It is easy to forget that the people of Iran are just that, people, ordinary normal people.
Ordinary normal people that have no real interest in geopolitical issues but instead just want to live their lives.
We also tend to see Iranians like this;
But in reality, Iran is a very diverse country with a great deal of potential to be a stabilising power in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, the Iranian people have been plagued by two regimes that ultimately, have very little legitimacy with the vast majority, the Shah and Islamic Revolution.
So whilst not ignoring the Iranian government we would be wise to also try and understand the Iranian people.
These two stories are quite interesting and illustrate that blind obedience to harsh rulings and total acquiescence to the current regime may be subject to a softening around the edges.
Ordinary people doing ordinary things.
First, from the Commentator on whether epilation is Haram, or not, no, seriously.
A huge controversy started in the Iranian town of Qazvin last week, after a group calling themselves “Social and Cultural Activists of Qazvin Province” published a letter, condemning the practice of epilation, openly advertised in the hair salons.
Just reading the advertising notice, “We do epilation here”, in a hair salon shop window, prompted the titillating image of a female having her hair removed, enough provocation to lead a faithful Muslim youth into temptation, vice and debauchery apparently.
The expected reaction to this religious concern would be expected to be the stereotypical stoning, jailing and general hysteria, but no, ordinary people started to ridicule the authorities;
The issue then became the butt of much humour across the Iranian social media. Some suggested that the Qazvin “Social and Cultural Activists” had misunderstood the word “epilation” thinking it was some kind of a massage like the ones they had encountered in their pilgrimage tours to Thailand.
Another Iranian social media activist asked why is epilation necessary in hair salons? just listening to the Friday prayer sermons often causes one’s hair to fall out!
“In the next ‘elections’ an approved candidate will be presented to the voters who will ask ‘is epilation the most important issue for our youth?’ and the Iranians will think he is more of a moderate compared to the other imposed candidates and they will view him as their reformist saviour and flock to vote for him and so life will continue under the Islamic Republic” — was another amusing statement expressed on the Iranian social media.
Ridicule of authority is an interesting indicator, it talks to a general lack of fear of those in power, always a healthy thing.
The issue went all the way up to the Grand Ayatollahs on the Supreme Council who issued a ruling that shows all signs of being ignored, the ladies of Qazvin will still be able to have their lady gardens styled!
The second story concerns another seemingly ordinary activity, going to a restaurant, with the slight difference of one that sells pork and wine.
France 24 reports on the underground dining scene in Tehran and other large cities that are serving ‘Pork, Wine and a Pinch of Freedom’
According to several of our Observers in Iran, several such hidden restaurants have cropped up in the past few years, in the capital Tehran as well as in other big cities, mainly in the country’s north. These places are unlicensed, and therefore can only be found through word of mouth. The attraction isn’t only the forbidden foods: women there can dress in a relaxed manner and take off their head scarves, which are mandatory in public. Furthermore, in these establishments, young unmarried couples don’t have to worry about the prying eyes of the morality police.
The article explains how the attraction is not necessarily about eating ham or drinking wine but the freedom to do so. Many of the patrons don’t partake but they don’t condemn others for doing so.
I think most of the customers aren’t especially rebellious; they just don’t care about what’s “halal” [allowed by Islam] or “haram” [forbidden by Islam], and this seems to be increasingly true among Iran’s younger generations. For example, the other day at the restaurant, I saw three women at a table: a grandmother wearing a chador, her daughter wearing a headscarf, and her daughter’s niece, who wasn’t wearing one.
The reporter closes by observing that the older generation are much more tolerant of the younger generation being detached from religious conventions.
None of this means Iran is going to stop being a menace to the Middle East by threatening nuclear proliferation and funding terrorist organisations any time soon, am not suggesting that all.
But it is surely interesting that in two very small ways, shaving ones bikini line and having a ham sandwich, the younger generation seem to be less observant of religious convention that forms the bedrock of the regimes power.
Ordinary people doing ordinary things have the power to make an extraordinary difference.