Since 1979, Iran has been an Islamic Republic. What initially was a mass movement against the rule of the Shah turned into the only religious revolution of modern times; a revolution that radically transformed one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East.
The Islamic Republic is a country of contradictions where people seem to always find a way to bypass laws; for this reasons many Iranians say they are similar to Italians.
Alcohol is prohibited but finding it is not difficult.
The hijab is mandatory for all women, including tourists, but while western women struggle to get to terms with it, many Iranian women wear it in the most discreet and almost invisible ways.
Satellite is not allowed but every balcony seems to have one.
Music is censored yet everyone seems to be listening to Iranian artists living abroad.
Homosexuality is illegal, yet I have never been approached more often by men.
In this Islamic Republic mosque attendance is one of the lowest in any Muslim country and finding someone calling himself an atheist is not difficult.
Wearing a hijab is mandatory even for tourists, physical contact between man and women is not exactly welcomed and dancing is forbidden. Women sit in specific wagons on the Tehran metro and they are not allowed to drive a motorbike.
Women that are now in their 50s and 60s enjoyed a liberal life before the revolution and are now seeing their daughters forced to follow the rules imposed 35 years ago. The education that these girls receive at home is in open contrast with what is taught at school and so.
While this may be the truth for most women with urban upbringings, little villages, as it usually is, are far more rooted in traditions. Here religion plays a fundamental part in the life of people and the Western way of life is not a goal.
The images of war martyrs are ubiquitous: the “forgotten war” between Iran and Iraq is supposed to have caused more than one million victims. The “martyrs” were celebrated with images hanging around every town of Iran. The passing of time washed out many of these posters or graffiti that now seem to be slowly fading away.
Just as everywhere else life goes on as usual.
98% of Iranians are Shia muslims. The other main main religious communities are catholics (mainly Armenians) and Zoroastrians. Schools can be found pretty much anywhere and, contrarily to my expectancies I was always welcomed
– What is your religion? Catholic?
– mmmh, what then? Hinduist?
– What is that?
Houses and cities made of mud…
Mickey Mouse In Iran
McDonalds and Starbucks do not exist in Iran, but Mickey Mouse made it till the forgotten alley of some bazaar.
Iran is a country of contradictions: younger generations are aiming for a westernised type of life made of malls and coffee chains.
Often portrayed as a bunch of chest beating fundamentalists or revolutionary students, Iranians are in fact possibly the most welcoming people in the world. On camera they always put on a proud face.
In the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution call to prayers became obligatory; for one of the most liberal countries in the area before 1979 and many people ended up disliking the relation between religion and politics. Now Iran is one of the muslim countries with the lowest mosque attendance.
Talking to the more educated part of the population gives you a strange idea of Iran as meeting someone that professes himself as an atheist is quite common.
A Lack Of Straight Lines
While taking pictures of mosques and other buildings I suddenly realised that nothing is geometrically perfect in Iran. Probably I am too used to modern architecture.
“The average salary for an engineer is 300 USD per month, the cost of a Saipa is 7000 USD. Divide 7000 per 300.”
“For 24 months I do not eat, I don’t buy anything.. I only work. And what do I get? This Saipa shit.”
Things Of Beauty