October 23rd, 2011
08:00 AM ET

Tehran's unlikely bestseller

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Guess which author has a top-selling book around here; everyone seems to want a copy. The Supreme Leader has a new book out with the catchy title, 'Movement of Science Production', but I gather sales for that are only lukewarm.  The top-selling author isn't President Ahmadinejad, who I recently interviewed. In fact, it's not any Iranian at all. Instead, it's a Colombian - Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez. He hasn't published a book in years. But back in 1996 he wrote News of a Kidnapping.

You won't find it on bookstore shelves here in Iran - they're all sold out. Rumors have floated for weeks that the book has been banned. But any ban that might have been in place was lifted earlier this week. We had a hard time finding a copy for ourselves. What in the world is going on?

Mir Hossein Moussavi is an opposition leader here; he ran against President Ahmadinejad in 2009 and led the Green Movement protests after the election. But he's been under house arrest since February. In a recent meeting with his daughters, he compared his detention to Márquez's account of abductions by a drug cartel in Colombia. Moussavi's word spread. And just like that, News of a Kidnapping went viral.

Read: Zakaria's reflections on his time in Tehran.

But what does this say about Iran and the aspirations of the Iranian people? Their plight is best evidenced by a U.N. report out this week on human rights in Iran. It shows how Tehran has mastered the art of suppressing dissent. Hundreds of activists, journalists and students have been imprisoned for taking part in street demonstrations since the 2009 Green Movement. More than 200 executions have been officially announced this year. Barring China, no other country metes out the death penalty more often.

So why aren't we seeing any pushback? After all, it's the year of the Arab Spring. Where are Iran's famous protesters?

One answer could be that the Iranian regime has really learned its lesson from 2009 - now it crushes the first signs of dissent. It's also learned from watching the Arab Spring - it won't let hundreds of people gather in public places.

Watch: Zakaria's interview with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But the likes of Libya and Syria tried that too. What's different here is that Iranians are not Arabs. Many don't like the phrase "Arab Revolutions." You see, the word "revolution" here in Tehran brings back memories of 1979, the year the Shah was overthrown. It was the time when Iranians felt like they could re-create their country. It was an Iranian Spring. It was their revolution.

32 years on, what happened? They're a great civilization with a political system that seems to have failed its people. They arouse suspicion in the region and around the world. They're subject to the most stringent international sanctions. Internally, clearly there is suppression and discontent.

And even if Iranians were to revolt once more - what is it they want instead? They are wary of another revolution. What is the alternative? And will it be any better? It's a question that's much more complicated here than it is in the rest of the region.  There's isn't a simple answer.

Watch: Zakaria explains why Iran wins with U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

The one lesson I have learned from watching countries like Iran that are distant, complex and often closed to outsiders is to be careful in drawing grand conclusions about the regime, its stability and its prospects. Clearly some Iranians support this regime for reasons of religious loyalty and belief and because they get tangible material rewards from it. Others fear it. And still others are waiting for the opportunity to reform or even replace it. The people who can read Márquez obviously do not make for a majority - but they are surely a sign of a county where people are gasping for freedom.

For more of my thoughts throughout the week, I invite you to follow me on Facebook and Twitter and to visit the Global Public Square every day. Also, for more What in the World? pieces, click here.

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Topics: GPS Show • Iran • What in the World?

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soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. khaleel tabasi

    sir,the minorities in iran i.e SUFIS -DARAVISH they are regularly tortured, killed & there holly places are getting demolished by this REGIME as they call themselfs islamic repuplic.This is one of the imp Issue which the DARAVISH are facing during ahmedinejad Regime,As the founder of the Revolution of IRAN Aitullah khomeni itself was the deciple & respct the daravish, so pls i request on behaf of this sect i.e DARAVISH NEMATULLAHI,to let the World come to know the people of iran facing the GOVT whith No LAW & ORDER

    October 23, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • JAWAN

      oh.... one need not to lie every time.... maybe you are not even iranian.... just post against a country so to get it in trouble in this unjustified western world..... none muslim minority sect is humiliated in any muslim country based on its sects but yeah if you have territory problems.... then you have problem everywhere.... so just stop saying lies.... ah American Media.....when will you listen to your conscience and become freed.... look into your inner soul.... have mercy on this world..... atleast

      October 23, 2011 at 11:23 am |
      • MzCaliAttorney

        It's systematic brain washing and reprogramming, how else can you get a country to "help" bring "peace" by authorizing NATO to drop bombs and destroy a country along with its people...the US is so backwards I'm literally shellshocked...

        October 23, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
      • Mohammad

        To Jawan:

        Instead of propogating conspiracy theories, do a little studying or even take a trip to Iran. The government of Iran persecutes all religions, except the Shia. Tehran a city of 10,000,000 does not have a Sunni mosque (though the number of Sunnis working in the foreign embassy's is alone in the thousands). Instead of speculating who is Iranian and who is not talk to an Iranian Arab, Iranian Dervish, Iranian Jew, Iranian Christian, Iranian Bahai, or Iranian Zoarastrian and find out what is really going on, not the propaganda the IRIB is feeding you.

        October 24, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
      • Billbo

        Why does someone like you, who thinks he is showing some signs of intelligence has the grammar of a slow 2nd grader writing with .... after each thought? Can't you articulate your thoughts in words with proper English? I discarded every line you wrote looking at what a moron you are for your grammar.

        October 24, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
      • Paul


        My Dear Jawan,
        You have been fed so much bs you think it is food. My students from Iran tell me of Sufi Muslims being treated wrongly in the courts, colleges, and especially in the military. Do what others have suggested and research before you comment.

        October 25, 2011 at 12:47 am |
    • AlexPone


      October 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        You're right, revolutions do always have a very nasty aftertaste!

        October 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • JPS

      No law and no order?? You just defined RELIGION in a nutshell!!!

      October 24, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  2. When do we realiy want to put a stop for all these nonesence coming from mamut ahmady nejad?

    When do we realiy want to put a stop for all these nonesence coming from mamut ahmady nejad?

    October 23, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  3. Jeremy

    Texas alone has over 300 people currently on Death Row. Let's clean up our own house first before we start pointing fingers about how "no other country metes out the death penalty more often". Remember, I'm not espousing the abolition of the Death Penalty inasmuch as the abolition of hypocrisy. And yes, I am a republican.

    October 23, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Silvia

      True, but those people on Death Row in Texas are there because they killed someone else, not because of their political point of view. That's the difference.

      October 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
      • patcee

        It is possible that all the prisoners on death row are not guilty of the crime with which they are condemned. We have witnessed many prisoners released now that DNA evidence has proved they are not guilty and I am sure many have been executed unfairly because they didn't have these tests available. In most cases, capital punishment is unfair and barbaric. Shame on Texas for bragging about the number of people it has killed and shame on those who cheered when Perry announced the number during a debate.

        October 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
      • Andrea

        Unfortunately some of those convicted in Texas have been innocent. Please read the stories of those whose cases have been pushed through... and innocent people have been put to death.

        October 23, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
      • Silvia

        Patcee and Andrea: everybody is aware of that. Obviously you guys went too deep in this subject. The point was: reasons for people being on Death Row and not if they are really guilty or not.

        October 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        You're right, Silvia, there's no difference! Just like in the days of the Stalinist Sovjet Russia!

        October 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
      • pouya


        300 people are on death row, and they are all political prisoners. If we believe that then that means there are no murders in Iran and no one ever did anything in Iran to be considered for the death row, because all 300 are political prisoners according to you and Fareed.

        October 23, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
      • Shahin


        October 24, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
      • blursd

        I'd say you'd have a point if even one of the 300 people on death row were there specifically, and for no other reason, than being a political dissident.

        No criminal system is perfect, but there is a rather salient difference between the US legal system, and the Iranian legal system.

        Iran currently has a man facing the death penalty for ... of all things ... converting from Islam to Christianity. In your wildest dreams could you honestly assert than anything that absurd ... such an obvious perversion of justice ... could possibly happen anywhere in the United States? This IS how the Iranian system works ...

        Trying to form any type of comparison between what is happening in Iran and what is happening in the United States is completely illogical and inherently flawed. The fact you can't even seem to recognize this fact doesn't speak very highly of your intelligence nor your critical reasoning skills ....

        October 24, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Al

      "More than 200 executions have been officially announced this year" in Iran. Your examples pales in comparison.

      October 23, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
      • trex

        are you talking about Texass?

        October 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
    • Chris, Austin

      Also, important to consider, a number of people have been exonerated and released from death rows in the US, even in Texas (@10 in last decade or so). The US is far from perfect, but we have an independent judiciary, which is subject to review and appeal, and an independent media, which shines light on these cases.

      Where is Iran's Innocence Project? How many people who were wrongly accused of a crime have been released from Iran's death row and allowed to go home to their families? Again, the US generally, and our justice system in particular, can be easily criticized (and I'm sure Iran's PR apologists will do so) but at least we have a process to attempt to right wrongs. Iran's process is that the government is never wrong, and if they don't like you, you're dead. Furthermore, they disappear around three times as many people as they even bother to convict and condemn.

      If anyone tried something like the Innocence Project in Iran, they would be taken out (along with their families) and summarily shot. Barbarians.

      October 23, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
      • Billy Davis

        How many times has Texas kidnapped and literally held hikers for ransom via their judiciary?

        October 24, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
      • Stan Levenson

        Your statement is very accurate, I am very disappointed in CNN. Why would they give this moron from Iran to spout all that anger and BS. He is walking a very fine line in Iran. I honestly believe it is a matter of time, The high supreme will get rid of him. Iran has great delusions of getting their hands on Iraq after the US pulls out of Iraq. Reading other websites in the world. there is allot of concern on Iran's plans to take over in Iraq

        October 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
  4. Capitan Justicia

    Iranians have good taste in literature. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the great living author and his masterpiece 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' is probably the greatest novel written in the 20th century.

    October 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  5. Shahrouz

    I rather have the U.S. take over my country then have these arab loving mullahs ruling it.

    October 23, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • M Cechettini

      The Iranians are not of Arab ancestry. In fact, their language, Farsi, has the same common root as all of the European languages (and Kurdish also). When the Mongols' invaded the Persian Empire and began ruling it, their language and customs reflected an eastern influence. Today, there is some intermingling of Arab words with the Farsi language due to the Koran, but even their religion was not originally Muslim. As far as Muslims are concerned – less than twenty five percent of them are of Arab derivative worldwide. Iran as a nation, as a culture, and as a people, share a far more complex history than is presented by western media generally. And their government certainly does not reflect the will or the sentiment of the majority of the younger generation or of the educated Persians living outside of the country. It's unfortunate that such a prejudice remains about Iran, when the people themselves do not feel or behave, negatively, towards the west.

      October 23, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
      • clearick

        Nobody has a problem with the Iranian people, only with their government, so they and the people of the world have something in common. It was a terrible mistake by the British and the US to overthrow their democratically-elected government that intended to nationalize the oil fields. Now the Iranians have good cause to mistrust the rest of the world and their own people. Nation building is expensive and difficult and it doesn't pay, so forget about the US fixing Iran like it did Iraq and Afghanistan! The Iranian government will fail on it's own, eventually it will reach a critical mass where too many people aren't benefiting from the regime and they'll have another revolution. They would be better off getting rid of Islam as a basis for government too, and trying to become a modern, secular country like Turkey was. If the Iranian leaders weren't dominated by Shia thinking, they could have a prosperous country enjoying friendly relations with everyone. There is no reason for there to be a conflict between Israel and Iran, other than Iran's Shia ambitions. Which is no basis for sound foreign policy!

        October 24, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
      • Billy Davis

        To Cleariq below:

        Obviously you are not old enough to remember the inception of the current regime in Iran? They started off by kidnapping our workers in their country and holding them until Reagan was elected. We can separate the people from the government but face it, we have photographic evidence that their current president was in fact one of the primary people in charge of the kidnapping. He has been ID'ed by those who were kidnapped. They hate us due to ideological differences and likely always will. We did nothing to provoke their distrust. We backed their former government and were friends. They attacked, took over, and victimized our people. They have been looking to victimize us ever since.

        October 24, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • pouya


      it's true its hard for racist monarchists like you. Arabs are Iranians living in Khuzestan. But you won't learn that reading Monarchist Persian glorification taught by the British in the 18th century to carve up Iran into pieces.

      October 23, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
      • Eradicate Islam

        Arabs are Arabs, no matter where they live. If they happen to live in Iran it's because they are remnants of the Arab invasion centuries ago, polluting a civilized and peaceful society.

        October 24, 2011 at 1:22 pm |
    • Badly-Bent

      I'd rather have mulla (in my pocket) than a mullah in my neighborhood!

      October 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
      • Timetraveler

        What you need is a brain in that thick skull of yours. Too bad you'll never have one.

        October 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • Shahin

      NO DOUBT

      October 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
    • Shahin


      October 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Robin

      The U. S. doesn't "take over" other countries.

      October 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Geeeeezzzzzzzz

      I feel sorry that you want your country being taken over by U.S...We've been there,done that and don't think we want to go backward...

      October 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  6. Mohammed S. Ghani, MD

    I saw the excellent interview of Iranian President by Fareed Zakaria today. I was a regular reader of his articles in Newsweek and always watch his GPS program. His questions to the President were all relevant and very interesting. We well know Ahmadinezad is a tough politician and avoids right answers and gets tangential. I have seen how famous interviewers in the past including Larry King, Amanpour, got frustrated, but Fareed had good control with the right questions. His overview of Tehran after the interview was very accurate. I worked in Iran as a Physician for 10 years from 1984 to 1994 and found the people of Iran very polite, helpful and appreciative. During my stay there I have seen improvement of infrastructure, education, extensive electrification of rural areas, reduction of infant mortality rate, eradication of malaria, excellent coverage of vaccination of children and very affordable health care in state run treatment centers. It was a very safe country with high moral values and most people had respect for other culture and eagerness to know about the western way of life. Thanks.

    October 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • pouya

      Well, do you think Fareed reflected the points you have made. No!! He was negative to the core. He showed nothing of the people except at the very end. He devoted one hour on Iran bashing. Did he tell us the infrastructure has improved. Did he tell us that women were educated by the current system and not from thin air. He even went so far as to tell us that "some" support the regime because they get money from the system or are religious. ie there is no legitimate reason to support that regime, either you are paid off or you are a religious nut. That was his message.
      There is a world of difference between what you wrote and what Fareed did. Yet, you called his piece fair. Go figure.

      October 23, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  7. LOYAL

    All books of Gabriel García Márquez. has been on top best sellers in Iran and not his latest book and has nothing to do with green movement or Musavi.

    October 23, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • pouya

      Fareed just did his job for the boss in the white house.

      October 23, 2011 at 7:44 pm |
  8. pouya

    Fareed did the typical. He went to Iran and went all negative. How many death penalties, how many juveniles are on death row, the 2009 election was compared to Arab Spring. A post election dispute was compared to civil wars.

    He compared Iran's economy to Turkey. Compared Iran to another nation that received most favored trading status with Europe. Yet Ahmadinejad pointed out to him that Turkey is in $300 billion debt and Iran has none. He did not dare to compare Iran to Saudi Arabia who produces 4 times the petrolium Iran does, but Iran has a larger economy than the Saudis. That would be giving Iran a small credit. No, he did the typical. All negative, all the time and repeated the same old nonsense. One hour of interview, we heard nothing new, he failed to show a different aspect of Iran, he failed to show Iran instead of focusing on a singular interview with Ahmadinejad who has been interviewed at nausium.

    October 23, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • Aryan

      If you really believe that everything Fareed said is none sense, you need to get off the crack pipe before you find yourself back in Iran and trying to do whatever it takes to get out, just like how you got out the first time.

      October 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Shahin



      October 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
  9. Richie Rich

    GPS is the best intellectually stimulating show on American broadcast network. The only show that present American audience whats happening in the world, A complete breakaway from American bubble. Other shows are pathetic display of disillusioned ignorant talking heads. Sadly over 50percent of Americans can not read or write and they are loyal to other networks that peddle the ignorance. Good job Fareed.

    October 23, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  10. shiblee

    Look at your inner soul . Muslim situation in WEST , gypsy in France and UK . More than 70% support the regime . Few person does not . But why you reflect minority opinion ? You have to respect Iran own value . Iran is now much better than USA close friend Shah . I hate American freedom concept which can destroy our family bonds only , can not give us anything more

    October 24, 2011 at 12:52 am |
  11. Adam

    Zakaria, like always prompt adept of Americanism cynical ignorance of other's way of life. You failed to mention anywhere the Shia Iran that has finally reach its way of life after 1979, that Iran which is a model in the eyes of Shia Muslums. Drop your tears and leave your dreams behind, your analysis of Iran is nothing but a biased American propaganda. Tell us Sir Zakaria, could you have said the truth knowing that the zionist mafia who pays your salary would throw you out? I don't think you'r even trustful of a free mind and hence any unbiased report. Ahmadinajad should have chosen a better reporter then the CNN exceptionally untalented reporters working for a zionist cause.

    October 24, 2011 at 11:05 am |
    • Shahin

      GO TO HELL

      October 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
  12. Badly-Bent

    Ya know, It' really hard for an American to take seriously anyone who thinks the Holocaust didn't happen.

    October 24, 2011 at 11:58 am |
  13. Wenton Chan

    Iranians must love their current political system, because it can't be worse than the Shah and his SAVAK.

    October 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Shahin



      October 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  14. Johnna

    The Iranian people made their choice back when and now they're just going to have to live with it the IDIOTS.
    BAH HA HA HA.......! Stupid is as stupid does!

    October 24, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  15. bigshot

    well put...they have indeed mastered the art of suppressing dissent...it will top Stazi and KGB in history books. Bashar al Asad of Syria would be toppled by now if he did not have help/training from Quds forces...

    October 24, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
  16. Michigan_Joe

    The Persians within Iran have muscled into submission by an Arab ideology that was imported. The real Persians were never Muslims, it came after he Arab invasions. The current Iranians actually live in a state of martial law, repressive and dangerous to all humanity. The government there has spies in every neighborhood that report on their neighbors and family members. No one can know for sure who is watching and taking notes. Religion has become their worst nightmare and if they don;t buckle to the demands of the government and the Supreme leader then life can be made worse or even ended. The Persians contributed a wealth of art and sciences before they became subjects of Islam and the Arab ideology that we see being rebelled against through out the whole middle east. But with every apron string broken, the devious Islamist extremists usurp the energy and power through terrorism. Things just don't better there and no one knows the answer.

    October 24, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
    • Badly-Bent

      Sounds like you are implying that it is more of cult than a culture.

      October 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm |
  17. Shahin

    In Response to Mr Zakarias Report.
    It is actually not HUNDREDS of people that have been imprisones but the NUMBER IS in the TENS OF THOUSANDS..
    I FIND it Hard TO BELIEVE THAT A MAN of his Education and Background can NOT KNOW THAT.
    Also, more than 2 million people gathered to PROTEST IN TEHRAN (IRANS CAPITAL) ALONE..


    October 24, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  18. M

    Hi Fareed,

    I am sorry to inform you that no matter how much you play around here and there, you will NEVER EVER be able to heal from the wounds slapped onto your clever face by the Iranian President.

    You can try hard to come up with random interesting news stories in order to cover up the slaps on your face. But that's not going to work. Ahmadinejad's answers were very well fired back.

    Oh, in case if scaredy cats refuse to publish my comments here, I am copying my comments and will find other sources such as Zakaraia's facebook and twitter etc. and will spread these comments so that everyone can know that Zakaria is a loser when it comes to facing a person like Ahmedinajad.

    I can proudly announce that Zakaria failed in his clever attempt to tackle Iranian Pres.

    Sorry buddy.......keep on working harder, practice and then try again..

    October 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jessalyn

      Sorry M, but it's you, not Zakaria, who is showing ignorance.

      October 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  19. Brian

    The people of Iran are not Arabs, so why would they take part in the Arab Spring movement? They would have to change the name to Middle Easterner Spring (or maybe Year at this point).

    October 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  20. JASON K

    And we have many that want to nuke the entire country...

    If Nixon could talk to China, why is it such a farcry for Ron Paul to talk to Iran. I say him because he mentioned it in a debate. Obama could to if he gets another term. But no one else would even bother if they became president.

    Why are ALL of the other GOP candidates so scared of Iran? No country in the Middle East could attack us. They lack both the weaponry, and the manpower. Furthermore, I don't think the people of Iran want war with us. I think they want us to just leave them alone. And really...why not?

    October 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  21. indyjim

    Iran's greatest hope is the incredibly large percent of its population that is below the age of 30 and who desire a very different life than the ones the mullah's behind closed doors plot for it. Change comes best from within, but as the article notes, the last time the people stood up and protested an obviously fradulant election they were stomped out and murdered. Freedom will come for Iran's people, that much I am sure. They have the internet. They know the way other people live in free societies.

    October 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • trex

      How can we help them be truly free?

      October 24, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
  22. Mike

    "So why aren't we seeing any pushback? After all, it's the year of the Arab Spring. Where are Iran's famous protesters?"

    Implying Iranians are Arabs. >.>

    Shoddy journalist is shoddy.

    October 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  23. fareedTheSellout

    This guy is constantly selling his soul for a few dollars and a white woman in order to sell us this US propaganda. The US needs an uncle tom like him to get the message out to the non-white devils.

    October 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  24. Yakobi

    Nothing will change in Iran until the evil Ayatollahs are all dead and rotting like they deserve.

    October 25, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  25. parvaz

    This book is the best seller in Iran, no surprising for us (Iranian), this mafia regime has been kidnapping the innocent people for 33 years. They attack and breaking people's house at midnight to arrest innocent people like : Authors, Journalists, Scientists, Students, mothers and fathers. They have no shame to do this right front of little children or any family members . Fareed Z, our priority is not the reputation, it is not about If the Iranian women are more stylish or Saudi's, (W-F) or not either about street cleaning and those BS ... etc. IT IS about HUMAN RIGHTS ...

    October 28, 2011 at 12:18 am |

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