The Persian Gulf

The divide between young Iranians and the regime is widening every day.


Karim Sadjadpour ("The Ayatollah Under the Bed (sheets)," May/June 2012) vividly illustrates how the Iranian regime’s "curious fixation on sex" has become central to its rule. Sadjadpour usefully reminds us that while Iran heads the world’s security agenda, the country’s senior officials are distracted by lust — their worldview and understanding of the West shaped by stale seminary taboos and repressed desires.

The article correctly skewers the Islamic state for its present hypocrisy, but it’s important to remember that 30 years ago many Iranians agreed with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s stern moral code. Only after the exit of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — whose rule many conservative Iranians viewed as depraved — did millions of traditional families allow their daughters to move away from home to attend university. Back then, even educated, Westernized Iranian husbands weren’t particularly upset about their wives having to dress more modestly and cover their hair. That was as much the culture of Iran in those days as it was the culture promoted by the leaders of the early Islamic Republic.

Young Iranians today are changing all that, pushing the shame culture and misogynistic attitudes of the past out of the social mainstream. Their attitudes toward sex are, as Sadjadpour notes, warped by having to lead double lives. Dating and premarital sex are slowly becoming acceptable, however, and many Iranian parents are adjusting. For the majority of young Iranians, faith is no longer wrapped up in blind obedience and chastity. That is why what seemed true and pure in 1979 seems like craven hypocrisy today, and the gulf between Iranians and the regime — which finds the pretense of an Islamic society as holy as the reality — widens each day.

Author, Honeymoon in Tehran
Cambridge, England

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