March 2, 2009
Iran is one big enigma. Having lived three years in Iran, one lesson I learned was not to try to analyse Iranian behaviour in order to determine policy or motivation. You have to try to feel what is in mind because Iranian thinking differs fundamentally from western thinking. Having been part of Iranian negotiating teams (albeit under a different regime), I have always felt that the first objective is to confuse the other party: Iranians are more able to negotiate successfully in the resultant confusion.
It is also important to understand Iran’s long, proud history before western domination which only ended in 1979. Iran is a big country (over 1.6m km²) with a big population (72m). It cannot be compared with any other country: Muslim but not Arab, Shia and not Sunni, its people Aryan and not Semitic, its language written in Arabic but Indo-European…
The current régime is violently anti-American but perhaps two-thirds of its population are under 30 and their attitudes are frequently different from that of their government. The population is surprisingly westernised. America remains probably the favourite country to visit, American music, films and fashion are all very popular, despite a ban on satellite dishes (widely defied). The autocratic, fundamentalist clerical régime should not be confused with the majority of the people.
“Iran Awakening” is the autobiography of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi. This remarkable woman defended as a lawyer in Iran cases that others would refuse to touch. Her explanations of her work, faith and experiences, are fascinating in themselves and, at the same time, tell a lot about this fascinating and complex country. Ebadi is not a ‘dissident’ in the usual sense, and the book is written with modesty, passion and humanity.Author : Stanley Crossick