- Youth is the largest population bloc in Iran. Over 60 percent of Iran’s 80 million people are under 30 years old.
- Iranian youth are among the most politically active in the 57 nations of the Islamic world. As the most restive segment of Iranian society, the young also represent one of the greatest long-term threats to the current form of theocratic rule.
- Young activists have influenced the Islamic Republic’s political agenda since 1997. After the 2009 presidential election, youth was the biggest bloc involved in the region’s first sustained “people power” movement for democratic change, creating a new political dynamic in the Middle East.
- The Islamic Republic forcibly regained control over the most rebellious sector of society through detentions, expulsions from universities, and expanding the powers of its own young paramilitary forces.
- But youth demands have not changed, and anger seethes deeply beneath the surface. The regime also remains vulnerable because it has failed to address basic socio-economic problems among the young.
- The government generates only about 300,000 of the roughly 1 million jobs needed annually to absorb young people entering the labor market. Iran’s economy would need to grow by10 percent annually to reduce youth unemployment. The International Monetary Fund predicts only 0.6 percent growth in 2015.
- In 2010, the government intensified its monitoring of youth activities and issued a list of approved men’s hairstyles and women’s clothing that affected mainly the young.
- Young Iranians have borne a large share of the regime’s retributions for unrest in 2009. Thousands were detained in the tumultuous months following the disputed election. Many student activists were also given failing grades or threatened with expulsion from universities.
- Iran is one of the most tech-savvy societies in the developing world, with an estimated 30 million Internet users, led by youth.
- Iran boasts between 60,000 and 110,000 active blogs, one of the highest numbers in the Middle East, led by youth.
- Despite prohibitions on women’s dress and make-up, Iranian women account for almost one-third of all cosmetics bought in the two dozen countries of the Middle East, again led by youth.
- The impact of Iran’s baby boomers, born in the 1980s, is only beginning to be felt. Now in their twenties, the boomers will become even more important as they age in defining – and potentially redefining – Iran’s political, economic and social agenda over the next quarter century.
- Like the general population, a significant percentage of young Iranians are believed to support Iran’s quest for nuclear energy as a key to economic development—and their own futures.
- Despite sanctions, Iran’s young are better educated and more worldly than any previous generation. Most are exposed to global media, ideas and culture through satellite television and the Internet. Most young Iranians are believed to want to be part of the international community and globalization.
- But given millennia-old Persian nationalism, even young reform advocates may be reluctant to compromise with the outside world on issues viewed as impinging on national sovereignty.
This chapter was originally published in 2010, and is updated as of August 2015.
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