On Monday evening, just five days ahead of Nowruz, the Persian new year holiday, police descended upon a small local market in west Tehran. They ordered local vendors to pack up their wares, their socks, colanders, and plastic flowers, telling them that by selling goods in public they were helping spread the coronavirus. On Tuesday evening, they returned, and found one tenacious seller hawking in the same place. “You, here again!” barked a security officer. “If I don’t sell, how am I going to pay my rent?” the woman asked plaintively.
As Iran celebrates its new year, black death banner announcements hang from Tehran’s eerily deserted squares.… Seguir leyendo »
On 21 May 2018, less than two weeks after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched Washington’s “New Iran Strategy” before an audience at the Heritage Foundation. In his remarks, he insisted that Iranian women’s long struggle for inclusion and equality matters dearly to Washington. As if to prove the point, the U.S. State Department’s social media feeds since that day have interspersed announcements of new choking sanctions with twinkling reminders of Iranian women’s potential (“Congratulations to Iranian-American and new #NASA Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli!”). In January 2020, the State Department released a two-minute video on the history of Iranian women’s rights.… Seguir leyendo »
The last time I wrote seriously about a war with Iran was in 2012. It had been an especially fraught year, with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards running naval exercises in the Persian Gulf, Israel and the United States conducting joint drills, and the safety of oil shipping lanes looking entirely unassured. Oil prices rattled skittishly, everyone suddenly monitored ships, and headlines speculated that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear sites.
My assignment was to consider “the day after” — to imagine how Iranians would react if their country was bombed by Israel. My piece featured scenes of distraught young people gathering on crowded intersections singing the national anthem — suddenly everyone was a terrified Iranian citizen rather than an aspiring guitarist or a day laborer or whatever they were the day before — and a screaming mother buying formula to stockpile from a supermarket.… Seguir leyendo »
No one thought baby Ibrahim was going to make it.
The 18-month-old boy, Belgian by birth, was malnourished, dehydrated, and vomiting every half an hour from a stomach bug. In Al Hol, the refugee camp in northeast Syria where he was staying, the heat regularly reached a relentless 100 degrees by midmorning, there was scant medical care, and fresh water, when it arrived, usually teemed with bacteria. Video of Ibrahim, listless and throwing up, had made its way from this desolate desert patch of Syria to his aunts in Belgium, who had shared it with doctors there. “I’m going to be honest, this baby is going to die,” one said.… Seguir leyendo »
Islamic State seduced an East London teenager named Shamima Begum in the winter of 2014. It used social media and personal appeals to spin a web around the 15-year-old, persuading her with emoji-studded messages, romantic memes and predatory religious tropes that a life of social justice and spiritual meaning awaited her in Syria in its self-declared caliphate.
Begum disappeared in February 2015, and resurfaced a week later in Raqqa, the Syrian city that Islamic State declared its capital. Now, pregnant and with two of her children dead, she wants to come home. Lots of Britons don’t want her back.
Many Western countries are confronting the same problem: what to do about hundreds of citizens who were enticed to join Islamic State’s violent jihad.… Seguir leyendo »
Zahra and Amina seem like lucky survivors of the scourge of northeastern Nigeria, the jihadist movement known as Boko Haram. Both were wives of fighters. Zahra escaped by agreeing to detonate an explosive vest that the militants strapped to her. After walking miles to her intended target, a government checkpoint, she turned herself over to soldiers. Amina fled with her three children after her husband was killed in battle.
Today, both women live in a camp for survivors of the conflict in the northeastern city of Maiduguri. When I met them on a recent research trip to the city, the last thing I expected to hear was that they wanted to rejoin the insurgents.… Seguir leyendo »
It was inevitable, a young lawyer in Tunisia told me, that the first attempts at a modern Islamic state would flounder. Young Muslims had grown up under the paradigms of nationalism, European racism and harsh police states, he said. They carried these inherited behaviors into the caliphate formed by the Islamic State, a place that was supposed to be just and colorblind but instead reveled in violence and was studded with mini neocolonial enclaves, where British Pakistanis lorded over local Syrians, and Saudis lorded over everyone. It would take one or two generations to unlearn these tendencies and deconstruct what had gone so wrong, he said.… Seguir leyendo »
When the World Chess Federation designated Iran host of the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship games, Mitra Hejazipour was thrilled. She is a women’s grandmaster. She learned chess at 6, played in her first formal championship at age 9, and, now 23, she has spent her life traveling the world for chess tournaments and returning to the Islamic Republic of Iran with shiny medals.
When she plays, she wears a hijab, and presumably, when the world’s best women gather in Tehran to play chess next year, they will, too. But the excitement of the chess championship news — widely celebrated in Iran — soon turned to protest.… Seguir leyendo »
I remember vividly the first time I ever voted in an Iranian election. It was a balmy summer day in June 2001, in the election that won the reformist president Mohammad Khatami a second term. The blue stamp was the first on the voting page of my identification card, and I felt a sharp, exhilarating pride.
That election is much on my mind now, as I watch the results of Friday’s voting with my family, disagreeing on what it might mean for the future.
Back in 2001, Iran was heading down an irrevocable path toward internal reform, a process untainted by any Western intrusion, with citizens and progressive-minded leaders showing the way.… Seguir leyendo »
For most of the years that I was based in Iran as a correspondent for Time magazine, my working life approximated a clumsy script for a television spy drama. I was regularly obliged to meet with intelligence agents who monitored my writing and hectored me to disclose the identities of sources. These interrogation sessions usually took place in empty apartments across Tehran, places where no one could have heard me scream, and always with stern warnings that nobody could know they were taking place.
I got used to seeing an unidentified number flashing on my cellphone, picking up a call from a voice that would not identify itself.… Seguir leyendo »