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  • Writer's pictureBahar Ansari

S2Ep8: Global Policymaking and Representations of Iran with Tara Kangarlou

The image of Iran portrayed by mainstream media is a skewed one that misses the humanity and complexity of everyday life in the country. Tara Kangarlou is an award-winning journalist, author, and humanitarian who was born in Iran, and today she joins us to talk about how she is using storytelling to set the record straight. Tara talks about moving to the US when she was a teenager, her first experiences of the culture, beliefs, and educational system, and her habit of regularly visiting her home which helped her maintain a connection to it. We hear about the pressures she faced to study law, the choice she made to pursue the humanities, and the role of storytelling in getting a master's degree in journalism. After talking about how she worked hard to secure positions in the US mainstream media industry, Tara talks about how her producers were not interested in portraying the human side of Iran through news broadcasting. They only wanted to perpetuate a negative narrative and we talk about the work Tara has been doing to counteract this force. She gets into her approach to journalism and representing the stories of people who are oppressed and we hear about the trauma relief work she does through her non-profit, The Art of Hope. We also talk about Tara’s new book The Heartbeat of Iran, and her goal to weave a tapestry of life in Iran that represents the people who live there in all of their complexity. Tune in for Tara’s lucid thinking about the role of storytelling in counteracting the biased media and self-interested policymaking of global powers today.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The aim of Tara’s platform to encourage storytelling and empower women of the diaspora.

  • Tara’s early experiences of education and religion in the US after moving there.

  • Staying connected to one’s roots and how Tara still went back and forth to Iran.

  • Being challenged to explain her identity in the US and how Tara got interested in storytelling.

  • A window into Tara’s career path toward being in the media and the challenges she faced.

  • Tara’s approach to telling the stories of people whose rights have been violated and the place of empathy in her writing.

  • Why Tara founded her non-profit, Art of Hope, and the trauma relief work they do.

  • Getting past ‘us versus them’ paradigms and embracing our deeper connection to each other.

  • Finding a balance between doing what you love and contributing to society as a whole.

  • Being blocked trying to raise a humanized narrative of Iran at media houses and why Tara wrote her book.

  • Examples of the real-life stories to be found in Tara’s book which casts a humanized picture of the heart of Iranian life.

  • The importance of accurately representing countries who are entangled in the policymaking of the US.

  • How Tara had to fight with her publisher for the cover for her book.

  • The common thread between Iranian needs and those of people from other countries.

  • Being heard, and Tara’s dream for what she wants for Iranians.

  • How the policymaking of powerful countries impacts the rest of the world and how this informs Tara’s work.

  • Tara’s thoughts on how people living in privileged countries can lend a hand.


“I really try to use my platform however way I can to encourage storytelling and empower women from our background and the diaspora.” — @tarakangarlou [0:03:07]

“I always say I’m as Iranian as I am American because of course I have so much of the US incorporated in me but at the end of the day, I am Iranian and I am very proud of it.” — @tarakangarlou [0:05:52]

“When you don’t know someone or something, that is when you are fearful and when you crush that barrier, then you know, therefore you are not feeling uncomfortable.” — @tarakangarlou [0:19:55]

“There is a very militarized and dehumanized image of Iran and I was part of that system and machine that controls that narrative and I thought that this is not all of the story so what do I do about it. That’s why I wanted to write my book.” — @tarakangarlou [0:24:14]

“The stories in my book are not rosy but rather humanized and open up and unpack the very serious issues that people face in Iran.” — @tarakangarlou [0:30:12]

“Policymakers make policies that benefit the interests of their own countries rather than the interests of the people living in the countries being attacked. That is why I am a big supporter of grassroots and individuals living in these countries. That is reflected in my work with Art of Hope, and in my stand on policy.” — @tarakangarlou [0:42:00]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:



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