The Golden Cage, Three Brothers, Three Choices, One Destiny

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Kales Press, 2011

Reviewed by Graham Mulligan

Shirin Ebadi promised her childhood friend, Pari, that she would tell the story of her family’s great tragedy and the three brothers who lived and died under Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Each brother chooses a different path, one loyal to the old Shah, one loyal to the fundamentalist revolution and one loyal to the communist opposition.

I read this book immediately after reading The Prisoner of Teheran by Marina Nemat, another courageous Iranian woman who spent years in the notorious Evin prison in Teheran. I was in Teheran during the early days of the student protests against the Shah and travelled across the north from the Turkish border to Mashad in the north-east, on my way to Kabul and then India. I have memories of delightful people and wonderful food, of course, but also of very different customs and beliefs. Ebadi’s book fills in a great many gaps in my understanding of this fascinating part of the world.

Each brother follows his own set of beliefs, each becoming further and further from the other as they go deeper into their convictions, living as though caged in gold, believing that only their path is the right path. Shirin and Pari maintain a strong friendship over the years and each of them also chooses a path that they believe in. One, a lawyer, the other a university lecturer but both increasingly marginalized by the revolutionary state. It is these stories weaving in and out over time and in the familiar setting of the city they love that the author uses to build her detailed descriptions of customs and habits of the Iranian people and also tells the history of the closed years following the ascension of the fundamentalists.

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