The Lonely War: One Woman’s Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

In This Review

The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran
By Nazila Fathi
Basic Books, 2014
336 pp. $27.99

In 1979, Fathi was a little girl in Tehran when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran after the departure of the shah. She grew up with the Islamic Revolution and later became a correspondent for The New York Times. In this intimate memoir, she situates the revolution and the rise of the theocracy in a long series of events: the anti-British Tobacco Protest of the 1890s, the constitutionalist movement of 1905–6, and the premiership of Mohammad Mosaddeq in the early 1950s, which ended in a royalist coup backed by the Americans and the British. In her view, the Islamic Revolution—which she believes effectively ended around 2000—represented a step backward on a convoluted but certain path to a more liberal, democratic Iran. She points out that in some ways, the clerical regime might have planted the seeds of its own eventual undoing by providing for women’s education and by overseeing the growth of a vast new urban middle class. As she sees it, the so-called Green Movement, with its massive protests in the wake of the allegedly rigged 2009 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was a harbinger of Iran’s future. 

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