Hooman Majd, born 1957 in Tehran, is an Iranian-American journalist, author, and commentator who writes on Iranian affairs. He is based in New York City and regularly travels to Iran.
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My new book, The Ministry Of Guidance Invites You To Not Stay, follows my year traveling back to my birth country of Iran. I brought my American family and we spent our time living under an Islamic and authoritarian system, while I searched for the meaning of ‘home’.
Thanks for all of the questions. You can find out more about THE MINISTRY OF GUIDANCE INVITES YOU TO NOT STAY here: http://smarturl.it/RedditMinistry
I see. My mother and father were both born in Iran and now live here. I was born here as well and have gone back to visit with my brother and mother several times. But my father has not gone back to the country that he loves for over 30 years and refuses to do so because he despises their government so much. What would you say to him? (Negative or positive, anything you think)
I understand your father's position. I would just say to him that he might want to put his hate aside for a moment and visit anyway. There are still things about Iran that will bring him joy, even though he will doubtless still despise the government. And it would be a shame to not experience that joy.
I'm sorry I haven't read your book, but what do you mean by "The Iranian Ministry of Guidance invited you to not stay"? What did you do?
Well, the ministry is in charge of issuing press permits and permits to write--which they have refused me since 2009. And they didn't seem keen on my staying in Iran (and if they refuse you permission to work, that in itself is a signal).
I've read a lot about atheism running rampant among young Iranians, is this true? What do you think the consequences will be for the current form of government if the majority of Iranians become secular? Would you prefer an Egyptian style coup (i.e. Western friendly military dictatorship) to the current status quo in Iran?
I think atheism has always existed, and perhaps, like in the rest of the world, it is on the upswing in Iran, too. But secular Iranians have learned to live with the Islamic system, even though they would prefer secularism--and if religion isn't enforced as much, I think the republic can survive even as secularism becomes more common. I would never prefer a coup to anything. I prefer that the Iranian people choose their system, and if one day they have the numbers to revolt against the Islamic system, then they deserve our support.
>I'm Hooman Majd
I was really expecting something like this http://i.imgur.com/YSRPcJs.jpg
Thank you. But that cat isn't Persian.
Do you really think the Iranian regime is a rational actor? How do you think they will handle an Israeli strike?
Yes it is rational. Impossible to say about a hypothetical Israeli strike, but response won't be irrational.
Do you consider the Iranian regime legitimate i.e. the will of the Iranian people? What are your thoughts on the MEK and Maryam Rajavi specifically.
I consider the Iranian regime legitimate inasmuch as any other Middle Eastern government is. The will of the people is hard to judge, since there are so many different opinions on what the country's political system should be. But there does seem to be a consensus on reform rather than revolution, and Rouhani's election spoke to that. On the MEK, they have virtually no support inside Iran, and therefore I consider them not to be legitimate opposition. Ms. Rajavi, as a self-appointed president, is hardly a democrat.
The news is always filled with reports about ongoing tension with Iran. It makes it easy for the average American to be filled with fear and worry about the whole country, don't you think? How do we bring about peace as individuals who feel rather powerless to do anything to change this situation ourselves?
You're right and it's natural to fear the country we're told to fear. I guess the only thing individuals can do (at least in America) is to be relentless in telling our elected officials that we want peace, not conflict. As an example, we should be telling Congress that we support the diplomatic efforts of the Obama administration on the nuclear issue...so far Congress doesn't seem to be listening.
Also, I loved the stories with your son in Iran (the car seat thing killed me). What do you think he'll think when he is older and reads about the experience?
He'll think his dad was crazy to take him to Iran, I suppose. And he may be right.
Do you plan on bringing your family back to Iran? Perhaps when your son is a bit older?
No definitive plans, but I'd love to someday. I'm sure my son will appreciate it.
In hindsight, does it seem like the political ascension of Ahmadinejad was largely a reaction to the foreign policy of George W. Bush? And separately, do you envision Karrroubi and Mousavi being released from house arrest anytime soon?
I would say the election of A-jad was certainly influenced by how the Bush administration dealt with Iran, and particularly the reformists who became easily discredited. But his common touch (at least in 2005) helped, too, and the fact that he wasn't a cleric or from the old guard.
My own sense is that the Rouhani administration would like to see Karroubi and Mousavi released, but that they won't fight that battle with the hardliners until they've won the nuclear battle, and stabilized the economy. So yes, but not in the immediate future, unfortunately.
Was it at all difficult to convince your wife to move to Iran? Was she ever fearful? What was the hardest thing for her to adjust to? What were her reservations?
Not difficult at all--she was quite keen. A little hesitant once we were on a plane, but not really fearful, since she had known me to go often enough for my journalism work. Her reservations were that she didn't know any one there, and the most difficult to adjust to was the he jab, in the summer heat, that is.
Your family was invited to a bunch of lavish parties, which you describe in you book, but aside from get-togethers in private homes, what is is there to do for entertainment in Tehran?
Not very much, publicly. There are museums, art galleries, movie theaters, etc., and of course a lively restaurant and cafe scene. But as one has to follow morality codes in public, most people entertain at home.
If you could go back in time and relive your year in Iran, is there anything you would do differently? Would you still choose to go?
Good question: yes, I'd go. I'd probably travel more, and probably arrange to have a car for the year. With a child seat installed.
Your book is so honest, were you afraid to write about your experience in Iran in such an open way?
Not really. I think if one is not going to be honest, then one shouldn't write. If there are consequences--and there always are for me, it seems--then I just deal with them. But any kind of censorship, including self-censorship, is anathema to me.
Who do you write for? or better Q is, who do you prefer as your audience? and if you had to give your book to 3 people.. who will they be?
I write more for a Western audience than an Iranian one, but it's not a question of my preference. The subject matter of my first and newest book is probably more directed at a Western audience, since Iranians have their own understanding of their country and culture. 3 people? Obama, the Supreme Leader, and Hillary Clinton (if she's our next president).