expectation of a better future. Dreams of freedom and independence from the United States fired up the revolutionaries. But great, rapid change can leave deep and lasting wounds. There were lashings, hangings, amputations and mass imprisonment. Thousands of people died and hundreds of thousands left the country, some fleeing for their lives, never to return.
What materialized after those first bloody years was truly revolutionary: an Islamic republic, a theocracy built on ideological choices inspired to a great extent by Ayatollah Khomeini.
New rules were put in effect to forbid anything that might lead people astray and prevent them from ascending to a heavenly afterlife: strict controls on the media, which isolated Iranians from Western influences; an absolute segregation of the sexes in public places; compulsory head scarves for women; bans on alcohol and musical instruments on television; rules forbidding women to ride bicycles. It went on and on, zealously and sometimes brutally enforced by the morality police and the paramilitary Basij forces.
But over the years, as the early revolutionary fervor gave way for most people to a yearning for a more normal existence, the rules became negotiable. While the political system is basically the same as in those early years, the society changed slowly, at times almost imperceptibly. Those changes have been enormous, and Iran today is closer than most outsiders generally appreciate to being that “normal” country Iranians want.
It took time for the cumulative changes to reach a critical mass. When I first visited Iran as a young reporter, the 20th anniversary of the revolution had just passed and the country was still living up to its revolutionary image. High rises were decorated with anti-American murals or portraits of the martyrs of the 1980-88 war with Iraq.
The notoriously snarled street traffic was made up almost entirely by a sea of white, locally made cars called Paykans. In a small park, close to where I would eventually settle down, boys and girls would secretly meet on some of the more hidden benches, away from the prying eyes of relatives, but also from the morality police.
In those days, it was inside people’s houses that I saw a completely different Iran. Passing through a front door often meant stepping into a different reality, one where all the rules that applied on the streets would magically disappear.
There would be stories — Iran has a deep culture of storytelling — and bursts of laughter would be followed by dancing to Persian pop songs smuggled in from Los Angeles. Often, the music would be accompanied by someone playing a drum or, if that wasn’t available, a rice pan grabbed off a kitchen shelf. Everyone — accountants, journalists, doctors, nurses — would enjoy weekend parties that were technically illegal.
Iranians became adept at acting various roles. Abbas Kiarostami, the award-winning director who died in 2016, used mostly everyday people rather than actors in his movies, because Iranians were so accustomed to switching between lives in two worlds.
But as the years progressed, the changes began to creep outdoors and become more noticeable. When my wife, a photographer, decided many years ago to get a nose ring, she was fired on the spot. While the editors thought of themselves as reformists, they still considered a nose ring despicable and Western.
But now, they are everywhere. It is not all that unusual to spot a woman with pink hair flowing under her head scarf. Women now race through traffic riding bicycles, once seen as improper. They can even be seen riding motorcycles.
While state television still refuses to show musical instruments, there are buskers on the streets of Tehran. One day I was watching a couple of young men, one on drums and the other on guitar, when suddenly, a tall young woman appeared with a bass guitar and joined in. At times the state would fight back, making a few arrests in fitful efforts to roll back the changes, but never for long. At times, it seemed as if they had simply given up.
Connections to the outside world — the internet, of course, but particularly satellite TV broadcasts that broke the veil of isolation — were critical drivers of change…..