A First Visit to Iran

The world paid attention when people poured into the streets to protest the June 12 presidential election in Tehran. But what was Iran like on June 11? GQ's Leila Dena traveled to Iran, the birthplace of her parents and home to many relatives, this summer to vote and see the country for the first time. She found a capital city that despite censorship and austere social rule bubbles with romance and information. She discovered politicians willing to speak out against the failures of the government and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She met her family and watched BBC Persian and dubbed Korean soap operas on TV. Then Dena voted and watched as Iran become unhinged, protests grew, and shouts of Allah Akbar filled the streets--a wail for what still cannot be said. Dena still struggles with being able to leave Iran while others can't: "I keep thinking about the millions of people who are just as scared as I am, who are stuck here, but who are filled with some otherworldly mixture of strength and heart that allows them to swallow that fear and go out into those streets."