Early this summer, while walking in the Alborz Mountains outside Tehran, I came across three members of Iran’s reformist Green Movement. It was a parching-hot afternoon, and they had taken shelter from the heat in a cherry orchard next to a stream, where fruit hung glistening from the branches. The Alborz Mountains have long provided refuge, clean air, and exercise for the residents of north Tehran. The northern districts are more prosperous than the rest of the city, and their residents are generally more educated and aware of foreign ideas and trends. North Tehran was not the only locus of the Green Movement, but support there was particularly intense last summer after the conservative hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory in the disputed Presidential elections. One of the most popular hiking trails begins just outside the walls of Evin Prison, where in recent decades thousands of dissidents have been tortured, killed, and buried in secrecy. A few hundred feet away, just across a wooden bridge over a narrow river canyon, the last paved streets of the city end. Along the river’s banks are open-air teahouses, where nostalgic music is played and people drink fresh cherry juice and smoke narghile waterpipes. Such places offer a respite from the restrictions of life in the Islamic Republic, away from the roving units of religious police and the paramilitary Basij, the plainclothes zealots who attacked Green Movement supporters in last year’s protests.
more from Jon Lee Anderson at The New Yorker here.