Tehran today

A friend recently returned from Tehran where she visited her family. She hadn’t been back in 38 years.

Readers may be interested in her observations. I was, though presumably they are influenced by the views and circumstances of her family, which I take to be middle class or upper middle class. Anyway, here they are:

It’s a party city. Persians love to party. Some partied, albeit in a subdued fashion, even during the revolution, according to my wife who was there. Thirty-seven years on, they are partying often and enthusiastically, according to my friend.

It’s a modern city. My friend, who has seen much of the world, was surprised by how modern Tehran is. Not just modern compared to when she left it, but modern by contemporary standards.

It’s a poor city. The modernity and the partying notwithstanding, the economy isn’t good and the people are suffering as a result. They blame the government. Maybe with all the money that will flow to Iran thanks to President Obama’s nuclear deal, the economy will improve significantly. Maybe not.

Women are at the forefront. So says my friend. In Tehran, women are well educated, making up a majority of college students. They are very opinionated and don’t take a back seat to men, a change from 38 years ago. They wear head scarfs but loosely, except in a few religious parts of the city. Typically, one can see their full face and some of their hair.

Folks expect the regime to fall, but not for at least 10 years. The Pavlavi regime, which preceded the mullahs, lasted 54 years. According to my friend, people are saying that the current regime won’t last longer than the Pavlavis. They expect it to begin to fall at about the 50 year mark. The current regime has been in power for almost 40 years.

This seems like superstition-based thinking and perhaps an excuse not to act. My wife’s uncle, who served as a French diplomat in Iran and then as the head of a Franco-Iranian friendship association, told me in the 1980s that the Persians are non-rebellious by nature. So it’s convenient for them to see the question of revolution as determined by fate, and conclude that fate has deferred the revolution.

My takeaway is that Iran, or at least Tehran, is a paradox, and one that will be difficult to sustain. Maybe the revolution at the 50 year mark scenario isn’t that far-fetched.

Unfortunately, the mullahs are capable of inflicting incalculable damage on the world between now and then.


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