“A modern Alexis de Tocqueville, the author lived among his subjects in Shenzen, ‘the heartbeat of the rising China,’ while scouring the metropolis for stories.” — Publishers Weekly

“This remarkable book paints intimate portraits of some of the faceless millions of migrant workers who have made China’s economic miracle possible.”– Ivan Watson, CNN Foreign Correspondent

” A fascinating, moving and highly readable book.” — Jeff Crisp, Head, Policy Development and Evaluation Services, UNHCR

Embracing the Infidel


“An El Norte or Grapes of Wrath for the Muslim world–affecting, immediate and well written.”Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Behzad Yaghmaian’s intimate, horrifyingly vivid account of the plight of Muslim refugees… takes us deep into the souls of the men and women he befriends, following them from the chaotic human bazaar of Istanbul to Sofia, Athens, Paris, and beyond.” —Mother Jones

“A gripping tale of hardship, adventure and yearning, of hopes raised and dashed, and of troubled and sometimes heroic adaptations to refugee camps…. One of many strengths of this book is to show … what strangely mixed motives impel these brave, complicated people. A masterful storyteller, Yaghmaian reveals many layers to the refugees’ personalities and histories, and some to his own.”—The San Francisco Chronicle


An eye-opening personal account of an epic human drama, Embracing the Infidel takes us on an astounding journey along a modern-day underground railroad that stretches from Istanbul to Paris.  In this groundbreaking book, Iranian-American Behzad Yaghmaian has done what no other writer has managed to do–as he enters the world of Muslim migrants and tells their extraordinary stories of hope for a new life in the West.

In a tent city in Greece, they huddle together. Men and women from Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, and other countries. Most have survived war and brutal imprisonment, political and social persecution. Some have faced each other in battle, and all share a powerful desire for freedom. Behzad Yaghmaian lived among them, listened to their hopes, dreams, and fears–and now he weaves together dozens of their stories of yearning, persecution, and unwavering faith. We meet Uncle Suleiman, an Iraqi veteran of the Iran-Iraq war; once imprisoned by Saddam Hussein, he is now a respected elder of a ramshackle tent city in Athens, offering comfort and community to his fellow travelers…Purya, who fled Iran only to fall into the clutches of human smugglers and survive beatings and torture in Bulgaria…and Shahroukh Khan, an Afghan teenager whose world at home was shattered twice–once by the Taliban and again by American bombs–but whose story turns on a single moment of awakening and love in the courtyard of a Turkish mosque.

A chronicle of husbands separated from wives, children from parents, Embracing the Infidel is a portrait of men and women moving toward a promised land they may never reach–and away from a world to which they cannot return. It is an unforgettable tale of heartbreak and prejudice, courage, heroism, and hope.



Einaudi, April 2007

Embracing the Infidel in Italian

Ritratti di donne e uomini partiti da Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan e altri Paesi ancora, in viaggio verso una terra promessa. Mariti separati dalle mogli, bambini lontani dai genitori, famiglie dislocate per sempre. Un racconto indimenticabile e commovente di coraggio, eroismi, speranze.

È un esodo silenzioso e inarrestabile quello dei migranti musulmani in viaggio da Medio Oriente e Asia centrale verso Occidente. Sopravvissuti quasi tutti a guerre e violenze, a persecuzioni politiche o sociali, hanno un solo desiderio, quello di vivere in pace, e nessun interesse per fanatismi di sorta. In anni di viaggi e soggiorni sul campo, Yaghmaian ne ha raccolto e fotografato le storie. Un dramma umano che si ripete sulle strade che da Istanbul, Kandahar, Baghdad, Islamabad, portano a Parigi, Londra, New York, passando per tendopoli, centri di accoglienza, container, varchi nelle frontiere. Un libro che piú di ogni altro contribuisce a demolire l’immagine di un Islam solo terrorista, presentandoci un’umanità calda e dolorosa in cerca di migliori condizioni di vita.

«Shadi e Nima dall’Iran, Shahrokh Khan dall’Afghanistan, Roberto dall’Angola, Nur dal Sudan – tutti erano scappati per salvarsi la vita. Avevano bombardato i loro villaggi, gente armata aveva fatto irruzione nelle loro case, soldati avevano ucciso i loro cari. Nel corso della fuga erano stati preda di criminali, vittime di malattie. Volevano soltanto un posto sicuro in cui poter vivere in pace e lavorare con tranquillità, in cui poter rimettere in sesto la propria vita. Ma nel corso della loro fuga si sono imbattuti nelle frontiere, in linee che non potevano attraversare. Questa è la loro storia».


Social Change in Iran

A multi-level insider’s look at the changes transforming contemporary Iran.

This is a good source for learning about recent developments in Iran. All levels and collections. — Choice

Yaghmaian’s book is a captivating eyewitness account told by a knowledgeable insider… a book that deserves to be read widely. –VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Non-profit Organizations

Social Change in Iran is an inquiry into the recent changes in Iran, blending scholarly analysis, eyewitness accounts, and the author’s personal experiences. It tells the stories of everyday people, be it young men and women challenging the cultural and social mandates of the Islamic Republic, or workers toiling at multiple jobs to overcome harsh economic realities. This passionate homage to the people of Iran as told by a native is a glimpse into the human feelings and aspirations of a people subjected to varying forms of violence at home and widespread misunderstanding abroad. At the same time Yaghmaian provides an informed analysis of the widening political divide within the state, and the emergence of a movement for reform, both of which have shaken the seemingly indisputable foundations of the Islamic Republic.

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