Despite their country's international reputation, residents find ways to balance cultural pride with modern pleasures
As the bus transporting arriving passengers from a domestic flight between Tehran and Shiraz lurches forward, a mullah in coffee-colored robes and a tightly wound white turban pulls out his iPhone 5s to check Facebook and scroll through messages. Even though the Iranian government bans most social media sites, including Twitter and YouTube, PresidentHassan Rouhani has a Facebook fan page. In fact, for most residents, there is a parallel Iran that exists independently of its curated international image.
Iran has a long list of problems, including human rights abuses, a lack of free media and an oppressive government. But to see it only in this negative light ignores the realties of daily life.
In a park in north Tehran, Mojtaba Afarin anchors nylon lines between the trees as rap music plays from his dangling white earbuds. He and his friends practice slacklining, a balancing sport that originated on a Washington state college campus but is now spreading quickly throughout Iran. Parks like this fill up with couples and families each evening.
Despite heavy sanctions against the country, it’s fairly easy to get an espresso while checking emails over the café’s free Wi-Fi. And while women must cover their hair in public, many young ladies perch their hijabs as far back as possible, revealing Miley Cyrus haircuts to complement designer jeans. Once off the streets and in private, the more affluent youth live much like their peers in Western countries, as alcohol is easily accessible.
Many Iranians negotiate a difficult balance between a fierce pride in their culture and a desire to be connected to the modern world, as well as an uncomfortable awareness of how foreigners see their country. After all, the most common question visitors are asked in the street is, “What do you think of Iran?” ------ ...