Social rules clash with reality for Iran's youth

Thu Oct 6, 2011 11:19am EDT
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By Hashem Kalantari

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Twenty-one-year-old Iranian Farnoush has her own job but no longer her own telephone.

When her father looked at her text messages and discovered she had a boyfriend, he confiscated the cell phone, saying her behavior was not proper in an Islamic republic.

"You have no idea. It's the worst feeling, the pressure, when your father finds out you have a boyfriend," Farnoush said, while plucking a customer's eyebrows at a Tehran salon.

Iran is governed by a version of sharia law which in theory prohibits any mingling between members of the opposite sex outside marriage or close family. While social rules were relaxed under reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, who was first elected in 1997, things have tightened up again since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad succeeded him in 2005.

With reformists sidelined after protests against Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election were crushed, parliamentary elections next March may end up being contested only by various factions on the right, leaving little hope for social liberalization anytime soon.

Nima Soltani, a 23-year-old psychology student, complains about "morality police" patrols on city streets to ensure people respect Islamic dress and other rules of conduct.

"If it is not one thing, it is another," he said. "If not a raid on a party you're at, it is having to answer about your hairstyle or the ornament worn around your neck."

Seventy percent of Iran's population is under 30 and has no real memory of the 1979 Islamic revolution.   Continued...

<p>An Iranian man speaks on his mobile phone as he sits in a bus during a snowy day in northern Tehran January 9, 2011. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl</p>