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The Iran Primer

Youth in Iran Part 3: The Politics of Fashion

Maral Noori
            They have bare forearms! They have shapely legs! They even have daring waistlines! And most of all, they vote!
            To understand politics in Iran these days, outsiders also have to understand female fashion. A woman’s right-to-wear was an implicit theme in the election of Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani, who won huge chunks of the young and female vote in June by pledging to “minimize government interference” in the country's cultural affairs. He acknowledged demands for greater individual freedoms.

      Shortly after his election, Rouhani was more specific on his official English-language Twitter account. “If some1 doesn’t comply with rules for clothing, person’s virtue shuldn’t come under question. Our emphasis shud b on virtue,” @hassanrouhani tweeted July 3.
      The political reality is that Rouhani was responding to Iran’s expressive young women, for whom dress has become a symbolic way to speak their mind. A new generation of glam fashionistas, both designers and consumers, has discarded lackluster street clothes that were a classical stereotype of the Islamic Republic.
      Fiery reds, flashy yellows, bright blues and brassy greens are replacing the dark, drab and dreadful—and defying rigid dress restrictions that have inhibited Iranian women from showing their shapes or individuality since the 1979 revolution.
            The new hipster leggings, studs and leather now worn by Iran’s home-grown Material Girls sometimes tempt government dictates. But the regime now has trouble pushing back fashion trends when 70 percent of its females are under 35—and part of Iran’s largest voting bloc. Designers are utilizing social media, especially Facebook even though it is banned, to promote their fashions.

      Designer Naghmeh Kiumarsi (slideshow of designs to the left) has led the way, converting the classic hijab into chic headcover.  She also transformed the manteau—a long, loose coat—into sassy jackets that would pass as top-line fashion in any European capital. Kiumarsi’s work is unique for its use of traditional Iranian textiles and Persian poetry. Her scarves carry decorative calligraphy and images from some of the most popular Iranian poems.
            “The ideas in my designs come directly from the experiences of my life combined with the courage to express them through the textures and forms,” Kiumarsi said. “’Remember to Fly,’ my latest collection, conveys the positive message that the sky is the limit. If we want to kiss the sky, we should remember to fly and not be afraid.”

      Farnaz Abdoli is the chief designer of Poosh Fashion, one of Iran’s most popular lines (slideshow of designs to the left). Abdoli even created a refreshingly casual look for the chador, an enveloping black cloak that covers the most conservative women’s bodies from head to toe. She replaced it with a shorter poncho in a rich woven textile, matched with red-stripped leggings and a bright scarf that daringly exposes a bit of hair and a woman’s neck.  
            Iran’s current extreme makeover is not the first time fashion has been implicit in Iranian politics. The 1979 revolution was partly a reaction to rapid modernization by the short-lived Pahlavi dynasty. Reza Pahlavi, who was shah from 1925 until 1941 when he was forced out for Nazi sympathies, forced Western fashion on women. He banned Islamic dress, arguing that it impeded a woman’s ability to progress. The new law was enforced by soldiers who forcefully removed chadors and veils.
            The revolution was a rejection of Westernization, including its mini-skirts and make-up. Many women then still clung to tradition—at a time that literacy among women was just over 40 percent, according to the World Bank.

      Now, it’s just the reverse, a reflection of the growing dynamism – and education -- among Iran’s women. More than 95 percent of females between 15 and 24 are now literate, over double the number who could read and write in the mid-1970s.
      They accounted for more than 60 percent of all university students until 2012, when ultraconservatives under former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad restricted women from studying 77 subjects--including engineering, education, and counseling—at 36 universities. The subjects were reportedly too “manly.”

            Iran’s women are again pushing back, however. Normally, Kiumarsi explained, women revert to modest wear during religious holidays. But in a reflection of how much is changing, she noted, Tehran designers this summer dared to add in-your-face flash – including studs and leather -- to black chadors during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim world.

Maral Noori is a Program Assistant in the Center for Conflict Management at the United States Institute of Peace.
Photo Credits: Coralin Design, Naghmeh Kiumarsi, POOSHdesign (Farnaz Abdoli), Apameh Design by Shabnam Rezaei
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Zarif Outlines New Foreign Policy

            In several interviews and speeches, Iran’s new foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has offered new insight on how foreign policy would take new directions under President Hassan Rouhani. The following are excerpts from public remarks, translated from Farsi, and an interview in English with Iranian website http://irdiplomacy.ir/en.

Parliamentary Hearing
      “We will not give up even an iota of the Iranian nation’s rights and we will widen the scope of our friendships in the world, while we will be ready to force other actors in the international arena to turn their hostile attitude and behavior into [interactive] relations [with Iran] based on cooperation.
      “In a region which is suffering from extremism, insecurity and instability, Iran is the harbor of stability, security and self-sprung peace without dependence on foreign powers.
      “The approach of moderation in the [Rouhani] administration’s foreign policy will be based on realism, self-belief and self-awareness in order to build mutual understanding and confidence with the purpose of upgrading the country’s capacity as well as its security and development.
            “By creating opportunities and reducing threats, the new administration will expand the circle of friendships across the region and the world… The administration of moderation is prepared to make other players in the international scene reconsider their hostile behavior toward Iran.
            “There have been questions about my communications with some current U.S. officials. Some of these officials were once against the warmongering [U.S.] government. I communicated with them in the framework of my duties. I'm proud if I have been able to create a divide among those pushing for a war.”
Interview with Iranian Diplomacy
One of the slogans of the government of “prudence and hope” was the issue of moderation. How would you define moderation in the area of foreign policy?
            In my opinion, moderation means realism and the creation of balance between the different needs of the country in the advancement of foreign policy and its goals in the framework of prudent and wise methods and with an appropriate dialogue. Moderation does not mean forgetting the values or leaving the principles aside. Moderation does not mean ignoring the rights of the country either. In other words, as I mentioned in my speech in the Parliament, moderation is rooted in self-belief; a person who believes in his capabilities, power, possibilities, and capacities can take steps on the path of moderation. But an individual who feels weakness and fear will generally pursue radicalism. The radicals of the world are cowards. Despite the fact that their slogans might be different, they have close and good relations with each other. Today, the world needs moderation and the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a powerful country, can advance its foreign policy with moderation.
Following his inauguration and in his first press conference, the President stated that one of his major priorities is to restart nuclear negotiations with the P5+1. Do you have any new proposals for this task?
            We have had numerous discussions inside the government with the President with regard to how we should pursue the nuclear rights of the country and remove the oppressive sanctions imposed upon the Islamic Republic of Iran. Our basis for work is insisting on Iran’s rights and removing the logical concerns of the international community. As the Supreme Leader and the President himself have reiterated, this is easy provided that the objective is the resolution of the nuclear issue. We believe that the resolution of the nuclear issue requires political determination, and the election of Dr. Rouhani in the Islamic Republic of Iran, with his record in this dossier, indicates that the people of Iran demand the resolution of the nuclear issue at the appropriate time. We hope that this political determination for the resolution of the nuclear issue also exists on the other side. In that case, we do not have any concerns about reassuring the world of the peacefulness of our nuclear program for, based on the “fatwa” of the Supreme Leader and Iran’s strategic needs, nuclear weapons have no place in our national security and can even disrupt it.
There are rumors that the nuclear dossier might be transferred to the Foreign Ministry from the High Council of National Security. Do you confirm such speculations and is there a specific plan to transfer this dossier?
            I have not heard anything about this issue. This is a decision that is within the domain of the President’s authority. Nevertheless, considering my experiences in this case, I will make efforts to help in the advancement of this issue no matter what responsibility I might have. But decisions with regard to how we should pursue the nuclear dossier and the form and framework of negotiations are made at the higher levels of our political system.
As the Rouhani administration came to power, we witnessed the formation of anti-Iran movements in both the Congress and the Senate. On the other hand, in their wars of propaganda, the Israelis claim that the government in Iran has changed but the policies are the same as before. How do you intend to deal with such radicalism?
            It seems that the warmongers are concerned about the reduction of problems and are trying their hardest to find an excuse to intensify the crisis. The important point is for the decision-makers in Europe and the US to comprehend the nature and goals of the warmongers well and not allow the agenda of warmongering and tension-building – through oppressive pressures on the Iranian people which have no basis in international law – to prevent the usage of opportunities which can be used to find a solution. The same radical policy shows that the radicals are cowards and are concerned about negotiation and dialogue. Through resorting to hasty and pointless methods, these people close the door on moderation and balance. And cowards usually do not achieve their political objectives.
If bilateral talks with the US are proposed on the sidelines of meetings such as the UN General Assembly or P5+1 negotiations, would you accept such a proposal?
            The Supreme Leader has stated his opinion with regard to these negotiations several times. There is no issue with negotiation itself, but the question is what issues will be discussed in these talks and how much of a political determination does exist on the other side to resolve the problems. The issue is whether this political determination will take shape and whether the US administration is ready to stand against the pressure groups and prevent the radicals groups from gaining leadership of this movement. In fact, this issue is a test for the US administration to show its readiness to play a serious role in finding a solution.
Do you not consider bilateral talks between Tehran and Washington as the secret prerequisite for the improvement of relations between Iran and Europe?
            I consider political determination as the prerequisite for the improvement of relations. The methods can be evaluated but what is necessary is the formation of this political determination and its practical manifestation. Different methods can then be used to advance our goals. When it is not clear whether this political determination exists or not, the extent of the efficiency of new methods is not clear either. In Iran, the election of Mr. Rouhani shows that the people have decided to have constructive interaction with the world and, through his speeches and choices, Mr. Rouhani has also displayed his political determination to do so. Now, what is important is for the same determination to be formed on the other side.
You are taking over the position of foreign minister at a time when the Middle East is going through a critical period. There are different ongoing crises in Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Iraq. What are your priorities on regional issues?
            Due to the mismanagement of certain players, which we have seen especially from outside the region during the past few years, conditions in the region are moving towards chaos and necessitate practical measures by everyone involved to contain the crisis. Fundamentalism, on one hand, and forgetting and ignoring the votes of the people, on the other, and, of course, the very clear intervention of foreign countries, have inflamed the region, the result of which is the killing of thousands of innocent people. Therefore, it is not only necessary for serious measures to be taken to end the crisis in Egypt, but the more serious need of the region and the world is for serious measures to be taken to prevent radicalism through local democratic models. I believe that the Islamic Republic of Iran, particularly after this year’s political epic, can play a significant role in this area.
Photo credit: Javad Zarif by Max Talbot-Minkin via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

Youth in Iran Part 2: Parkour Fever

Garrett Nada

            Young Iranians are scaling walls, leaping staircases and flipping over benches. But they’re not running from the police. They’re practicing parkour, a blend of gymnastics, martial arts and plain old obstacle-course athletics. Participants are called traceurs, French for tracers. They have no equipment. They use nothing but their bodies.

      Parkour is attractive in Iran partly because it’s all about freedom and defying traditional limits. Some of Iran’s most daring traceurs are women. They too carve unorthodox paths through parks, allies and even rooftops.
      Now practiced worldwide, parkour is not competitive; it lacks set rules. But mastering the organic discipline requires out-of-the-box thinking. Top traceurs can run full-speed at nearly any obstacle and figure out a way around or over it.
      Iranian traceurs are gaining a reputation on the international circuit from their videos posted on Facebook and YouTube. Many Iranian teams—also called crews or clans—take inspiration from their Western counterparts. It’s one of several unconventional sports that are now creating a bridge across the otherwise deep international political divide.
            The sport was imported from France, where a small group of young men developed the discipline in the 1980s. It was heavily influenced by military obstacle course training, but took on a faster and freer form. Thousands of young Iranians have taken on the challenging discipline since the early 2000s, after Iranian state television broadcast Yamakasi, a French film about parkour’s young founders. The craze is now popular even in remote Iranian villages.

            Amirhossein Imani and his high school friends founded one of the first teams, Rahaa,  in 2003. They promoted parkour through a grassroots group called irPK. Imani visited London in 2004 to train under top parkour teams. Websites like parkour.ir, urbanfreeflow.ir and and forums began popping later that year. And the first parkour magazine was published in 2011.
            By mid-2013, the go-to website Parkour Iran listed nearly 50 rival teams and clans in its directory. Some have their own websites, Facebook pages and YouTube channels. Some include young women, who have taken to free parkour because the government has not adequately invested in women’s athletics.
            “It’s all about speed – unlike the lives of young Iranian women, which sometimes feel like they’re frozen,” a young female traceur told France 24 in mid-2013.
             Female athletes have added obstacles of cumbersome Islamic dress as well as keeping an eye out for authorities. “We fear getting in trouble with the police or basijis [volunteer militiamen], who could accuse us of copying a Western fad,” a 20-year-old university student told France 24. “We could also get in trouble for practicing sports outside designated facilities.”
            One of most noted female teams is Street Bax in Lahijan, a resort town on the Caspian Sea. Their video of girls parkour-ing across trees, walls, sand-dunes and staircases had more than 42,000 hits on Youtube.
            Iran’s Ministry of Youth and Sports has occasionally permitted parkour exhibitions as part of breakdance competitions. Some teams have also held independent competitions. Team Rahaa has built indoor parkour courses for several indoor jams.
            Iranian youth have also taken to freerunning, a parkour off-shoot with added flare. Freerunners do flips, spins and dance moves in between obstacles. Sebastien Foucan, one of parkour’s French originators, started the craze. Iranians are now signing up to compete in international competitions.
            Mohammad Rasouli from Tehran submitted the following video to qualify for Red Bull’s 2013 Art of Motion competition. The event, scheduled for September, will bring freerunners from all over the world to Santorini, Greece.

Garrett Nada is a Program Assistant in the Center for Conflict Management at the United States Institute of Peace. 

Click here for Youth in Iran Part 1: "The Determinators"

Photo Credit: Rahaa Professional Sports Team

Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org


Report on Iran Talks:New Hope under Rouhani

            President Hassan Rouhani’s electoral victory may signal a change in style and negotiating tactics on Iran’s controversial nuclear program, according to a new International Crisis Group report. Rouhani authored the only previous nuclear agreement between Tehran and the West in the 2000s. And in mid-2013, he repeatedly said that Iran could be more transparent about its nuclear program.
      But the report warns that striking a deal today is more difficult than in the past. Iran has expanded its nuclear program and the West has imposed several rounds of devastating sanctions since Rouhani was chief negotiator. Positions have hardened and trust has deteriorated. “Western doubts about Rouhani’s ability to deliver are matched by Tehran’s skepticism that the U.S. in particular can accept a modus vivendi with the Islamic Republic or that President Barak Obama has the political muscle to lift sanctions,” according to the report. And Tehran’s core demands — recognition of its right to uranium enrichment and sanctions relief—are unlikely to change. The following is the report’s executive summary with a link to the full text at the end.

            In a region that recently has produced virtually nothing but bad news, Hassan Rouhani’s 4 August swearing in as Iran’s president offers a rare and welcome glimmer of hope. There are still far more questions than answers: about the extent of his authority; his views on his country’s nuclear program, with which he long has been associated; and the West’s ability to display requisite flexibility and patience. But, although both sides can be expected to show caution, now is the time to put more ambitious proposals on the table, complement the multilateral talks with a bilateral U.S.-Iranian channel and expand the dialogue to encompass regional security issues.
            Given his blunt criticism of the country’s trajectory, notably on the nuclear file, Rouhani’s election stunned almost all observers, and so one ought to be modest in offering retrospective interpretations of his victory. His promise of change arguably appealed to an electorate that traditionally has seized on presidential contests to try to turn the page; his more conservative rivals were deeply divided and burdened with former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s desultory record; and the leadership’s quest for renewed legitimacy after the hit suffered in the controversial 2009 elections possibly led it to accept the triumph of a strong critic. Too, one could speculate that Rouhani’s success ultimately serves Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s interests, helping both to restore domestic faith in elections, one of the Islamic Republic’s political linchpins, and to reduce international pressure at a time when sanctions are inflicting unprecedented economic pain.
            Questions about how Iran got to this place are overshadowed, however, by speculation regarding where it might go from here. Some, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, see Rouhani as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”, the gentle façade of a regime whose nuclear ambitions have not changed one iota; others would like to view him as the saviour charged with extricating Iran from its predicament, agreeing to far-reaching nuclear concessions in exchange for commensurate sanctions relief. In this respect as well, a healthy dose of humility is required given the opaqueness of the Islamic Republic’s decision-making.
            Several elements nonetheless can be of utility in seeking to make predictions. The first has to do with the nature of Iranian politics. Presidents are far from all-powerful, having to contend with myriad competing centres of authority and influence, overt and covert, of which the Supreme Leader is only the most obvious. Fundamentals have not changed: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei retains final say; friction between him and the president is all but inevitable; and factionalism will remain both a fact of life and a means of constraining Rouhani. At the same time, presidents are not mere figureheads; witness the differences in style and substance between Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami and Ahmadinejad.
            Secondly, Rouhani is far from an unknown. He has been a fixture of the Islamic Republic since its beginnings, a consummate insider with a track record and voluminous writings. Those offer some clues regarding his preferred approach. He brought about the first and only nuclear agreement with the West, a significant achievement given the depths of mutual mistrust, yet he also openly justified the accord as allowing Iran to complete its nuclear infrastructure even while negotiating. He has bluntly criticised his successors, yet has focused more on their bluster and reckless negotiating style than on their ultimate goals. His negotiating experience also carries mixed messages: that he feels the West let him down, causing him to suffer bitter criticism at home, may well prompt him to greater caution. In particular, at a time when the U.S. and EU are intent on limiting the extent of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, Rouhani could be more inclined to offer concessions regarding that program’s transparency than its scope.
            That suggests a third point. The change in presidents will usher in important changes in style and negotiating tactics but certainly will not bring about significant changes in Iran’s bottom line demands: recognition of its right to enrich and meaningful sanctions relief. A deal today is thus harder to imagine than when Rouhani last was in charge of the nuclear dossier. Positions have hardened; trust has diminished; the nuclear program has substantially advanced; and sanctions have proliferated. Western doubts about Rouhani’s ability to deliver are matched by Tehran’s scepticism that the U.S. in particular can accept a modus vivendi with the Islamic Republic or that President Barak Obama has the political muscle to lift sanctions.
            Such misgivings are unavoidable but should not be paralysing. Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany) have become stale; now is as promising a time as is likely to occur to refresh them. This could be achieved in three interlocking ways: altering the substance of a possible deal, combining a confidence-building agreement on Iran’s 20 per cent enrichment with presentation of the contours of a possible nuclear endgame, as Crisis Group has proposed; modifying modalities of the negotiations by complementing multilateral discussions with confidential, bilateral U.S.-Iranian engagement; and expanding the scope of those talks to include regional security matters.
            The promise embodied by Rouhani’s election can grow or quickly fizzle. As he takes office and comes face to face with myriad domestic and foreign challenges, it would be a good idea for the West to encourage him to move in the right direction.
Click here for the full report.

Youth in Iran Part 1: "The Determinators"

Robin Wright
            They’re the determinators—the politically savvy, socially sassy, and media astute young of Iran. And they count, quite literally, as never before as a new president takes over.
       President Hassan Rouhani owes his election to the young, who are Iran’s largest voting bloc. At the last minute, vast numbers opted to back him rather than boycott the poll. They’re also now the centrist cleric’s biggest headache, as he has to meet their expectations. Two-thirds of Iran’s 75 million people are under 35—and they vote again in four years.
      But the Islamic Republic’s long-term survival may also be determined by the first post-revolution generation, born in the 1980s and now coming of age. For Iran’s baby boomers reflect the regime’s almost existential conundrum—and the nexus between economic and nuclear policies.
            To be credible, the world’s only modern theocracy must better the lives of its struggling young majority. And to jumpstart the economy, Tehran will have to compromise with the outside world on its controversial nuclear program to get punitive international sanctions lifted. It’s a huge—but increasingly inescapable—price to pay for keeping the determinators on board.
            The regime has limited time to act. Iran’s young are antsy because they are better educated and more skilled than any earlier generation. Literacy has almost doubled since the revolution—to over 95 percent, even among females. Iran won a U.N. award for closing the gender gap.
            Yet one of the theocracy’s biggest successes has proven to be one of its greatest vulnerabilities. It can’t absorb the post-revolution babies.
      Iran’s young face rampant unemployment, estimated officially at up to 30 percent but unofficially at up to 50 percent. During his first appearance at parliament, Iran’s new president acknowledged in June that 4 million university graduates were jobless—and a mushrooming problem.
      The core economic issue has had a rippling effect. In a country where the median age is 27, vast numbers can’t afford to marry or move out of their parents’ homes. One-third of females and one-half of all males between 20 and 34 are now unmarried, according to the Statistical Center of Iran.       
      Frustration is reflected in soaring drug use. The State Welfare Organization reported this year that almost 72 percent of Iran’s drug addicts are between 18 and 25.
            Born after both the monarchy and the revolution, the young often refer to themselves as the lost generation because they have little to do and even less to inspire them. Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini died when they were in diapers. And most were tots during the traumatic eight-year war with Iraq, which produced more than 1 million casualties in the 1980s. The conflict shaped the goals, fears and nationalism of their parents and the current political leadership.
            But for the young, the war is relegated to history—and the now fading public billboards of the previous generation’s war “martyrs.”
            Sixty percent of Iran’s young now say the Islamic Republic needs to adopt new ways of thinking to secure its future, according to an Intermedia Young Publics survey released in May. One-third of those polled between the ages of 16 and 25 said they would abandon Iran if given the option.
            The implications can’t be overstated. Iran’s post-revolution generation is the largest baby boom in Iran’s 5,000-year history. Its influence will only grow due to one of the world’s most unique population bumps.
            Iran’s twenty-somethings were born during a decade-long blip in between two ambitious family planning programs. The shah promoted birth control during his final decade. By the end of the 1970s, 37 percent of women practiced family planning.
            After the 1979 revolution, the ruling clerics reversed course and called on Iranian women to breed, breed, breed an Islamic generation. And they did. The population almost doubled from 34 to 62 million in about a decade.
            But the theocracy soon realized that it couldn’t feed, cloth, house, educate or eventually employ those swelling numbers—and voters. So it launched a novel (and free) birth control program, including required family planning classes for newlyweds. By the 1990s, the average family fell from six children to less than two—lower than during the monarchy.
            Iran’s 70 percent drop was “one of the most rapid and pronounced fertility declines ever recorded in human history,” according to Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute. The birth rate plummeted so far that former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned in 2010 that Iran would be stuck with a “dangerous” aging population in another 30 years.
      By actuarial standards, Iran’s baby boomers will have disproportionate clout for at least the next half century on most aspects of Iranian life. Politically, their impact could even be more enduring than the current ruling theocrats. They’ve already shown demonstrated in many forms how far they’re willing to go.
      In 2009, students led eight months of Green Movement protests after the disputed presidential reelection of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They mobilized millions in cities across Iran during the “Where My Vote?” campaign, the largest challenge to the regime since the 1979 revolution.
      The determinators may no longer be able to protest on the streets. But can make or break politicians. Their interest and energy turned the 2013 presidential campaign around in the final days, boosting Rouhani to a surprise, come-from-behind victory over five other candidates.
      Their voices resonate across Iran in other ways too. As the region’s largest network of bloggers, they boldly diss on their revolution, daring to post criticism, jibes, jokes and political cartoons on banned social media through circuitous routes.
      They’re increasingly creating an alternative culture, pushing boundaries further than any time since the 1979 revolution. The stereotype of their parents’ generation was a black-shrouded woman or a young man sporting a headband that vowed martyrdom for Islam.
      Images of the young today are more likely to be mall-hopping, increasingly in flashier fashions that defy conservative Islamic dress. Or they may be at play, including performing parkour, a holistic sport that combines running, climbing, swinging, vaulting, jumping and rolling that resembles open-air gymnastics but in public places.
      In a telling sign of changing times, Iran’s young have even popularized rap as the rhythm of dissent in the world’s only modern theocracy. They hold back little in their warnings to the regime, as Yas, Iran’s leading hip-hop artist, rapped defiantly,
      “Listen to my words and see the agonies I suffered
      What my generation has seen, made our tears fall
      Those without such pains—how they saw ours,
      They became even more cruel, what a pity for our land!”
Robin Wright has traveled to Iran dozens of times since 1973. She has covered several elections, including the 2009 presidential vote. She is the author of several books on Iran, including "The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and transformation in Iran" and "The Iran Primer: Power, Politics and US Policy." She is a joint scholar at USIP and the Woodrow Wilson Center.
This piece first appeared on www.foreignpolicy.com
Photo credits: Afshin Farzin from Rahaa Crew via Facebook, Basij volunteer via Wikimedia Commons, @HassanRouhani via Twitter, Hijab-3 by Pooyan Tabatabaei via Flickr, Isfahan University graduates by gire_3pich2005 (Own work) [FAL] via Wikimedia Commons, Coralin Design



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