Project

Understanding Iran

On the surface, Iran is simply a theocracy in a standoff with the United States. But access to the everyday lives of Iranians gives a window into the country's complex web of culture, religion and politics. Despite decades of repressive leadership, Iran arguably has the longest-lived democratic movement in the Middle East.

That democracy saw the election of current hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but it's also seen the survival and regrouping of reformist groups in the face of mounting government pressure. Many advocates for reform in Iran argue that change can only come from within, and that it will come slowly. The U.S. media has little access to Iran and it's the nuclear issue that dominates the headlines here. Meanwhile, Iranian dissidents say they are experiencing the worst government crackdown in two decades as Ahmadinejad faces growing criticism from within for his economic policies.

One way we can come to understand Iran is through the country's young people. Seventy percent of Iran's more than 70 million people are under 30 years old. This means most of the population doesn't remember life before the 1979 revolution. In a series of audio, web and print reports, journalist Jessie Graham explores how the increasing tensions between Iran and the United States are affecting the lives of regular Iranians. This project offers a glimpse into how Iranians envision their version of democracy and how they see their country's future.

Iran: Roxana Saberi and the politics of understanding

American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi was held in detention in an Iranian prison for nearly three months under charges of spying for the United States. She was sentenced to eight years in prison by Iran's Revolutionary Court, but on May 10th an appeals court suspended the sentence and she has recently returned home to the U.S.

Her story provides a dramatic example of the potential consequences of reporting in a society weary of a U.S. perspective, and perhaps, of the consequences of our own misunderstanding of, and mis-reporting on, Iran.

Iran: Behind Closed Doors

"You can take off your headscarf now," Seema says with a wide smile as she welcomes me into her world and offers me some tea.

A friend of a friend who'd lived in Iran for a few months introduced me to Seema, a 24-year-old film editor. She's part of a crowd of twenty- and thirty-somethings I saw in Tehran's lively galleries and cafes. They're artistic, literary and highly educated young people from middle class families.

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OneWorld.net features Anuj Chopra's Iran project

OneWorld featured the Pulitzer Center's ongoing Iran project on February 25, 2008 in the Today's News section of its website. The mention highlights the recent photography of Anuj Chopra, stating that his "collection of photos taken in Tehran and Qom explores the intersection of the theocratic state and everyday life in Iran."