Freedom and fanaticism in Iran

From Salon:

Book A 600-page history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, from its birth in the revolution of 1979 to last year's popular uprising, might sound too weighty for anyone lacking a special interest in that country. It would be a pity, though, if the heft of Scott Peterson's “Let the Swords Encircle Me: Iran — A Journey Behind the Headlines” led general readers to bypass it. Peterson, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, has fashioned recent history into an enthralling saga, infused with suspense and tragedy, and featuring a cast of recurring characters whose unfolding fates offer more than a few surprises.

Peterson most assuredly knows his subject, having visited Iran more than 30 times since 1996, just before Mohammad Khatami's short-lived reformist government won power in an electoral landslide. He's talked to leaders (though the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reneged on a promised sit-down), clerics, apostates and activists, but even more important, he seems to have interviewed every street vendor, shopkeeper, field-tripping teenager and farmer he's ever encountered. In one of the book's most piteous scenes, he tentatively approaches a young man weeping over a grave in a cemetery. A paint factory worker, the man mourned both his beloved brother and the revolution his brother died for, betrayed by the government that claims to be defending it.

More here.