The Lonely War: One Woman’s Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran
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In The Lonely War, Fathi interweaves her story with that of the country she left behind, showing how Iran is locked in a battle between hardliners and reformers that dates back to the country’s 1979 revolution. Fathi was nine years old when that uprising replaced the Iranian shah with a radical Islamic regime. Her father, an official at a government ministry, was fired for wearing a necktie and knowing English; to support his family he was forced to labor in an orchard hundreds of miles from Tehran. At the same time, the family’s destitute, uneducated housekeeper was able to retire and purchase a modern apartment—all because her family supported the new regime.
As Fathi shows, changes like these caused decades of inequality—especially for the poor and for women—to vanish overnight. Yet a new breed of tyranny took its place, as she discovered when she began her journalistic career. Fathi quickly confronted the upper limits of opportunity for women in the new Iran and earned the enmity of the country’s ruthless intelligence service. But while she and many other Iranians have fled for the safety of the West, millions of their middleclass countrymen—many of them the same people whom the regime once lifted out of poverty—continue pushing for more personal freedoms and a renewed relationship with the outside world.
Drawing on over two decades of reporting and extensive interviews with both ordinary Iranians and high-level officials before and since her departure, Fathi describes Iran’s awakening alongside her own, revealing how moderates are steadily retaking the country.
Persians went so far as to claim that Hussein married a Persian princess who gave birth to the fourth Imam. By the sixteenth century, when Persia oﬃcially became a Shiite state, they had reshaped Shiite Islam into a faith that reinforced a Persian identity. They introduced into the faith ancient Zoroastrian notions such as self-sacriﬁce and the eternality of the battle of good against evil in pursuit of justice, and it was within that framework that Persians embraced the martyrdom of Ali and his
further emboldened Iranian activists. A year after the Russian Revolution, constitutionalists forced the ailing king, Mozafar al din Shah, to sign a declaration granting them the right to establish a parliament, a victory that came to be known as the Constitutional Revolution. The revolutionaries quickly drafted a constitution based on Belgium’s, which they considered the most progressive constitution in Europe. Iran’s new parliament convened for the ﬁrst time in October of that year;
home to ﬁnd rolls of cable unspooled around our apartment and two men fumbling with the cords. One of the technicians, Ali, was explaining to my father why it had taken them so long to come to our apartment building. There were not enough technicians to meet the high demand. My father explained to me that Ali and his colleague were installing satellite television in our apartment. Not long before, a few of our neighbors had asked to mount satellite dishes, large aluminum devices eight feet wide,
than the other Islamist feminists who had become vocal in the 1990s. With her, I didn’t have to worry about my headscarf slipping and revealing my hair. Many of these feminists dressed in the same style as pro-Khomeini women had in the early days and, like the morality teachers at our schools—the Islamist feminists—criticized other types of dress. Hashemi was a tomboy: she was always in jeans and a long-sleeved button-down shirt, and her chador often slipped down on her shoulders in a traditional
squatted around a hose, each with their own rubber washtubs. They were chatting as they shared the hose to wash dishes, clothes, and fruit, emptying the dirty water on the ground near a drain. Around the yard were carpeted but sparsely furnished rooms with large windows. We crossed the enclosure, went into another narrow passageway, and ﬁnally arrived at another door. 22 The Lonely War The young man knocked, and one of Nessa’s daughters, Iran, opened the door. I recognized her immediately;