City of Lies

Based on extensive interviews and years of research, Ramita Navai presents a thought provoking collection of stories depicting the true lives of the people of Tehran. City of Lies offers an honest portrayal of a city that is often hidden from public view, weaving the stories of eight separate characters from the religious to the secular and from the privileged to the poor.

One of the eight characters is Amir, imprisoned with his parents for several months at only six years old. Charged for dissident activity, his parents are executed the very day he is released. Scarred by the trauma and the pain of loss, he refuses to speak to anyone for two years, instead turning to online activism and anonymously fighting the regime from the web. Navai also tells the stories of the many children than undergo systematic abuse at the hands of the police force, in a twisted attempt to reduce crime and muggings. Bijan, another one of the characters, runs one of the biggest meth labs in Tehran, but manages to avoid arrest owing to his knowledge of which important people to bribe.

Navai also gives a voice to the women of Tehran. She does so admirably, with a compassionate description and understanding of their every day trials, struggling to survive in a world where men are deemed superior. She tells the story of Somayeh, a devoted and religious girl of fifteen, who – when mistreated in her marriage – divorces to find herself a pariah for her choices, in spite of her beauty. Another woman, Leyla, lives in constant fear of being sentenced to 100 lashes for engaging in illicit relationships outside marriage.

Navai tells these stories with an incredible passion. She shines an important light on a world suppressed by strict orthodox rule; a world where neckties are banned for their symbolic representation of Western culture, and where you face arrest for dancing, drinking, or holding hands with a man publicly. Navai goes beneath the surface of one of the most repressive regimes on the planet, and tells heart-breaking stories of what everyday life is like for those forced to conceal aspects of their life in fear of being arrested or sentenced to death.

Through her warm and understanding way of describing this reality, she gives a voice to those to whom lying has become a crucial part of surviving. City of Lies offers a unique, though heart-breaking, understanding of a reality so unlike that of our own, of which it is important that we are aware.

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