When we were in Iran in the summer of 2001 one of the most striking things was the cultural gulf between North and South Tehran. The cost of property in Iranian cities usually correlates with proximity to mountains. From the mountains comes water, and the rich have historically jostled for positions near to that supply of fresh water. These days, access to clean water isn’t quite such an issue, but the property prices still reflect that legacy.
The key way that the cultural gulf demonstrated itself was in the clothing on display. Technology commentator Joi Ito recently blogged about the tight coats which some young Iranians are substituting for their shapeless chadors. It looks like the stakes have risen since we were there, but you could always tell whether you were in the relatively liberal, westernised North or conservative South Tehran simply on the basis of the permissiveness of the clothing.
That divide was in my mind as I read the BBC’s recent article on a party in Tehran. The reporter paints a picture of an increasingly permissive society where young people are disengaged and mainly interested in hedonism.
That story fits neatly alongside this piece about an internet cafe in Iran, but contrasts somewhat with this one about yesterday’s anti-US/UK rally, or with the regular reports of student-led, anti-government demonstrations.
It’s good to see the media beginning to portray the many facets of Iranian society. I’m hoping that before long the portrayals will join together and show it for the multi-faceted society it is.