Series Overview: Making Iran A Bit Less Hidden

Iranian security forces gather for a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. i i

hide captionIranian security forces made up the bulk of the thousands who gathered for the main celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, marking the moment Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile.

Tom Bullock/NPR
Iranian security forces gather for a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Iranian security forces made up the bulk of the thousands who gathered for the main celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, marking the moment Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile.

Tom Bullock/NPR

To understand what Morning Edition is doing in Iran, consider the words of a political analyst who was sitting in a coffee shop here in Tehran.

"The Americans have wonderful satellite photos of Iran," he said, "but what they don't have is the ability to know what people talk about in coffee shops, to know what bothers them."

That's one of the things that was bothering this man as he dipped a spoon into his cappuccino.

In February, NPR's Morning Edition listens to what Iranians are saying — in coffee shops and the bazaar, in real estate offices and newsrooms, in tiny walk-up apartments, and in the spacious offices of some of the men who hold power. We examine Iran's politics, its economy and its controversial nuclear program.

We're listening even as Iran and the United States study each other, trying to find out if they can reach some accommodation at a price that they would be willing to pay. A new administration has arrived in Washington. An upcoming presidential election is the talk of Tehran. The moment seems full of possibilities for change. This moment is also filled with reminders of history, because Iran is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution.

Morning Edition is introducing Americans to a number of Iranians, like a young couple who can't afford an apartment or a wedding ring; the curator of Iran's Martyrs Museum; a presidential candidate determined to reform the government; a hard-line editor who writes that Obama is the same as Bush; and a reformist newspaperman whose employers are repeatedly shut down. We also profile Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man without whose consent Iran will never make a deal with the United States.

Almost any Western account of modern Iran emphasizes that this nation is extraordinarily complicated. It's true, of course; Iran is isolated and yet active in the world. It's ruled by religious tradition and yet is in many ways modern and sophisticated.

Several trenchant books on Iran have appeared in the past few years, and it is appropriate that one of them would be titled Hidden Iran. The book, by Ray Takeyh, is outstanding, although our assignment here is, in some ways, to defy the title — to try to make Iran, if possible, ever so slightly less hidden.

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