Faces of Iran, an Introduction (and Special Comment)

This account of Iran's people, land, arts, and history begins simply with a collection of faces -- of citizens going about their daily activities socializing at the mosque, crowding the weekend bazaar, selling and trading, and swarming a party of "rare" American tourists. Only one day on the streets of Tehran is enough to suggest that the general urban populace of Iran (named Persia until 1935, Reza Shah) has no quarrel with the "westerner." Iran's youth, true to the very history of Persia itself, are indeed rebellious of restrictions imposed by their elders. However, the young and their parents are also remarkably respectful of their visitors and guests from around the world, and curious about that wider world to a degree that might cause Americans to blush. Their pride in their own nation (flaws and all) is also insurmountable. This country of Iran is bi-polar, religious and secular. Ali M. Ansari, in a small book, Iran: A Short Introduction (Oxford), describes Iran as "at once theocratic and autocratic yet as a succession of visitors will relate -- often with a sense of bewilderment -- it seems to be also possessed of democratic characteristics,...." Hence the nation bears the hallmark of a melting pot that brewed what are today called "Western" values imbued with the pragmatic devotions of Eastern faiths.