Review: Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden

Guests of the Ayatollah

I read this book in the first half of 2007. It was from a small bookstore near to Flinders St Station in Melbourne. The store’s history section was small, but had a variety of interesting books. Most of them, disappointingly, were oriented towards the West. In fact this was one of the first books I had read when I had initiated myself into the world of history. So this book has got a special place, not only because it is one my earliest ones, but also because it exposed me to international politics and foreign policy. It is gripping and straight from the gut. The more than 600 pages of the painstaking research, interviews, photos, the daily happenings in the Iranian revolution transpose you in the midst of the action. When I read the back cover for the first time I wondered how could the mighty US be brought down to its knees by Iran – a minor on the international scene?

This book covers lot of operational ground which the Iranian revolutionaries but only from an outsiders eyes. Would like to read something written by an insider on how they brought this change. The title says ‘the first battle in the west’s war with militant Islam’. I disagree here – the revolutionaries were not militants. One of the most thrilling episodes is of the failed mission to rescue the hostages when the US army chopper crashes resulting in a few deaths. This account of the 444 days of being taken as a hostage got me deeply interested in Ruhollah Khomeini and Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. And that is why I have recently purchased All The Shahs Men, which would make for an excellent companion in understanding the currents of discontent with the Shah’s regime.

There is one particular photo in which the author mentions that rumors have it that one of the Iranian guys standing next to a hostage is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president of Iran. Well, truth is stranger than fiction. Surely it was at its strangest in 1979. 


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