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Three Decades After Revolution, Iran Remains Mystery

Thirty years after the Islamic revolution in Iran, the country remains a complicated nation torn between its tradition and its future. NPR's Steve Inskeep discusses what he found on a reporting trip to the country.

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    For most Americans, what happens inside Iran remains a mystery. For Steve Inskeep of National Public Radio and the listeners of Morning Edition, some of that veil has been lifted. Steve recently spent two weeks reporting in and around Tehran and is here to tell about his travels and his conversations.

    Steve, welcome.

  • STEVE INSKEEP, National Public Radio:

    Glad to be here.


    So when you decided to go to Iran, a place many people only have visions about or ideas about, including many reporters, what did you expect to see?


    Well, the first thing I wanted to understand was how open Iran was going to be to a new relationship with the United States, but I didn't want to just approach that by asking various leaders. I wanted to understand what people on the street were thinking and saying about their daily lives. And I wanted to get the best sense that I could of what is described as a closed society.

    I found it, I think in some ways, a little more open, at least to me, at least at this moment, than I might have expected and got into a lot of fascinating conversations with people.


    Most Americans would expect when you say closed society, something repressive, something threatening.


    Oh, there is repression, there are threats. Newspapers are closed if they print the wrong things in Iran. Iranian journalists or Iranian-American journalists, for that matter, I think are pressured in a lot of different ways, expected to give information to intelligence services. Americans can be thrown out of the country. We've both had colleagues who've had that experience.

    At the same time, there are times when free and open debate is allowed. And there are times when a journalist can go around the country and explore things and ask a lot of questions. And we were lucky that on this occasion we were able to do that.