I am amongst a group of young women at a bustling Tehran restaurant who are celebrating their university graduations. These girls are the sort of young people that writers (myself included) often enthuse about: the educated, burgeoning children of the Iranian Revolution, with enlightened ideals, at odds with their hardline politicians. Yet these students don’t appear to be fully conscious of the outstanding UN sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme. ‘We’ve been too busy cramming for exams, I can’t even remember the last time I read a newspaper,’ is one typical response. Still, even if she had picked up a newspaper, she would have had to read between the lines to decipher such news. Iran’s National Security Council has for some time banned any negative reporting of outside pressure over its nuclear programme. This uninformed, passive, politically disengaged outlook is rather typical of most Iranians I have talked to in recent months, rich or poor.
Yet like most Iranians these young women openly grumble about the rules and regulations; the lack of jobs, inflation, poverty and corruption. They mock Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and unashamedly breach the strict guidelines by wearing their compulsory headscarves way back over their head to reveal as much (illicit) hair as possible. This is especially daring as Iran has endured an intensive summer crusade to banish widespread violation of the Islamic dress codes that has seen many cautioned and arrested. Shadi proudly shows off a personally compiled list of all the major shopping centres and thoroughfares in Tehran on her possible daily route where police cars and vans are positioned. Her approach is to avoid going through these areas. The salient mood here seems to be to outmanoeuvre and circumvent rather than face confrontation. ... (more)