Saturday, June 14, 2014

Understand better: "Modern Iran"

The Middle East has fascinated me for a long time. I would like to visit all the countries of that region, but it may not happen. However this is not what I am going to write about today. This post is dedicated to the book I just finished reading, entitled "Modern Iran. Roots and Results of Revolution". This is a book about a large, beautiful country which in the Western world is associated mainly with conservative Islam and human rights violation. It is worth to read this work to understand it better.


Nikkie R. Keddie is professor of history at California State University in Los Angeles. She specializes in the history of the Middle East, in particular Iran. For over 30 years she has been following the events in this country, political, social and cultural changes that take place there... She knows it not only from studies and works of other people; she spent there three years.

The book she wrote may not be quite an exciting reading, because it is a work of a scientist, with lots of facts, dates, names, places. In this case, it should be regarded as a strength. This strength lies also in the fact that although  the author make attempt to explain the facts, her assessment of the situation in Iran defies the stereotypical assessments that usually accompany TV news and press reports.

Not omitting the phenomena that majority of the Western world, but also some of the Iranian citizens, assess clearly as negative, such as human rights violation, censorship, excessive conservatism etc., she finds also phenomena that deserve a positive assessment, such as public health policy and some actions undertaken in the field of education.

The book shows very clearly that Iran is a country of many paradoxes, developing dynamically. This dynamic, however, is regarded by many Iranians as insufficient, resulting in many protests and manifestations. It is finally a country which aspires to be a world power, and it seems it is on track to achieve this goal, or in any case to make others to regard is as an important player on a political scene. The growing importance of the ancient Persia causes at the same time much anxiety, taking into account its support for terrorism, violation of human rights, lack of civil liberties.

The most important thing about this book, at least for me, is that it helps a reader to understand why Iran is what it is today and how it all happened to be.

The book was written in 2003, so anyone who wants to keep up with what is happening in the largest country of the Persian Gulf, has to look for newer works or to rely on media reports.


Współczesny Iran. Źródła i konsekwencje rewolucji

Original title: "Modern Iran. Roots and Results of Revolution"
Author: Nikki R. Keddie
Translation into Polish: Iwona Nowicka
Polish publisher: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 2007
Pages: 378

This post is available also in Polish

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