On April 9th, the College of Charleston hosted Delphine Minoui for a speech and book signing. As an international reporter committed to “giving a voice to the voiceless,” Minoui has written multiple books which take place in the Middle East, where she’s lived for much of her life. Her book, “I’m Writing You From Tehran,” was recently translated into English and gives, as one introducer stated, “a moving view of an often obscured part of the world.”
Minoui grew up and went to school in Paris, France, then moved to Iran to connect to her familial roots. She planned to stay for ten days. She stayed for ten years.
Her book “I’m Writing You From Tehran,” embodies what she learned these ten years, who she met and how her view of the world changed.
She wrote this book after reflecting on everything that surprised her about life in Iran. After growing up with a Western view of the world, common Iranian life shocked her. Minoui never really questioned her right to democracy until she moved.
“Democracy was a goal they wanted to reach,” stated Minoui to describe many Iranian’s beliefs. “For them, everything was political.” From the clothes Iranians wear to the events they attend, every single gesture or word, could function as a political statement to define an identity separate from the regime.
Iran is also a society “full of contradictions” as Minoui highlights in her novel. “Everyone is living an inside and outside
life.” Iranians behave a certain way on the streets or in public, but Iran becomes a different world when you enter people’s houses.
But most of all, Minoui learned how to be brave. Iran’s authoritarian regime uses fear to control the people, including the media. In fact, the media had to constantly navigate red lines and taboo topics. As a writer, Minoui was regularly interrogated by the police.
But, “if you want to live in Iran,” Minoui said, “you have to be able to live in fear.” Minoui learned a lot from Iranian women.
“They were fearless,” she described. They would go to secret underground parties, get captured and beaten, then be right back the next week, never once failing in their commitment to live their life how they wanted.
Writing this book was important to Minoui, because as a journalist, she was always focused on the news, on what was immediately happening. She met a variety of people through her job, but she was always caught up on one question.
What happens to them? What happens to these people that she meets, but ultimately leaves behind in pursuit of the next news story.
“I felt the need to stop, to write about all these people,” Minoui recounts. She felt the responsibility to tell her friends’ stories to the Western world, as these “anonymous heroes” often could not tell them themselves.
Minoui also opened up about what it was like to be a female reporter in the Middle East. Surprisingly, she often found it extremely helpful. Minoui interacted with women and was invited into their safe spaces in the way her male colleagues were not. She was often privy to the full story of public opinion.
Minoui, who speaks French, Arabic, English, and Farsi, (she’s currently trying to learn Turkish because she recently moved to Istanbul) also expressed how important it is to learn the language of a culture. It helps create connections and helps you experience stories you may never have been a part of before.
Her most recent project tells the story of an underground library in war-torn Syria, and even has a documentary to accompany it. She tells us to be on the lookout for the English translation sometime in the near future.
“To me there are different ways of telling stories,” she imparted as the talk came to a close. “And that is the beauty of our job.”