A little-known aspect of the Iranian revolution of 1979 is that, in the words of Roya Hakakian, "hundreds of young Jews" supported it. Then, in short order, the new regime proclaimed Israel "Iran's greatest enemy," and Jews began to leave "a country in which their history preceded that of Muslims by several hundred years." In Journey from the Land of No: A Girlhood Caught in Revolutionary Iran (Crown, $23), Hakakian tells the story of the period in between, when the revolution seemed to hold promise even for Iranian Jews, and of how that promise was denied.
Hakakian notes the arrival of a new law requiring women in public view to wear "Islamic uniform -- a scarf, a long, loose-fitting overcoat, pants, and closed-toe shoes." In an opinion poll, the rationales given for this imposition ranged from the predictable (men shouldn't suffer the inconvenience by being "sexually stimulated" by women wearing anything less) to the crackpot: "In Algeria, even Marxist women wore veils, and now, to fight imperialism, our women must wear the Islamic uniform so we can prove to the world that we are a sovereign nation."
Toward the end, before her family emigrated to the United States, the divisions between the puritans in power and many non-fundamentalist citizens became so striking that Hakakian strings them into a kind of litany:
"They had long beards or stubbly faces. We shaved. They donned collarless shirts. We put on ties. They wore their black veils as naturally as a second skin, held the two corners by their teeth, leaving their hands free to frisk us. We were the ones forced under veils, mummified. They were the superfluous salt-and-pepper turbans in every landscape. We were the bitter, watching. They, poorly educated mostaz'afeen [defined in the book's glossary as 'the powerless], were suspicious of anyone wearing prescription glasses. We were the ones with weak eyes. They began their speeches in the name of Allah. We began ours with good old God. They called themselves the 'faithful.' We called ourselves Iranians."
-- Dennis Drabelle