Rooting for the Women Fighting ISIS in Syria

“Never again,” the world vowed in the middle of the last century. But here we are—again. Our ‘never’ is proving heartbreakingly finite. In between our last vow and today, there was Bosnia, Rwanda, South Sudan, and others. But the plight of the Kurds, manifested in the struggle against ISIS over the Syrian city of Kobani, is different. […]

Smelly Little Orthodoxies of Iran’s Left

On a pleasant afternoon in early September of 1987, I was among a group of Iranians gathered under the overpass on the southeast corner of 42nd Street and First Avenue in New York City to protest President Ali Khamenei’s visit to the United Nations for the annual meeting of the General Assembly. Those were the good old days when the opposition spoke out, when their fury with the regime surpassed self-pity, nostalgia, and empty patriotism.

A Cappuccino with the CIA

The invitation came in an email, written in the ingratiating tone of the Nigerian prince looking to wire his millions into my checking account, and delivered the same jolt of giddy disbelief: Officers of the Near East Affinity Group at the Central Intelligence Agency wanted me to address them on a variety of topics, including Persian poetry and literature. My day with them would be as long or as short as I wished it to be, and could include a tour of the C.I.A. museum, a luncheon and a visit to the gift shop.

The Ayatollah’s Disarming Wit

On the streets and in taxicabs, political jokes abound. No one, especially the leadership, is spared, and no perspective is more telling or reliable than the anonymous satirist’s. A popular joke during the last presidential election invited Syrians also to vote: “After all, our president will be your finance minister, too!”

I Heart Khomeini

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett’s “Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms With the Islamic Republic of Iran” is a long and elaborate promotional brochure designed to sell Americans on the mullahs and their nuclear program. The husband-and-wife authors both served in government, including stints on the National Security Council […]

Daughter of the Storm: An Iranian Literary Revolution

“Daughter of the Storm: An Iranian Literary Revolution.” Adolescence is a universally grave hour. Mine was made graver by a revolution in 1979 in my beloved birth country of Iran. The mutiny I felt within had an echo in the world without. On the streets, martial law was in effect. Tehran was burning, bleeding. A […]

What Ben Affleck’s ‘Argo’ Misses About Iran

You have to watch Argo in the South as I did, in Burke County, N.C. to be exact, to feel that revisiting the hostage crisis between Iran and the United States still touches a raw nerve. Here, people came to let an old, still-nagging wound soak in cinematic brine. The film’s sharp and witty lines landed in this theatre […]

How Blaming the West Hides a War on Women

The targeting of Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl shot nearly two weeks ago by a Pakistani Taliban assassin, brought back memories of my teenage years in Tehran, where theocratic zealots were similarly in control. The words of the Taliban’s chief spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, had a chillingly familiar echo in my ears. A bullet had Malala’s […]

What Two Enemies Share

“IF a war were to break out between Iran and Israel, whose side would you be on?” someone asked me on Facebook a few weeks ago, when an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities was reportedly imminent. From early adolescence, at the start of Iran’s 1979 revolution, my loyalties have so often been questioned that I’ve […]