Faces of Iranian youth
Behind a suffocating political system and inquisitive cliches, Iranian youth dream of a break with the system while proudly defending their culture. By Gwenvaël Engel
Culture vultures: Tehran's galleries are very popular among Iranian young people and the cultural scene is constantly diversifying. According to a 25-year-old photographer, "government restrictions play an important role in this phenomenon. Art is seen as a means of emancipation"
Murals permitted: while protest graffiti is forbidden in Iran, the public authorities actively encourage young artists to decorate school walls. "Sometimes even locals stop in the street, astonished to see a woman painting so freely on the walls," Negin says to me, laughing. "When they see what I am doing, total strangers often encourage me – for artistic reasons, but also for reasons of emancipation"
Time out from the system: many Iranians like to travel into the countryside on weekends to get away from the hustle and bustle of the cities, but mostly to escape the police presence for a few days
Dreaming of a simpler life: the ardour of youth knows neither borders nor ideology. Some want to emigrate in the hope of a better future, others are keen to stay. "We love this country as passionately as we hate it," one young man told me
Across a cultural divide: in the working-class neighbourhoods of southern Tehran, a more "traditional" youth reveals itself. Here, the men are looking for a male interlocutor, avoiding speaking to an unknown woman out of modesty
A window on the world: tourism has had a considerable impact on Iran's coastal villages. Mohammad, who works in tourism around the Persian Gulf, confesses to me: "Thanks to tourism, my cousins are learning English and discovering other cultures from an early age. That would have been unthinkable 10 years ago"
The perfect desert island: Qeshm is a godsend for Iranian youth. Water sports gained a foothold there several years ago, proving an inevitable draw for young people
In symbiosis with the sea: life on Qeshm takes place more on the water than off it. Fishing is one local industry that is thriving
State obligations: Meisam is worried about beginning his military service, due to start in a few days. He has no idea how he will send the money he earns home, or who will take care of his sick eighteen-year-old wife in his absence
On the road to recovery: Ali and Majid are gradually weaning themselves off drugs. For some young Iranians struggling to find their place in a world weighed down by tradition, substance abuse can often seem like the answer