AZADEH MOAVENI is a young Iranian-American reporter for Time who spent a couple of years in Tehran during and after Mahmoud Ahmadinejads election in 2005. During this time,she got pregnant and married-a sequence that was awkward in puritan Iran-had a lot of fun and with light-fingered shrewdness has written a book that helps explain why things have turned out as they have.
On an earlier visit to Iran she had found the educated young desperate for change. Now she found apathy: the slight loosening of social strictures had eased middle-class discontent,but after the failure of the reformists few bothered to vote. They had not noticed that Iran’s poor,more concerned with economic inequality than reform,were responding to a fiery young fundamentalist.
Nearly everyone she meets reviles Mr Ahmadinejad and,despite his promises,the poor remain poor. Yet he has become something of a national hero,particularly for standing up to the West. When reports emerged that America was plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime,everything hardened. And made life worse for Ms Moaveni. Up to then,she had managed pretty well. The Iranian women she knew were more independent than any generation before them,negotiating their way round the laws on behaviour and dress with guile and good sense. She and they managed for the most part to do what they wanted (one of her girlfriends is a racing driver) without making a big fuss about the multiple absurdities. But in the face of the American threat,the hardliners began clamping down capriciously.
As a correspondent,she had always reported what she was doing to a creepy security agent,known as Mr X,an unpleasant business but,until then,no more than that.
Suddenly,Mr X seemed to get threatening and Ms Moaveni called it a day.
So she,her husband and small boy departed for London. Though Iran’s ruling fundamentalists make life tiresome,and sometimes much worse,for the secular majority,it’s still a hard place to leave. No more jasmine-scented nights in Shiraz,no more lively gossips with friends over a pistachio milkshake topped with mulberries. Ms Moaveni is clever at conveying Irans continuing allure
© The Economist Newspaper Limited 2009