Iran: Your questions to Lyse Doucet

Image caption Lyse Doucet in the BBC Newsroom

The BBC's chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, has been covering international news for the BBC for over 30 years. She was in Iran last week where she visited the capital, Tehran. She has been reporting from Iran since 1989. This was her first visit to the country since 2009.

In a special reddit 'Ask Me Anything' session, Lyse answered some of your questions about life in Iran.

Here is a selection of comments from the session:

Question - How do Iranian women feel about their status in society compared to what it was before the Islamic revolution? (from NotCompletelyDumb)

Lyse answers: Women's issues have always been at the heart of Iranian politics since the 1979 Islamic revolution. There have been advances in some areas including access to education including at university level, information and access to birth control, availability of some jobs, but not others. Women are still barred from many high level positions. Many women are hoping for greater freedoms after last year's election of the reformist President Rouhani. But, like most Iranians, they are also just hoping that sanctions will be lifted and their daily lives will improve.

Question - Are you under any certain indirect or direct pressures from people you may or may not know, to deliver the news from a certain 'angle', or have you ever been in a situation which you felt was dishonest in reporting the news? (from Meme0bsessed)

Lyse answers: Nowruz mobarak to you! May it bring you many blessings! Gratefully, I have never felt under pressure to report in a certain way or, as you put it, an angle. If anyone ever told me to report the news in a "dishonest" way I would have to take issue with them. I often say I can only report what I see, and what I hear and try as hard as possible to hear and see as much as I can. Thank you - kheili mamnun!

Question - What is the biggest misconception we have about life in Iran? (from smiles_and_cries)

Lyse answers: Iran is one of the most hospitable places in the world. And Iranians are also among the most inventive people I have had the pleasure to spend time with. Please don't see it as a dark and hostile place. There are different views about the world, but it doesn't want to turn its back on the world.

Question - In your 30 years of covering international news, what have been your best/worst experiences? Have you ever been placed in a dangerous situation? (from lula2488)

Lyse answers: Life has its risks, wherever you are. A very good colleague spent years covering conflicts in the Middle East and then moved to New York and was run over by a bus. Fortunately, he survived. Being pursued by helicopter gunships in Afghanistan in the early 90s was an experience I won't forget.

Question - Recent years have seen violent and tragically fatal protests against the regime in Iran. Has that anger dissipated now that there is a reformist president in office, or is it just simmering under the surface? (from mush01)

Lyse answers: Iranians who voted in President Rouhani (by a strong majority) are still waiting to see more change. For example, two leaders of the "green revolution" of 2009 (Karoubi and Mousavi) are still under house arrest. We have the impression that Iranians are investing their hope and energy for now in the prospect of a long-term nuclear deal that can help lift sanctions. If that succeeds, President Rouhani will be bolstered and he may be able to move on to some of his other promises to Iranians. If a deal isn't reached, well, we can't be certain.

Question - Did you travel to other cities other than Tehran? What would you miss the most about Iran? (from lonelysound)

Lyse answers: On this short trip we were only in Tehran. On my last trip in 2009 we were also in beautiful Isfahan. I really missed being in Iran, being part of a very impassioned conversation, discovering what's new on the art scene, and savouring their ancient exquisite heritage.

Question - Why do war hawks in the USA want to start war with Iran? Is Iran as evil as they want me to believe? (from arkaytroll)

Lyse answers: There is still deep distrust between Tehran and Washington after more than 30 years of separation and suspicion. This new engagement is an important opportunity to deal with this mistrust. Iran is a vibrant nation of many views but I found on this trip that Iranians, across the political spectrum, want an engagement with the wider world.

Question - Do you believe there can be a truly unbiased report, or is it best for the public to get their news from multiple sources to get the real picture? (from bobthebobd)

Lyse answers: The more information the better. I always say journalism is defined by the questions we ask. As humans, we ask different questions based on our experiences and interests. As a journalist working for the BBC we do try to see a story from all sides and, after three decades at this place, I absolutely believe there is always more than one side to a story.

Question - What motivates you to continue this line of work? (from kjoro)

Lyse answers: I am very very privileged to be able to travel widely and keep returning to places where I now feel at home. My travel isn't just "work." It's also about friendships and an appreciation for many cultures. But there is also a great responsibility to be able to tell the stories, and tell them well - the stories that matter in many places.

Question - I want to ask you if being a female has come between you and what you wanted to achieve as a correspondent. Meaning, if you'd ever felt that being a male would have made things easier and decrease the threat you have faced during these years. Would you encourage a young female to follow the career path you've chosen? Or is the risk too high? (from rsmt)

Lyse answers: Perhaps I have been lucky. In my 30 years at the BBC I have never been told I can't go somewhere or do some story because I am female (although I have female colleagues in other media who have been stopped). There are far more advantages than disadvantages to being a female journalist. But the best step forward is not to think of journalism in terms of your gender. Just try to be the best journalist you can be. Be careful and be brilliant!

Question - How much has Iran changed since your last visit in 2009 to last week? Any crazy things you have seen there? (from Rkninja2)

Lyse answers: Some things about Iran never change and I hope they never do - wonderful hospitality, fabulous food, breathtaking Islamic architecture, that certain spirit. Things which surprised - how many Western fashion shops are still operating despite sanctions. How bustling the bazaars are, although everyone complained about high prices, and shortages of some goods including medicines.

Question - Thanks for doing this ama. There are a lot of rumours and scare stories about life for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people in Iran. Were you able to get an impression of what life is like there for sexual minorities? (from stinko_de_mayo)

Lyse answers: There is a concern for minorities in Iran. President Rouhani has spoken about putting human rights of all kinds on the agenda. Unfortunately, on this last trip, there wasn't time to look at this particular issue. But you are right to raise it.

Question - Say you have all the world listening to your one sentence, what would you say? (from Kwonza)

Lyse answers: Listen. Listen well to the stories that are told. And listen with your own questions and compassion.

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