ANSWERING ONLY TO GOD: The Failure of Democracy in Twenty-First-Century Iran

Geneive Abdo, Author, Jonathan Lyons, Author, Jonathan Lyons, Joint Author . Holt/Macrae $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7299-0

From 1998 to 2001, when they were kicked out of Iran, Abdo (No God but God) and Lyons were the first American citizens to be allowed to work as journalists in the country since the 1979 Islamic revolution. This unprecedented access allowed the husband-and wife team to conduct the daily observations and hundreds of interviews that form the basis of this engrossing book of reportage. Focusing mainly on the society's elite—they were apparently unable to gain access to more people in the lower classes—the two are still able to develop a complex, nuanced view of Iran. They show how, even before the fall of the shah, those who called for democracy were outmaneuvered by the Ayatollah Khomeini, who merged hatred of the shah with a skillful understanding of Iran's Islamic tradition. The authors offer historical background on Khomeini and his rise to power, the electoral success of the current president, Mohammad Khatami, and other clerics and dissidents. They also shed light on the more recent challenges to the regime, most notably from the press and from students. For the past few years, many Western observers have seen Iran as a society torn between hard-line clerics and moderate reformers, pinning their hopes on Khatami. But as Abdo and Lyons show, Khatami himself has betrayed true reform, among other ways by making speeches critical of student protests. As a result, Abdo and Lyons conclude, it is unlikely Iran will move toward democracy any time soon. (Mar. 5)

Reviewed on: 02/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-8050-7514-4
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