Archives for June 2009

Blogs, rap and cosmetic surgery in modern Iran

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Jane Corbin | 12:59 UK time, Monday, 8 June 2009

Returning to Tehran after an absence of 16 years, the capital I discovered was one of true contrasts that reflect a deepening divide in this nation of 72 million people.

People told me they remain committed to the values of the Islamic Revolution,
but they are also clearly hungry for what modern life has to offer.

On the streets of a bustling Tehran, I saw a city of fashionable young women with colourful silk headscarves and the dramatic oversized sunglasses that dominate Western fashion magazines.

A current trend is for young women also to sport a shock of dyed blond hair, jutting out above their foreheads from under their scarves.

The conservative, black head coverings and flowing robes of the early phases of the revolution are being slowly replaced, despite the lurking presence of the morality police - ready to pounce on anyone they feel has gone too far.

Also popular in the Tehran of 2009 is cosmetic surgery, with the number of both men and women sporting post-surgical bandages on their face striking to the visitor.

Tehran is the plastic surgery capital of the Middle East. Perhaps even more startling than the trend for nosejobs and facelifts is the fact that sex change operations are sanctioned by religious decree, even though homosexuality is banned and gay people can be hanged.

It is in this younger, more
liberal Iran - 60% of the population is under the age of 30 - that I found a rapper named 'Nobody' and a blogger named Asieh.

'Nobody''s music is officially deemed to be 'western and decadent'. But the government ban on his performing and travelling does nothing to stop young people from downloading his music or video in which he and his crew blast their songs from the rooftops of Tehran.

While he tells me he is not political, 'Nobody' raps about God, nationalism, even in defence of Iran's much-disputed right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Asieh's blog details cases of women being brutalised, stoned and executed - often for adultery, although execution is not officially approved by the government.

Often blocked by the authorities, Asieh and her internet savvy contemporaries find a way around the filters and march on in defiance of the government to expose abuses of women's rights in the country.

Calling herself "a pioneer", Asieh says it falls on people like herself to bring about the change that Iran needs.

Iran's reformist candidates in Friday's presidential election are hoping that the country's young people turn out in large numbers to vote for that change.

You can also hear in this video from a member of Iran's scientific community who spoke to me about the impact of Western sanctions on their research work.


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