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: The Red Line

The clock is ticking. Less than 12 hours until I need to be on a plane out of Tehran. I've just been told politely by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance that I won't be getting the visa extension I'd expected. So I am on overdrive, trying to cram the last of my interviews into a sleepless night.

In those final hours, what I most want to know is how I can describe Iran's "red line." That's the slippery, ever-changing boundary that dictates what Iranians can and cannot say. I realize I have no idea what that line looks like. Is it wavy? Is it straight?

Iran Clamps Down on Dissent

Iran is cracking down on people it suspects of being dissidents. For the past few months, authorities have rounded up students, activists and women who dress immodestly. Observers say the government is trying to divert attention from Iran's most pressing concern, its growing economic crisis.

The World's Jessie Graham reports from Tehran.

Click on picture below to listen.