Extraordinary scenes have unfolded in Iran over the past week as demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest the results of the June 12th election. On this week’s history podcast I turn to Shaul Bakhash, professor of Middle East history at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and the author of The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution. Bakhash was educated both in the U.S. and Iran. During the Islamic Revolution he was a reporter in Tehran. He talks about the history of protest movements in Iran and the different kinds of governments it has experienced in the past century or so.
Thanks to all of you who sent in questions for this week’s podcast. I need to keep thinking about how best to do shows with listener input–this one was good in one sense–many of the questions were of a similar theme, what sort of government existed before the 1953 coup, do Iranians see the Supreme Leader as representative of the will of the people and how has that changed in recent times, what’s the post-Revolution structure and the balance of power between elected and unelected officials. But then there were questions that were just too large to tackle in one episode or too contemporary to answer without some serious on-the-ground reporting. I’ll try to narrow the request a bit more next time. Anyway, enjoy the interview with Shaul Bakhash; he has a wise and measured tone and a lifetime of experience and scholarship to bring to bear on events in Iran. I’m glad for once to have the opportunity to let him speak in full instead of soundbites.
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For more Iran history check out the radio series I did in 2004 on the troubled history of U.S. – Iranian relations.
Posted in History, How Wars End, Iran
Tagged #iranelection, Ahmedinejad, BBC, history podcast, How We Got Here, Iran, Iran elections, Islamic Revolution, Jeb Sharp, Khamanei, Mousavi, Moussavi, PRI, protest movements, Shaul Bakhash, WGBH
Africa’s longest-serving leader, Gabon’s Omar Bongo, died in a Spanish hospital earlier this week. I was immediately intrigued and thought it would be a good topic for this week’s history podcast. What does it take to rule a country like Gabon for more than four decades? Bongo is described as charismatic but also ruthless. He’s praised for Gabon’s stability even as he’s accused of vast corruption. Big questions remain about how the Gabonese president was able to amass his wealth and in fact French authorities had begun an investigation of his assets there. He’s also been accused of funding the campaigns of various French political figures including former French president Jacques Chirac. To find out more I turned to the political scientist James F. Barnes. He’s the author of Gabon: Beyond the Colonial Legacy and co-editor of Culture, Politics and Ecology in the Gabonese Rainforest. Jim is a a professor at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. He says Gabon’s people respected Bongo but that his legacy is a country with a weak civil society and a big divide between rich and poor. What strikes Barnes most is what a skilled politician Bongo was, how well he navigated a variety of friendships and alliances with powerful people, especially in France. Barnes says the influence of the French in Gabon is extraordinary.
It’s the thing that stands out in the minds of people who spend any time there–the extent to which Gabon and France are historically inseparable. The interactions that create the situation that we’re now dealing with, post-Bongo, those situations are due largely to a structure of power and influence involving many Gabonese but also involving key French historical personalities in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Gabonese in many occasions almost identify themselves as French.
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More nice award news–How Wars End has won the Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club of America. Here’s a link to all the winners:
Podcast is ready–President Obama told the troops he wanted to talk about how the war in Iraq will end. Well, how will it end? And how have wars ended in the past? This week’s offering can be heard in all the usual ways:
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Please leave thoughts, comments, suggestions here on the blog or at the following email address: howwegothere at gmail.com or join the How We Got Here Facebook Group. Thanks for listening!
It’s 90 years since the end of the fighting on the Western Front. There’s great stuff from Clark Boyd and Carol Hills about WWI veterans and their letters home on PRI’s The World today. There’s tons of stuff on the BBC website too. I did a segment about the end of WWI for my recent series on how wars end and it got me fascinated at the way historical memory is formed. Historian Dan Todman, who’s written a book called The Great War: Myth and Memory, has an interesting piece at OpenDemocracy on how World War One is remembered. He notes the divergence between what he calls “the public and academic discourses about the 1914-18 war.” It’s fascinating reading.
Thomas Friedman declares the Civil War over in his column today. It’s worth a read. I grappled with some of the same history in a recent radio piece about the Civil War and its aftermath for a series of stories about how wars end. It’s rare that the issues a war is fought over are resolved with its (military) end.
All 5 parts of How Wars End are now online. I’ll try to blog some reflections and extras (ie good stuff that didn’t make it into the radio stories) when I get a chance. Let me know what you think.
Here’s the link to the audio for Part 1 of How Wars End.
In May I wrote about my trip to Banja Luka to see the restoration of the 16th century Ferhadija mosque. My story about the project airs on PRI’s The World today. Here’s the link to the audio, slideshow and script. Huge thanks to Andras Riedlmayer for planting the idea and helping with contacts. You can see his own account here. Let me know what you think.