Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A New Record for the Islamic Republic of Iran!

A new record for the Islamic Republic: Iran is the world's 7th largest importer of beauty products and ranks 3rd in per capita usage of such products. Nowadays, many Westerners who travel to Iran - specially the richer parts of Northern Tehran - are amazed by what they see. The "street fashion," as they call it, has spread rapidly among the Iranian youth who comprise nearly 70% of Iran's population. Yes, more than 2/3 of Iran's 70 million population is under the age of 30! During the 1980s, under Ayatollah Khomeini's leadership, the Iranian government encouraged people to be fruitful (!) and multiply in massive numbers. Within that decade, 2 million babies were born each year. Iran's population suddenly doubled, jumping from around 30 million in 1979 to more than 60 million by the early 1990s. Khomeini's ideological plan was to create a 20-million-man army to defend and propogate the Iranian Revolution. In a historic speech, delivered on Nov. 27 of 1979, Khomeini declared, "A country with 20 million youth must have 20 million riflemen or the military with 20 million soldiers; such a country will never be destroyed…”

Now, it seems as if the 20-million-man army Khomeini was calling for has come back to bite the regime in the arse. Instead of foot-soldiering the Islamic Republic's cause, this generation of Iranian youth has become the driving force behind the counter-culture revolution that is sweeiping the country's richer parts today. Images of Iranian women with the black chador are gradully being replaced by images of fashionably-dressed women with lots of makeup, highlights, and piercings.

In fact, such images shock many Iranians who travel back to their country after many years as well as Western journalists who visit Iran for the first time. One such visitor writes,
The same sub-cultures that exist in the west, like the druggies, the snobs,
the intellects, the hippies, the artists, the virgins and the experienced, the
gays are also existent in Iran but the difference is that now you can easily set
them apart on the streets by their dress-code and their encounter. They also
have their distinct cafes in the back streets of Tehran ... you would be amazed
at the kind of fashion that exists in Iran right now... people wear absolutely
what they want... the gay guys are wearing their nail-polish and earrings etc
and the girls are not short of any make-up or bare skin on the street... You
hardly wear any scarf in Iran, you practically see everyones' hair style and it
is the latest fashion that I see here in Amsterdam... [read the full article here]

Many argue the this counter-culture movement in Iran represents a wider struggle against the regime in the form of a passive revolution. Proponents of this idea argue that, since the costs of direct political activism in Iran are very high, opposition against the regime has gradually taken a cultural form; and that by opposing the establishment's preferred cultural norms, Iranian youth are actually using street-fashion as a weapon against the coercive might of the Islamic Republic. Clearly, since there is so many of them, the regime cannot do anything about it.

There are others, however, who argue that this is not an instance of a passive revolution, but of low self-esteem, of a deep psychological crisis that has afflicted Iran in recent years. The counter-culture movement in Iran, they say, is not a force for opposing the the regime, but rather a symptom of Iran's deep psychological crisis brought about by the restrictive social and cultural policies of the Islamic Republic.

Which argument is closer to truth, I don't know yet. All I know and hear is that girls in Iran - specially the rich parts of Northern Tehran - are getting hotter and hotter everyday, which makes me want to go back soon and... pay a visit to my family - yeah right!

View picture of the Iranian youth vacationing here!
More pictures of parties and girls here!

- Assareh

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