Society & Culture

To Be a Contemporary Iranian in the World: Afshin Molavi in Conversation (Part 2)

November 15, 2013
Azadeh Moaveni
29 min read
To Be a Contemporary Iranian in the World: Afshin Molavi in Conversation (Part 2)
To Be a Contemporary Iranian in the World: Afshin Molavi in Conversation (Part 2)

To Be a Contemporary Iranian in the World: Afshin Molavi in Conversation (Part 2)

What are the regional strategic implications for Iran's lack of real allies? It's one thing being friendly with other ascendent Shia states, or friendly with Afghanistan, but do any of these relationships add up to a strategic base of support?

Well Iran is strategically lonely and does not have a significant ally that would come to its aid in the event of a shooting war with the United States and/or Israel. What Iran has is a proxy like Hezbollah, to some extent Hamas, although Iran has lost some of the relationship with Hamas as a result of the uprisings and the Syrian civil war. But Iran basically has Hezbollah, that’s it, and Syria. Now if you go back to Turkey, Turkey is a member of NATO. Imagine the scenario, it will not happen, but imagine the scenario that Israel decided to go to war with Turkey. The United States will be treaty bound to defend Turkey as a member of NATO. Take Pakistan for example, Pakistan is a country that arguably harbors the most dangerous terrorists in the world, Al Qaeda’s presence in Pakistan is very serious and yet Pakistan manages to get anywhere from 1.5 to three billion dollars a year from the United States. This is what I’m talking about when I talk about amoral national interest, geopolitical flexibility etc, that Iran seems to lack. The clerical rulers get all sorts of credit for being “clever,” but how is it clever to be so isolated and have virtually no allies?

This all sounds very dire, what needs to happen to steer Iran back on course? A great deal, I realize, but what first?

Absent a removal of the sanctions, Iran will be unable to reach its extraordinary economic potential.  So, what needs to happen is a nuclear deal. That’s not easy. It will be a long and arduous road. There is no guarantee of success on a final status deal. The removal of sanctions in itself will probably add two, three points to Iran’s GDP, no doubt about it, in the first year. Then, we can see serious take-off. Because immediately investments will be coming in, Iran will be back in international oil and gas markets. But it needs to happen fast. The world is moving on without Iran. The world does not wait for single countries to get their act together. It moves forward.

We are witnessing the rise of a new energy paradigm. When we see the rise of shale oil and shale gas, we are witnessing the rise of new oil powers. You’ve heard of the term BRICS, right? Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Well the new acronym in the oil and gas world is BRISK, and the I is not Iran it's Iraq; the BRISKs are the new oil powers, where the new oil is going to come from, and it includes Brazil, Russia, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan. It should actually be BRUISK – and the United States must be added to that list as the US will become one of the biggest oil producers in the world soon, with the rise of shale oil. The point I’m trying to make here is that the world of energy could change dramatically in 20 to 25 years. And this oil and gas, being a national resource, is owned by every Iranian, and is not being managed or exploited well, for the variety of reasons I described. So yes, Iran's allies are benefiting from Iran's demise and Iran’s economic weakness has made it very difficult to play with its peers on a level playing field.

Some people make the case that the upheavals in the region, the fall of traditional enemies like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan, have made Iran an ascendant power in the region. How do you see that?

I think this narrative of Iranian power is overplayed, particularly here in Washington. Yes, the defeat of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban redounded in Iran’s favor. No doubt. But this narrative of Iran as rising power misses the point. On a conventional level, Iran’s military is second, third rate and it has a deteriorating economy, with a population hungry for change, and asymmetric power via proxies. Indeed, in Iran’s quest to become a regional power via proxies like Hezbollah, it has given up its natural ability to be a global power. I think I’ve explained earlier how China didn’t become a global power when it went nuclear; it became a global power when it began building its economy.

And for us to even describe Iran as an emerging power means that Iran has been doing something wrong. By that I mean we don't talk about China as an emerging power. China is a powerful state, full stop, and should always be a power in Asia. Brazil is a power in Latin America, full stop. Iran ranks alongside Brazil and China as major regional powers in their neighborhoods. The fact that people even associate Iran as an emerging power means that they are doing something wrong. Because Iran, because of its strategic location, because of its history, because of its natural resources, because of its population should always be a power, full stop. It should always be a power in the Middle East. Describing it as an emerging power means it has been doing something wrong for a long time. There should never be a question about its power; the fact that we are calling it ascendant or rising means there has been a question. And Iran, as Ive stated before, has the ability to be a global power, not just a regional one if it chooses its policies wisely.

I feel like this nuanced, wide-angled look at Iran’s economic position is not something we see get from the media at all. I mainly see articles that focus on one issue, inflation or some particular sector, or the Revolutionary Guards economic clout. Often the coverage of major questions, like are Iranians suffering from sanctions or not, can be spotty. Within just one six month period, for example, the New York Times reversed its own reporting on that issue. Do you think the media provides an adequate, intelligent picture of Iran's economic situation? Is there too much focus on the Revolutionary Guards' role, just because it grabs headlines, at the expense of drier but crucial subjects, like the underdeveloped oil fields?

I’ve been watching this for a long time and one thing that I think has happened, and I don’t know precisely how to articulate this, but I think the George Bush years in many ways have had a negative effect on analysis of Iran. George Bush was very aggressive and he put people in a kind of defensive position; otherwise reasonable people were almost put in an apologist position. There was this tendency to stand up to that extreme position and say, 'Fox News says Iran is a bunch of fanatics, but as you can see we wear jeans, we listen to Western music, we have people who travel outside, many people who speak English etc, etc.' And I understand the need to beat back the dominant narratives, the broadcast media narratives. But this has in many ways impacted some analytical thinking. Rather than present the bigger picture, the tendency often became to repudiate the Fox/Bush narrative: ‘Oh the Western media says this, but the reality is this.. and the George Bush administration said this and the reality is this...”  And then the “reality” offered is an argument, a way to beat back the dominant narrative. So, its not untrue, but it’s not the TRUTH, if that makes sense, or the full truth. It’s an argument, a way to beat back an opponent.

As a result, our expectations for Iran are not where I think they should be. This is one man’s opinion, but my expectations for Iran are very high. Maybe too high. My expectations for Iran is that it should be in the trillion dollar club, Iran should have companies that can compete on a global scale, Iran should have a thriving middle class, and it should be a global power and it should be a democracy. I see no reasons why Iran should be in its current state of economic, social and political decline other than colossally poor management.

Occasionally, you will hear an Iranian-American journalist or analyst who will say: “look at Iranian women; they are better off than women in Saudi Arabia.” I get it; they are being defensive, trying to beat back a Fox News-ish narrative. But this is not the bar that Iranians should aspire to. They should aspire higher than that. And Iranians in Iran do so. Iranians in America and Europe should do so also.

Iranian women are my heroes in so many ways. When I think of Iranian women, I think of that Faulkner line in his Nobel acceptance speech: “man will not merely endure, he will prevail.” Despite so many odds against them, they are indeed making the best of their situation and doing some extraordinary things. But let’s not patronize them in the West by saying things like: “well, they are better off than Saudi women.” No, I aspire much higher than that for Iranian women – as do Iranian women themselves.

And while I experience the same joy others do when I see Iranian films winning awards, I think to some extent our expectations are too low. I would like Iranians to have higher expectations for Iran, just as Iranians inside Iran have higher expectations. And I think my article to some extent articulated that and hit on something that people felt themselves, and the reactions from Iran were very heart-warming because so many people wrote to me and thanked me for the article and poured out their hearts and hopes and dreams along the lines of what I had just said.

My article was, at its core, a lament. It was a moment if “ham-dardee” and a call to rise up and do better and live up Iran’s great historic legacy.

I had the good fortune to be present at debates about emerging markets and was fortunate to travel widely in the Middle East and Asia and in the position to compare and contrast, not everybody had that opportunity to see up that close. I think it's important and we haven’t quite got there, either in the media or in scholarship analysis.

I couldn't agree with you more about how Iranian women have managed to not just persevere but flourish. And framing that growth is important, because the credit is often given to the Islamic Republic for offering wider educational opportunities. I remember discussing that very point with Shirin Ebadi when we were working on her book together, and she helped me see that any gains women made were actually despite the Islamic government rather than enabled by it. This is still a very socially conservative system that isn't comfortable with women as breadwinners and all the inevitable tension (good tension, to my mind) that entails for gender dynamics. The question of how we frame such issues leads me to my next question, which is about the media. How could the Western media be doing a better job of covering Iran?

Look, I’ve been a journalist in Iran and I have a lot of respect for those who are on the ground doing the reporting that needs to be done. But I also know that there are some red lines that are difficult to cross when you are doing reporting on the ground in Iran. And there are red lines when you are doing reporting on the ground elsewhere too. Its not just Iran. And therefore it becomes difficult to do some of the reporting you might see. You might put in your notebook, but it doesn’t actually come out in the dispatches because you are worried about your visa, you are worried about potentially being kicked out of the country. And this is probably a question I should ask you. How do you draw the line between telling the truth as you see it in your reportage and balancing between the need to stay in the country and therefore not get on the wrong side of the authorities too much. I’d love to ask you that question.

I often tried to find the balance in the framing of a particular story. If a point or an anecdote was particularly sensitive, I would bury it deep into the story, so that it wasn't screaming out from the lede or the headline, but woven in there for the careful reader to notice. If something felt just too difficult to depict with reasonable truthfulness, I would usually just not write the story at all.

I understand what you mean. When I was journalist in Iran there were stories that I felt, “why should I write this?” I might not have my press card renewed, so I know  well of what you speak. I also was guilty of occasionally participating in the lower expectations game. In my book, however, I wrote it as I saw it. It seemed somehow to be a terrible sin to not do so. Books are sacred, after all, and enduring, and if a reader gives you his/her precious time, they deserve your honesty.

Academics who travel to Iran have the same issue. They have to be careful if they want to go back. And that’s why this whole issue of what gets conveyed and what does not get conveyed is an important issue not just for Iran, but also for authoritarian regimes everywhere. I understand the importance of beating back the headline caricature image, I absolutely understand that, and frankly I would do it myself when I give talks to American audiences. But I also understand that there is a world that is changing rapidly, there is a world that is not waiting for Iran, there is a world where economies are growing, there is a world where energy paradigms are shifting and if you don’t grab these opportunities now, they may not come back.

How does all of this affect Iranian society? This struggle to keep up and not be left behind.

Well just to come full circle, part of my thinking also as I wrote the article was actually about the people who were really affected.  The stories of Iranians who would fly to Indonesia and get on these boats so they can get to Australia. That was deeply affecting for me. I feel like I know those people, because many of them were not necessarily political refugees, they were economic migrants, many from the middle class.

And why should Iran have economic migrants? When I look at people from Turkey who are studying in the United States, who are doing a Masters or a PhD, they often go back afterwards because there are opportunities in Turkey. Many of the students from the Persian Gulf who are studying in the United States – Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris and elsewhere--  they go back home. India for the first time in recent memory has more Indians returning home than migrating out of India. Brazil, over the past few years has had two million Brazilians in the diaspora return home. Because of the economic opportunities that were afforded to them.

And yet Iran has middle-class Iranians flying to Indonesia, getting on rickety boats, risking their lives trying to get to Australia. One 30-year-old Iranian died on that journey, and I'm sure there have been others. When they get to Australia, they are held there indefinitely. This shouldn't be happening with a country with the world’s first natural gas reserves in the world, the third largest oil reserves in the world, with such a strategic location – you couldn’t have asked for better location. Iran has the Persian Gulf, a large long coastline, it has the Caspian sea, it is within a four hour plane ride of one-third of humanity and an eight hour plane ride of two-thirds of humanity. It is in the region that is the most growing, dynamic region of the world, in Asia, and it has enormous possibilities to leverage its strategic geography, its natural endowment and its talented and educated population. Dubai shows you what you can do by leveraging your strategic geography.

And yet here we are. So those young Iranians who got on those boats really affected me deeply. And this is what I mean when I talk about expectations. I think our expectations should be much higher, and while I understand the reaction that when Prime Minister Netanyahu makes silly and outrageous comments that Iranians are not wearing jeans, for lots of people on Twitter, myself included, to tweet pictures of Iranians with jeans, etc and beat back such silly comments, I understand it. But I would have liked to see the Twitter-sphere get as angry about the young Iranians getting on dangerous boats in Indonesia, hoping for a better economic life in Australia. In one of the more poignant pictures of that story, a young woman sat on the floor of a detention centre after being told that she would be kept there indefinitely, and simply put hear head in her hands and cried. She was wearing jeans.

What you say about the emigrants trying to get to Australia resonates with me, because a few months ago I received an email from an Australian social worker who had read my first book and whose job it was to work with these young Iranians who came over on those boats, who got stuck in that detention center system,  and ended up developing mental health and addiction problems. She wrote to me because she felt overwhelmed by their grief, their struggles, and their obvious longing for a homeland they hadn't truly wanted to leave, she didn't know who else to share those feelings with. It was probably one of the most moving, painful emails I've ever received. Except at the end she told me she was going to visit Iran, to see for herself the place all these young people were so broken up over having left.

So all that's a little heavy, I realize, maybe we should talk a bit about the future.

I know many of us are slightly hung up on where we were in the medium-term past, versus where we are now. But perhaps we need to look ahead more imaginatively?

Right on, Azadeh jan. There's a project that I would like to work on, I’m looking into how I might get a project like this off the ground. I roughly call it ‘Iran 2030.’ Instead of always saying, “chee boodeem, chee shodeem.” What I would love to do is gather leading thinkers on various sectors of Iran’s economy and I would like to ask each to imagine what your sector would look like in the year 2030 if Iran was reintegrated into the international system and managed well. If Iran were a more democratic place, if Iran were managed better – and if there were no sanctions. And so you would ask an expert on petrochemicals, where would be Iran in the petrochemical sector in 2030? You look at the oil industry, where would Iran be as an oil exporter? Where would Iran be in technology?

What links Iranians in the diaspora is that we all have a certain amount of pain over where we see Iran in the world today as opposed to where we would like to see it going. And we share this pain, we gather and we lament, and I think my article was very much a lament. And maybe my next article will be what is possible in Iran in Iran 2030, a project of sorts, if Iran had access to X,Y,Z. Just imagine asking Omid Kordestani, someone like that, to imagine Iran’s technology future in 2030, imagine asking one of the many from Sharif University stars to imagine that. Or imagine asking a leading Iranian economist to imagine Iran’s growth projections by the year 2030. And I think that this will be a very hopeful exercise but also a very revealing one. Because it would raise the expectations bar, and I’m hoping that many will have those kind of expectations in Iran. Maybe my expectations are unrealistic but those are the sort of expectations I have – and I think raising those expectations would be a very useful exercise.

I think that’s a brilliant idea and that the practice of imagining, simply on its own terms, would be very powerful. Just as the idea for your article had been trickling in your mind for all these years, thoughts like that probably trickle in the minds of all of these people, but to come together and project forward like that would be tremendous. You're absolutely right that we are trapped in a cycle of analyzing and responding to Iran in a reactive way. We are then trapped by these expectations that are really imposed by circumstance rather from the realm of the possible. The problem of expectations is something I've also thought about for years, but your thinking has really crystalized it for me. 

Anecdotally I remember having a conversation in London with an Iranian who was living there, part of the diaspora, and she kept talking about the Western media's depiction of Iran. “It's so wrong how they present Iran, Iran is not like Syria (under Assad), Iran is no Saudi Arabia.”  Again, maybe my expectations are too high, but I don’t think those are places with which Iran should be comparing itself.

When you think about Iran’s dominant narrative, it’s about politics. And as a result, all of us in the diaspora have become reluctant interpreters of the Islamic Republic of Iran's maladies. I do this for a living, partly, I talk about these kind of things, but even ordinary Iranians who are engineers or doctors or some other profession, they tell me: “my American friends, they ask me about Ahmadinejad, my European friends asks me about the Revolutionary Guards.” So the conversation with friends is around political issues. They don’t come to me to ask about some of the cultural things related to Iran. If you are Italian your frame of reference to your country is its culture. So when you engage with Europeans or Americans and someone talks about Italy, the first question they ask you is not usually about Silvio Berlusconi or Italian politics, its about art or food or culture. Iranians in the diaspora have been trapped by conversations about politics and politics alone.

But Iranians in the diaspora have been put in the very unfair position of reacting to the maladies of the Islamic Republic and then they are put in the position of interpreting those maladies. There is nothing wrong with saying, look, a lot of the things that the Iranian government is doing are wrong, it hasn't served the Iranian people, but let me tell you about the Iranian people. And this is what they are about, and this is what they believe and this is why you should get to know them better because they are extraordinary, etc. But you are absolutely right this is a reactive position that we are constantly have been put in and it is unfair, and it’s the condition of being a modern, contemporary Iranian.

I’ve even toyed with a domestic “basket of what it means to be a contemporary Iranians.” When economists talk about Gross Domestic Product they talk about measurable baskets of goods and services, as Iranian in the diaspora, Iranian in America, Iranians in Europe, or Iranians in Iran, we all have collective baskets of cultural goods and services, so to speak. And it's what's in those baskets that makes us Iranian.

It's Norouz and it's Iranian films, it's dancing at Iranian parties and Isfahan. It’s Ghormeh sabzi and Hafez. It’s Googoosh and Kiosk. It’s Abbas Kiarostami and Behrouz Voosooghi. It’s “ghabl-az-enghelab” and “bad-az-enghelab.” It’s the Iran-Iraq War and the Iran-US World Cup match. And so much more. But I think that conversation is understandably difficult to have with a broader global western media audience.

How do you tell a joke to a western journalist in Iran that entails everything you need to know about Iran in that one joke? How do you tell the story of Dayee Jan Napelone [My Uncle Napoleon] It's about as good a rendering of the Iranian middle class life as you're going to get anywhere. And its still relevant. How do you describe that? Even if they do watch it, or read it in English translation, all the nuances are lost in translation. We need to have this conversation among ourselves totally, and to some extent we are blessed with having people like you frankly. To have a new generation of Iranian journalists and artists and thinkers who are telling these stories. We are indebted to all of you and the memoirists and the novelists and academics telling these stories.

Back to the filmmakers again, I am a huge fan of Iranian filmmakers and the work they are doing. But if you notice the films that make it to the international film festivals circuit tend to be the films that are bit more dark, more artsy. The comedies don’t make it to the international film festivals circuit. So in a sense, back to the neo-Orientalism I mentioned earlier, there is almost a new Orientalism among the liberal film festival crowd with who and what they want to see in Iranian films; they want to see darkness, they want to see melancholy, they want to see people overcoming difficult life circumstances. They want to see children in villages. They don’t want necessarily to see urban comedy of the sort that does very well in Iran. And in a sense that too puts us in a box. It puts Iranians in a box, the box of 'that's how Iranians are, they make melancholic films.'

They also make very good comedies, but those do not make it to the international film festival circuit, so for all these reasons, as a contemporary Iranian, you find yourself proud of the filmmakers who win awards but you also wishing that some of these other films, the urban comedies would make some noise. You wish that ‘Marmoulak’ would be seen on a broader level amongst the Western film-going public. Even the film like ‘Maxx,’ you wish it would be seen.

And then the last thing that I think is worth noting is, we talked about it a bit on Twitter, I don’t think the Western media and the Western world for that matter has a good enough understanding of the Iran-Iraq war. How difficult and devastating that was to Iranians, to Iraqis, and to the psyche of some of the Islamic Republic's political elite. This is why when some people say that sanctions have squeezed Iranians, my response is, absolutely they're hurting the economy, absolutely they're hurting the political elite in Iran as well as the middle class; but they’ve all been through worse times before. And that’s during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. For many Iranians that too is part of this kind of basket of goods and services that I described and I’m sure you can add many things to that basket, all these make us contemporary Iranians in the world. It’s that basket that we carry with us.

But the only part of the basket that seems to get attention is the political part. And that’s why we are constantly reacting. And I understand the impulse to react but I would like to add a new piece to that basket: let's raise our expectations a little bit. Let’s demand that Iran becomes a trillion dollar economy. When you see the G20, just say, why isn’t Iran part of the G20? Some choose to always blame the West or the United States for the current state in Iran. But you know who doesn’t always blame the United States and Israel? It’s Iranians in Iran. That’s worthy of a whole other conversation, the difference between how Iranians in Iran see the world as opposed to Iranians in the diaspora.

I love the point you make about film, I used to say similar things and eventually stopped, because I felt like I was the sour Iranian in the room and being critical about the only scene in which Iran was shining. But when directors inside Iran, I recall having that precise conversation with Saman Moghaddam, the director of Maxx, which you mention, and he very openly talked about some art film directors no longer even consciously working for an Iranian audience. Their audience had become the festival circuit, and how frustrating for young directors actually engaging with their society getting snubbed by the film world for not being mopey and bucolic enough.

I see this mirrored in the arts as well. There's such an appetite in the contemporary art world for painting and photography that filters the Iranian experience through these preoccupations with hejab, with darkness and political violence. Those elements are of course a very real part of Iranian life, but Iranian life cannot be reduced to them, and I think it takes very serious moral, historical, and even aesthetic intelligence not to slide into an extreme: the melancholy, art-house film understanding of Iran, which as you rightly say is neo-Orientalist and imposes a sort of exceptionalism on Iranians, and the other extreme, which holds up a false image of a liberated, carefree Iran, where everyone's partying in blue jeans and doing just great. At the level of art, this is also very unhealthy for young Iranians who find themselves working to appeal to a Western market that wants to see certain things reflected in your work, you, as the artist, are putting yourself in that box as well.

Very well put. And I didn’t  speak more about the art world and I didn’t take it to the second level, the pressure on the artist to produce that kind of work, because this is the kind of work that sells. And the kind of work that gets you into Biennales. It’s an important conversation because we have these boxes that we put Iran and Iranians in. And it’s partly our role to show that those boxes have more nuance. So it is our role, those of us who have “a pen,” as they say in Iran, to show that there is more to Iran than politics.

But then again it’s very much driven by politics. I'll give you an example, I was in a slightly bad mood one day and I got a call from a producer who said he wanted to come on his TV show and talk about Iran. And I said, 'Iran is a big country and there is along history, who do you want me to talk about?  She said ‘you know the nuclear situation, Ahmadinejad and this kind of stuff.'  And again I understand I’m not going to get a call from a producer to talk about the poetry of Ferdowsi and I’m not qualified to do so, but there must be some sensitivity in understanding that Iran cannot just be defined in that fashion.

I feel for the people whose lives do not revolve around studying economy and politics around the world, all those engineers, teachers, doctors and lawyers who get questioned by their colleagues. Who get critical looks when Ahmadinejad makes one of his speeches. And then the narrative shifts when Hassan Rouhani comes into power and to some extent Iranians in the diaspora don’t have to explain themselves as much anymore. So, the water cooler is a little more pleasant.

But on the other hand there are still Iranians sitting in political prisons, there is still a lot of economic pain and economic migrants flying to Indonesia or getting on boats to Australia. I guess what we're trying to do is break out of the dominant narrative to some extent. One of the reasons I look forward to the day when Iran has normalized relations with the world is because I think that then Iranians won't have to react to dominant narratives all of the time and they can begin fashioning their own narratives.

Again, think of Turkey. Is there a dominant narrative about Turkey in the US? Not really. The view is that it’s sort of an exotic place. Istanbul is a cool city. Lots of cool museums and history. That’s it. Turkey can fashion its own narrative.

There is something inside me that's triggered when I hear someone singing a mourning song for Imam Hossein, or when I go to a cemetery in Iran, particularly the martyrs cemeteries for the war dead, something that's triggered within me when I go to a Persian restaurant in a city where I don't expect to see a Persian restaurant. We've had a unique experience over the last 35 years as contemporary Iranians or Iranian-Americans or, as I prefer, American-Iranians, or Iranian-Europeans, the experience has been painful, an experience that has been damaging to many families, an experience that certainly has had no lack of interesting moments, but it has also been inspiring and important to feel part of a collective. But I think an experience that has scarred many of us. Both with open wounds and invisible wounds. I do see people doing just fine who don’t have wounds, thank you very much, but I think if you scratch a little bit deeper, you get someone on their third drink, and the wounds come out.

Look at our conversation! You asked me to talk about one article I wrote, and here we are, two hours later, and I have unburdened all of these disparate thoughts and experiences and opened my own wounds. As they say in Persian: “Khodamo khalee kardam.” It has felt somewhat therapeutic, to be honest, though I have not been lying on a couch. 

Scratch deeper and every contemporary Iranian has hours of thoughts on these subjects and maybe IranWire can become a sort of hub for these thoughts and hopes and desires.

I am certainly not alone. There is still much left to say – and much left to do.  Don’t even get me started on Persian restaurants in the diaspora...Or Shahs of Sunset... I have some views on that too, but that’s a whole other interview!

No, you are indeed not alone, I think as Iranians we all have both our individual and universal wounds, and we need more space and better platforms to talk about them, to express how we see the past, ourselves, and the future. These conversations may stray into dark areas, and of course we'll all vary in the precise shades we see before us. But I think coming together and having them is what matters, and I'm grateful to you for being so open and sharing your deeply thoughtful lament with all of us. You've made me cringe with Shahs of Sunset, but we'll save that for next time!

To Be a Contemporary Iranian in the World: Afshin Molavi in Conversation (Part 1)

Iran, the Nation Left Behind: A Conversation With Afshin Molavi

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