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Persian Dogs

One of the dubious accomplishments of the Islamic Republic of Iran is how much it’s succeeded at making criminality utterly banal. The government has made so many prosaic things illegal – from certain hairstyles, to satellite transmissions — that consistent enforcement is impossible, and hypocrisy is endemic. Rule-breaking is so ubiquitous that Iranians often don’t ...

Keivan/Getty Images
Keivan/Getty Images

One of the dubious accomplishments of the Islamic Republic of Iran is how much it’s succeeded at making criminality utterly banal. The government has made so many prosaic things illegal – from certain hairstyles, to satellite transmissions — that consistent enforcement is impossible, and hypocrisy is endemic. Rule-breaking is so ubiquitous that Iranians often don’t even feel compelled to hide their flouting of the law; better off just doing what you want and hoping you just won’t get nabbed for it. So you go into the supermarket, and next to the cashier you’ll see a stand holding Hollywood new releases that wouldn’t make it past the censors.

Or, as this Tehran Bureau post reminded me, you’ll drive on the highway past people selling contraband puppies off of truck beds. (Though the photo suggests a back alley arrangement.) Dogs are technically illegal in Iran, but in a tacit acknowledgement of the popularity of the puppy black market, the government hasn’t barred the sale of dog food.

One can only imagine what sort of strained small talk this leads to at the cash register. Perhaps the Iranian government should consider legislating some sort of animal amnesty. A canine version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

Cameron Abadi is deputy editor at Foreign Policy. He previously worked at the New Republic and Foreign Affairs and as a correspondent in Germany and Iran. His writing has appeared in Bloomberg Businessweek, the New Yorker, the New Republic, and Der Spiegel.  @cameronabadi

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