In this program, 'Then They Came for Me,' journalist Maziar Bahari discusses Iran's recent history, and his imprisonment there in 2009, with Jon Meacham."
Maziar Bahari is an award-winning Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker, playwright, editor, journalist and writer who was detained in Iran on June 21, 2009, and held in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison following Iran's disputed presidential elections. Iranian state press claimed that Bahari had "confessed" to unwittingly playing a role in a Western media effort to instigate unrest after the presidential elections. He was released on October 17, 2009, and is currently an international correspondent for Newsweek magazine.
Bahari's accomplishments were honored as a finalist for the prestigious 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord. His nomination was supported, among others, by Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Jon Meacham is Contributing Editor to Time magazine and author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.
Country, Middle East, southwestern Asia. Area: 636,374 sq mi (1,648,200 sq km). Population (2009 est.): 74,196,000. Capital: Tehran. Persians constitute the largest ethnic group; other ethnic groups include Azerbaijanians, Kurds, Lurs, Bakhtyari, and Baloch. Languages: Persian (Farsi; official), numerous others. Religions: Islam (official; predominantly Shi'ite); also Zoroastrianism. Currency: rial. Iran occupies a high plateau, rising higher than 1,500 feet (460 metres) above sea level, and is surrounded largely by mountains. More than half of its surface area consists of salt deserts and other wasteland. About one-tenth of its land is arable, and another one-fourth is suitable for grazing. Iran's rich petroleum reserves account for about one-tenth of world reserves and are the basis of its economy. It is a unitary Islamic republic with one legislative house and several oversight bodies dominated by clergy. The head of state and government is the president, but supreme authority rests with the rahbar (leader), a ranking cleric. Human habitation in Iran dates to some 100,000 years ago, but recorded history began with the Elamites c. 3000 BCE. The Medes flourished from c. 728 but were overthrown in 550 by the Persians, who were in turn conquered by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE. The Parthians (seeParthia) created an empire that lasted from 247 BCE to 226 CE, when control passed to the Sasanian dynasty. Various Muslim dynasties ruled from the 7th century. In 1501 the Safavid dynasty was established and lasted until 1736. The Qajar dynasty ruled from 1796, but in the 19th century the country was economically controlled by the Russian and British empires. Reza Khan (seeReza Shah Pahlavi) seized power in a coup (1921). His son Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi alienated religious leaders with a program of modernization and Westernization and was overthrown in 1979; Shi'ite cleric Ruhollah Khomeini then set up an Islamic republic, and Western influence was suppressed. The destructive Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s ended in a stalemate. Since the 1990s the government has gradually moved to a more liberal conduct of state affairs.