Before the Islamic revolution of 1979, Iran was the first country in the Middle East to bring together secular and sacred law. A legal code developed in 1927 did away with gruesome Islamic punishments such as stoning and lashing. NPR Producer Davar Ardalan grew up in Iran. Her great-grandfather was the architect of Iran's legal code in the early 1920s. Davar and co-producer Rasool Nafisi look at Iran's long search for a lawful society.

Read the transcript of the hour-long documentary.

The World Turned Upside Down

Iran was the first country in the Middle East to bring together secular and sacred law. Then in 1979, Iran transformed into the world's first theocracy. For many, like NPR Producer Davar Ardalan, this upended everything they knew about their home.

 Ayatollah Khomeini

A Legal Comeback, Mangled and Disfigured

Since the Islamic revolution, the laws in Iran have changed 20 times and courts have been reorganized six times. The fundamentalist clerics who control Iran's courts have insisted on an ultra strict interpretation of Shari'a law, but slowly, they are being challenged.

 Iranian Family Court

The Pride of Iran

For the first time the Nobel peace prize was awarded to an Iranian, an Iranian woman, no less, who is working within the Islamic system to bring about peaceful change.

 Shirin Ebadi


Rasool Nafisi explains the structure of Iran's judiciary and what it's like to return to his homeland.

Learn more about those mentioned in this documentary and the key players in the human rights struggle in Iran.



Producers: Davar Ardalan and Rasool Nafisi
Editor: Deborah George
Coordinating Producer: Sasha Aslanian
Project Director: Misha Quill
Assistant Producer: Ellen Guettler
Mixing: Bill McQuay, Vincent Muse, Tom Mudge and Craig Thorson
Production Assistance: Andy Lyman, Jim Lesher and Tennessee Watson

Web producer: Ochen Kaylan
Web Production Assistance: Paul Schomer
Web Manager: John Pearson
Web Production Supervisor: Michael Wells

Managing Editor: Stephen Smith
Executive Producer: Bill Buzenberg

Major funding for American RadioWorks comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.