Iran: Yesterday and Today

2009 ,    »  -   48 Comments
Ratings: 8.36/10 from 11 users.

Iran: Yesterday and TodayJoin Rick as he explores the most surprising and fascinating land he’s ever visited: Iran.

In this one-hour, ground-breaking travel special, you'll discover the splendid monuments of Iran’s rich and glorious past, learn more about the 20th-century story of this perplexing nation, and experience Iranian life today in its historic capital and in a countryside village.

Most important, you'll meet the people of a nation whose government has so exasperated our own.

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48 Comments / User Reviews

    kris sto
  1. kris sto

    ?????????? = Democracy.

    A state without ?????????? is equal with 0. Zero. This includes USA of course. In Iran they know they don't have democracy and they just accept it. In the US they think they have democracy but they don't....and this is far worse....

  2. dogfang
  3. dogfang

    It may come as a surprise but The US was supposed to be a constitutional republic. The founders wanted to make sure it was not a democracy. They were against mob rule.

  4. opinionVSopinion
  5. opinionVSopinion

    Sorry, kris sto, but your comment is utter nonsense. Comparing a dictatorial theocracy with a parliamentary democracy, and simplifying the comparison by saying, that at least people in the totalitarian state cannot be politically disappointed is pretty relativistic, don't you think? If you call yourself a secular humanist, you should be concerned about the peoples' right to chose for themselves, regardless where they live. This is not possible with people in Iran. The people MUST accept the religious law, because they have NO choice. There is no room for a progressive, secular discourse in the public sphere. There is no room for a different set of opinions in newspapers or magazines. You might be able to have talks at home behind closed doors about political issues and voice your disagreement, although be careful that the neighbors don't hear you. Iran does not have freedom of speech, or freedom of opinion, or freedom of the press. I hope you don't think that this 50 minute documentary covers the life of all the people in Iran, as the speaker in the beginning stated clearly, that they were under surveillance the entire time of shooting.
    Although I think, that things could be a lot worse in Iran, I will not buy into the cultural relativism of people saying, that at least they know they live under clerical rule and dictation, but they seem to not mind it so much. That is BS, and it it just enough to make you sleep at night.
    There is a difference between a parliamentary democracy and direct democracy and it would go beyond the scope of this discussion to explain it, but if you are not satisfied with the political spectrum, the political parties, your representatives, you are free to go down to your local community office and get into the game yourself. Democracy means, that you can take part in it, if you are interested enough, and especially if you're outraged enough.

  6. Gilbert Dalit
  7. Gilbert Dalit

    If so, why still so many are flooding to come to USA? Any lines forming to go live in Iran?

  8. dewflirt
  9. dewflirt

    20 mins in and I couldn't take the condescending style of the presenter any longer. Irritating man.

  10. Roger Kish
  11. Roger Kish

    You are right dewflirt, that guy would drive a person nuts!!!

  12. silkop
  13. silkop

    I think that's the main problem with Americans - even when they make best efforts to be friendly they still come across as insulting.

  14. dewflirt
  15. dewflirt

    I don't agree, I speak to some here and have known some in person. All lovely. They do bite if you corner them though ;)

  16. Benjamin Clarkson
  17. Benjamin Clarkson

    I think this is an excellent documentary in the sense that we can see through the eyes of a westerner other perspectives and the humanity of this other culture. A complicated issue.

  18. Savage Henry
  19. Savage Henry

    Actually, we're a democratic-republic (in terms of pure we elect). But you're right, there's little social or political unanimity here. The electoral college here makes the one-voice, one-vote thing kinda silly and infuriating...that said, I agree with your "oligarchy" statement to a point. Politicians only pander to the masses where they have power and the primary races make me sick. To hell with New Hampshire...Politics (especially, national politics, is a game for cynics, bookies, and statisticians).

    Incidentally, my Ma likes Rick Steves...but I thought he was all about Europe. Surprised he's where people are brown ;) (Ma is Norwegian/Irish, Dad is Syrian/Lebanese...would like to see Steves do a Middle East show) :D

  20. lordiaco
  21. lordiaco

    Are americans on theirs way to destroy even this, first and last human paradise?

  22. Greg_Mc
  23. Greg_Mc

    Does it have oil?

  24. Justin_Funski
  25. Justin_Funski

    Beautiful country, art and women. It's important to remember people are people and it's the governments who cause problems on all sides.

  26. John Simmons
  27. John Simmons

    Very interesting & I learned a lot. There is something very attractive about Iranian women. I love the music too.

  28. Jack1952
  29. Jack1952

    Paradise? Not if you happen to be homosexual (may face hanging), are not of the Islamic faith (an apostate under the law may face the death penalty), commit adultery (woman sentenced to be stoned for adultery), just to name a few restrictions in this Paradise. The people of Iran must conform or face the consequences. I think I will stay right where I am. It would seem most people agree since there are not many breaking down the borders in an attempt to enter this Paradise. Opposing the American military does not automatically give them Paradise status.

  30. Tyler Partridge
  31. Tyler Partridge

    I would argue that the Iranian society would in fact be paradise to the many whom share it's fundamental values. On the other hand, I am certain there are many Iranian's who dislike many things about their culture as well.

    Their culture is not right, or wrong; only very foreign from your perspective. Undoubtedly, there are many Iranian families whom equally disapprove of the many woes in our commercialized western society.

    I certainly will not argue that some of the Iranian traditions are out dated by modern standards. However, I could also say that many of our "modern" western standards have become remarkably Orwellian, and not much to boast about either.

    Personally, I cherish the many different and rich cultures out there. Perhaps if more people opened their minds, and hearts, we could see the vast majority of things we all share in common, oppose to the inconsequential few we do not.

    May Jesus, Allah, and the Periodic Table be with you!

  32. Savage Henry
  33. Savage Henry

    In my experience...there are as many people who are limited, reactionary, and irretrievably stupid who post Anti-American sentiments on the web (and especially, on politically-charged docs) as there are are the a-holes who y'all should be directing your attacks at.

    I am, as an American, as sick of ham-handed foreign U.S. policies...though, will no longer defend "reason" or the "good things" here. It's kind of pointless. We're not all bad or unreasonable, or enemies of all that's good...what's more, I've learned more about PEOPLE here than anywhere else.

    Those of other nations who protest and seem to issue vast indictments of Americans in general, remind me of the right wing element in my country.

    Will take on all comers in any field...

  34. Savage Henry
  35. Savage Henry

    And I'm talking, reasoned arguments by anyone...substantiated by FACT. Conspiracy theorists...are just that. I deal in the empirical and harbor nothing in the way of allegiances. This is not a matter of national or some twisted-avatar pride...I just feel the amount of unaccountable BS spewed by anti-Americans...JUST because they're anti-American, deserves an answer. Even if, to me, it's entirely an affront to reason being informed...I'd be speaking Farsi if the roles were reversed.

    The worst thing you could do, if you TRULY believe that everyone in America is EVIL, is isolate yourself from those politically aligned with you with your regional cloud of BS.

    90% of the people who post on this site hate the U.S. I often get the arguments, but they seem as canned as Bush's America. Why are you so sure we're all horrible? And if not, WHY do you think it is OK to call us all horrible?

  36. dewflirt
  37. dewflirt

    Morning G, long time no see ;)

  38. WiseGapist
  39. WiseGapist

    "I just feel the amount of unaccountable BS spewed by anti-Americans...JUST because they're anti-American, deserves an answer." - You might want to start thinking of one then...

    I think the vast majority of that 90% (though not all) are able to separate the utterly inexcusable foreign policy from the people living as US citizens, cuz let's face it, the general public have absolutely no involvement in that foreign policy (not unlike most developed countries).

    Also, a lot of that anti-American sentiment isn't people saying you're all horrible, or evil... It's that the ruling elite within your clearly undemocratic country are, and that evil is plastic wrapped and packaged in a tacky, fake, ultra-capitalist form that most Europeans find gaudy and obnoxious, but is swallowed like Obama's 'Change' speeches by the majority of your public.

    You might not like it that a bad foreign policy and an ill-informed public can taint the world's view of your nation but people will draw on majority behaviour and media perception to form their stereotypes. I am English, and really you could go all day throwing insults along similar lines at my country and I'd have to whole-heartedly agree... It's just as corrupt, the people are just as blind to the propaganda and Britain's foreign policy is almost unrivalled in it's barbaric acts. But I am a true anti-nationalist, why would I even care if you said all English people are id**ts, I am me defined (hopefully) as a unique individual, I don't give a **** about the public image of my birth country, I believe it is run by a bunch of greedy despicable c***s.

    Oh yh, also try and discourage the spread of Christianity in your country because frankly, that's one of the things I laugh at the most ;)

  40. lidas
  41. lidas

    Let me explain something so others can understand it. No Iranian hates the American's, meaning the American Society. It is the bullishness of it's government and use of force of the government that is disliked. It's a strong difference between the Gov and the society. Remember to Iranians English is a second language there for they try to relay with little English what they feel. If you spoke very little of Farsi you would too say all your intentions with couple of words. Most of the Society sees America the land as utopia and a land of opportunity for hope.

  42. tomregit
  43. tomregit

    OK Henry, I get it that you feel that it is sometimes necessary to defend your country from unwarranted attacks, but where is the anti-American sentiment here? The question posed by lordiaco is not unfair. The follow up by Greg_Mc, though a bit flippant, may have stuck a nerve. That's as close to attacking America the Good that I see so far. Methinks thou dost protest too much.
    You know that 90% of the people posting here don't hate America. Is that just hyperbole or reactionary? I understand, it must be frustrating to be the subject of unreasonable broadside attacks, but please no preemptive strikes.

  44. WiseGapist
  45. WiseGapist

    any chance of a mod telling me why my comment didn't make it through?^^

  46. Achems_Razor
  47. Achems_Razor


    Its there after moderation, read the "comment policy" above before you post others.

  48. Guest
  49. Guest

    OH Henry!
    I wish we could find a different name for (so-called) Americans...i am North American Canadian, there are South American Peruvians, there are Central American Costa Ricans, why not USians, or United Statians or just US citizens.
    A good percentage of people who post on this site are US citizens and yes a good portion of them bash their own country's policies...not just the rest of us posters....and the policies and support of them create stereotype.
    For different reasons Canadians get it too, Mexicans get it too, Africans get it too, Chinese get it too, teenagers and old people get it too, religious people get it too, gays get it too, uneducated get it fact who doesn't get it?
    Don't feel so bad for what you get, feel bad for what you give.

  50. WiseGapist
  51. WiseGapist

    Sorry Achems, I was being an impatient ****. I'll try to hold my horses next time.

  52. Plonkette
  53. Plonkette

    We dont call chinese, chinasians or russians russasians. What about eurgermans? Americans are just what us citizens are called. Its like complaining about man holes because they are sexist against women. Its a non argument.

    I find it funny that people forget that people in other countries are EXACTLY the same as them. We are all humans on this planet and want/feel/do exactly the same stuff. When you start to throw politics and religion into the mix, thats when the trouble starts. They thrive on conflict and difference. Without these things, both would cease to exist.

  54. Guest
  55. Guest

    You're right, China has Chinese, Russia has Russians, Portugal has Portuguese (that's in English in their own language it may be called different) and America has as many as 900,000,000 Americans. But basically we are earthlings...same same but all different!
    As for earthling's holes.....i have heard a few call others a***********.

  56. Jack1952
  57. Jack1952

    We are fundamentally in agreement in our views. A culture is neither right or wrong . It IS wrong for the government to impose its ideals and customs on anyone whose lifestyles differ from the religious law imposed on its citizens. Iran has the government sanctioned Basij, the volunteer militia whose duties include a watch on the morals of all Iranians. This includes dress codes, mixing of the sexes, hairstyles, even the sale of Barbie dolls has been vigorously sanctioned. I submit that this is a greater Orwellian society than our own (I live in Canada). I have never been stopped on the street and told that I must change what I am wearing or that I must not be in the company of a companion (the opposite sex).

    Of course there are problems in the west. Paradise on earth does not exist but at least I live in a country whose government fundamentally allows each individual the personal freedom to express himself as he wishes as long as that expression does not inhibit the rights of others.

    Iran does seem like an amazing country and I would love to go there someday. As long as its government imposes Islamic law, however, I will and should criticize it. Even the young Iranian woman interviewed in this film acknowledged that the lack of separation of church and state is a problem in Iran...a separation we take for granted in my country.

    Live long and prosper and please know the periodic table.

  58. Shashishekar
  59. Shashishekar

    Nice documentary, I feel the documentary has been edited many times which makes it feel much scripted at times. I did not see the natural flow of thoughts either.

  60. Raffe Karim
  61. Raffe Karim

    Wonderful documentary

  62. JohnBrady
  63. JohnBrady

    "The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens." - Baha'u'llah

  64. Guest
  65. Guest

    As i was watching the doc i suddenly couldn't believe what a saw; Isfahan's river is flowing. When i visited Iran in 2000, the river was bone dry, you could walk accross.
    Talking to the two girls by the river....Rick Steves had a sudden hesitation when he almost replied "We lov.....we want to understand the people of Iran". lol
    Very good doc, brought back a lot of memories. I agree the people of Iran are very friendly, the only place i could be alone was in a toilet room, if i sat in a park, bus, or walked around i instantly had company,i was invited to homes more than once...people just want to talk to you.
    Nothing on the public baths of Iran, one of my pleasure while traveling for a month where i entered from East Turkey to Pakistan.

  66. Jane Haydon
  67. Jane Haydon

    I thoroughly enjoyed this and learned a lot, thankyou. There are so many countries I know little about but thanks to your site I enjoy a little taste.

  68. raanja
  69. raanja

    Just to add to your list, We Indians call ourselves ‘Bharatiya’ or ‘Hindustani'

  70. Guest
  71. Guest

    Hi Raanja....first time on TDF, i would like to welcome you, the more we are the wider our knowledge becomes.

  72. Nick Heard
  73. Nick Heard

    That was a really interesting, rather heart-warming doc. As some have been saying below, we're all human beings. Cultural differences are largely cosmetic and add to the richness of our world. It's too easy to judge groups of people based on their nation's politics. In reality, most people live lives far removed from their government's foreign policy. I've been fortunate enough to have traveled extensively in Asia, Europe and North America and I've never been anywhere where I wasn't welcomed and where people were anything other than warm, interested and friendly. The behavior exhibited in the fields of economics and geopolitics baffles me and the more I learn about the world the more inexplicable such hostility and competitiveness affirms itself to be utterly counter productive and utterly non-representitive of the actual values held by ordinary people across the globe.

  74. Bogdan Kirichun
  75. Bogdan Kirichun

    Great video! If only politics could be removed from our relations.

  76. 2wid
  77. 2wid

    This doc might have a few minor flaws, but it shows the topic from the objective perspective without agitating people. Personally i wish western culture will never penetrate Persian, and that us; westerners will stop moaning about human rights, freedom of speech and so on, and for once look into the mirror.

  78. ALi Aldien Yehia
  79. ALi Aldien Yehia

    Not easy to speak but it's easy to let your mind imagine and speculate

  80. pawan datta
  81. pawan datta

    i love this documentary... at least it gives us something about what real people over there are all about.

  82. karimgroove
  83. karimgroove

    But there is no separation of church and state in The U.S. either. It says "In God We Trust" on every dollar bill and our currency in Canada is based on the U.S. dollar. No country in the Middle East uses any reference to God on their monetary currency. Also, there are bible and religious studies in every North American school so North America clearly bridges church and state as much as any other country.
    After seeing this documentary I think I might just go and check out Iran. Looks like a great cultural place to visit.

  84. Al Corrupt
  85. Al Corrupt

    Great doco.
    Rick's enthusiasm is genuinely infectious.
    The governments of Iran and the USA come across as rather petty in the face of real humanity.

  86. Jack1952
  87. Jack1952

    There is no state religion or state religious affiliations in the United States. There is no Ayatollah type state overseer whose word is considered law. There is no state morality police whose inspiration is the word of a specific religious organization. The American court system does not consult any religious doctrines when new laws are considered or old ones are reviewed. This would go against the American constitution which prohibits the federal government from making a law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. This does not mean that the government is not to ever acknowledge the existence of religious practice within its borders, after all, the vast majority of Americans do have some sort of belief in God. To forbid the president from ever wishing someone a Merry Christmas while in office would be childish and would violate his right as a citizen to practice his religious faith. He would overstep his bounds, however, if he were to say that all Americans should go to Church Christmas morning and try to enact a law forcing them to do so.

    I would agree that the "In God We Trust" motto does not speak for all Americans and does imply a favoritism towards Christianity. The small minority of atheists (which would include me if I were American) would appear to be on the outside of the mainstream of society by this motto. It does not, in reality, mean that the U.S. government does not, at least in spirit, try to separate itself from any religious affiliations. The "Moral Majority's" biggest complaint was the secular nature of the American government and sought to bring back what they believed to be the Christian foundation of the country. So far they have failed.

    The existence of religion has been one of the greatest influences in human history, law, politics, geography and other endeavors. To try to understand ourselves as a species and not to know anything about one of the driving forces of society would certainly suggest a huge hole in one's education. Learning about religion is different than religious indoctrination and even though I speak as an atheist I think it important that people receive an understanding how religion has influenced our world.

    Iran is a fascinating place with an incredibly rich history and would be great place to visit. However, they do acknowledge Islam as the religion of the state and that the Ayatollah is their religious leader. This clearly is not separation of church and state and is not the situation in the United States.

  88. Kosta Starostin
  89. Kosta Starostin

    I completely agree with Jack1952. My view has always been that, whether or not you are a religious person, religion in itself is fascinating. There is nothing odd about wanting to understand the different religious influences that have shaped our modern civilization.

    I am an atheist, but I wholeheartedly believe in individual freedom and that the proliferation of religious knowledge will help people understand the viewpoints of their counterparts worldwide. There are no doubt religious zealots who commit violence in the name of god, but to resolve yourself to ignorance as a result is no better. Religion has been perhaps the greatest instrument for carrying out injustice in human history, but it does not mean it is something to be shunned, rather than learned about. At least for now, considering the vast majority of the world is in one way or another religious and that our dealings with them will no doubt be impacted by this for the foreseeable future.

  90. Veronica Deevers
  91. Veronica Deevers

    Having studied the life of the Shah Mohammad Rez? Sh?h Pahlavi, I do believe he had good intentions to modernize the people and give them more freedom of choice. However, he did not do well with complex U.S. manipulations and the ancient Muslim traditions. His road to hell was paved with good intentions. He had good ideas, however those with totalitarian power fetishes over powered him. This documentary could have been far better than it was. Mostly it seemed to be an advertisement for a vacation based business.

  92. Paul Boat
  93. Paul Boat

    Excellent post; however, I'd like to point out that "In God We Trust" incorporated as a national motto, just like the addition of "under God" to the pledge of allegiance, was by no measure a small breach upon the wall placed by the First Amendment. Both were tactical maneuvers by an increasingly powerful, and political, religious right. It was these moves that helped to pave the way for the current political situation that has noted and admitted Dominionists running for the highest office in the country on a platform that includes further blurring of the lines between church and state, if not ridding the nation of them altogether. While it may be a long time before we see something like a specific sect of a religion being represented in the US government, the chances that the interpretation of the First Amendment as one that does not preclude the mixing of church and state to point that Christianity is seen as basis for ruling all aspects of life in this country. Indeed, Evangelicals and Dominionists within their ranks have already made that pretty clear and many of them have already obtained high office. Because of this, the points of the poster to whom I assume you are writing may not be that far off the mark.

  94. screaminjay
  95. screaminjay

    This documentary is sickly complacement... but guess you can't blame it too much for this. I believe many are very aware that Iran is not Yemen or Afghanistan. That this is a very educated, "advanced" country, not a third-world backwater.

    And even if he doesn't really say it, the Shah was better, plain and simple. He was a terrible King, but Iran was better as it always have been, a Monarchy.

    They can evolve as a Monarchy, and open up more openly to the Parliamentary process. But certainly, as it is, in this Republic (most Republics in this world are dictatorships, Kingdoms are much more democratic and stable) nothing will ever work, and this is a country that will end up destroying itself, or destroying the world around it.

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