Foreign Policy Digital

Transformation in Iran Will Come From Women

On the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, a former political prisoner assesses the prospect of change in Iran.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, when the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a Western-backed autocrat, was swept away and replaced with the theocratic regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The revolution fundamentally changed the lives of most Iranians and the politics of the Middle East.

Foreign Policy spoke with Haleh Esfandiari, the former and founding director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Esfandiari, an Iranian-American, was arrested in Iran in 2007 while visiting her mother and was held in the notorious Evin prison for more than three months on suspicion of espionage.

Foreign Policy: Are there any particular moments that stand out for you from those days in February 1979?

Haleh Esfandiari: What I remember vividly was how surprised and astonished and, in a way, shellshocked I was when I saw the whole country falling apart when the

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