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Khomeini Generation

The Iranian youth who grew up under the restrictions of the mullahs has become fond of all cultures or the human being flourishes freely. Through the foreign channels that the middle and upper classes receive through parables and social networks, they feed on images more in line with what they would like to be and that many of them try to emulate. The use of excessive makeup, colorful haircuts, Western fashion, tattoos and cosmetic surgery - as a symbol of freedom - are becoming commonplace in the city of Rasht and the northern neighborhoods of Tehran. Transgressing his fear and what people say to have a self-image that corresponds to his desires of the moment it is as important as emancipation and clearly underlines fed up of this generation for some traditional Islamic values. An image very different from what the Ayatollahs wanted.

And then there are those bans that mainly affect women like riding a bike, attending a volleyball or football match, singing solo or having loving gestures to her boyfriend in public without being married. A long list that continues to grow because even if the laws in Iran are made and unmade according to the radicalism of the new elected prosecutor - What is forbidden can become "permissive" overnight and vice versa - extremely rare is the change of a law in favor of women and in general, it is only temporary. Cause the Iranian woman is worth only half of the man according to the justice of the Islamic Republic. Not to mention that women evolves in a patriarchal society, with a statue inferior to men. So difficult for her young ladies to face the daily.

In order to satisfy all their frustration, more and more young people they arm themselves with courage to infringe the restrictions imposed by the authorities despite the vigilance of nearly 4 million of bassidji (the police of morals) - which represents a 5% of the Iranian population - observe the facts and gestures daily lives of their fellow citizens. Some do it for adrenaline, and the vast majority denounce a lack of freedom and for to feel alive. To want to impose a battery of banned, the government has got its own setback. However, even though the regime can not control the entire population, it knows that over the years it has gained a big advantage. 40 years have passed since the revolution and nothing has really been called into question and the few attempts were quickly wiped out by the violence. The post Khomeini generation knows that the mentality of a large part of the Iranians is a brake on change and that conformism and the rise of radicalism do not augur well.

This youth, who dares to express their desire rather than strictly respect the laws of the mullahs, does not want to go unnoticed. They claim in their own way another way of emancipation, that of being accepted by their appearance and their ideas by an authoritarian society, as they are.. different.

Revolutionary symbols of Iranian women: make-up and western clothing

The beauty of the Iranian woman is characterized by tattooed and sharp eyebrows in ascending shape, swollen and profiled cheeks and lips, on which botox injections are often applied to enhance them even more, and excessive make-up, from the Western point of view, to unify the face and cover all skin imperfections, perfectly maintained, long and brightly coloured nails. Official doctrine maintains that showing a woman's hair, neck or ankles is a provocation and excites men, hence the justification for the hijab, whose use is mandatory in all public spaces. However, in some more permissive cities, it is common to see women in casual and modern clothes, in flagrant disregard of the rules imposed by the Islamic regime. Tight-fitting clothing, particularly leggings that mark the silhouette more explicitly than classic pants and that are banned by the government, have become revolutionary symbols of Iranian women. The most daring youth show a more open face of Iran: boys in the latest Western fashion and girls pushing back strict Islamic standards, with the veil covering a minimal part of their hair or leaving strands of hair free, as a symbol of rebellion. Iranian women reinforce what they can show, the hands and especially the face. "In Iran, it doesn't matter if you have a good body or beautiful breasts, what matters is what you see. Iranian women want to be the best, we want to be unique. Western women can show their hair or their bodies, not us. We can't show ourselves, that's why we operate and make up so much. It's the only way to show our beauty. The hijab deprives us of our freedom," says Ahdiehbr, a 21-year-old statistics student who dreams of becoming a model and travelling the world.

Rhinoplasty: a growing trend

With rhinoplasty, the Iranians intend to lower the pronounced nasal septum, distinctive of the Near East, and raise the lobe. In Tehran or Rasht, the most "permissive" or "liberal" cities in Iran, it is common to see groups of friends or couples walking in the streets with a band on their nose, an unequivocal symbol that a rhinoplasty has been performed. For Iranians, it is a source of pride to have a nose job done, and some of them still wear band long after their operation. "In Iran, rhinoplasty is not only a symbol of beauty but also of social status," explains Dr. Somayeh, a 33-year-old plastic surgeon from the city of Lahijan, Iran, who practices by example because she has a nose operation. According to Dr. Somayeh, "Rhinoplasty is a growing trend in Iran today. In the past, rhinoplasty was performed when the patient had a problem and could not breathe properly. Now it's a fad. Many women want a smaller nose, others a more fanciful nose. However, I encourage them to be more natural and have a more symmetrical nose depending on the contour of their face. Each nose is special for each type of face. Each patient has a personalized rhinoplasty. Of course, there are still those who dream of a barbie nose. Iranian women think their noses are too big and this affects their self-esteem. They want to look like Hollywood actresses. "The main reason why cosmetic surgery has increased so much in Iran is the decline in self-esteem," says Dr. Somayeh. When women do not find their place in society or in their lives, they try to find it in surgery. Plastic surgery for young girls has a positive effect on their self-esteem and they turn to the operating room in the hope of having a better social life and finding a good husband - because Iranian men like women with big lips, small nose and big eyes.

The face as an identity card

With the hijab and the rest of the body covered, my face becomes my priority. I love her and I invest money and time to be beautiful because that's what we'll see of you first. I think facial beauty for young Iranian women is the most important thing because it is somehow our identity card," says Ahdieh, who has undergone a barbie rhinoplasty, wears tattooed eyebrows, botoxed lips and, like the vast majority of non-religious Iranian women, uses make-up in abundance. Reihane, 30, works for a construction company as a consulting engineer, where she designs and supervises government projects. She is single and lives with her mother in a cosy little apartment. She earns a good salary and invests a large part of it in operations, beauty treatments and make-up. She has undergone a rhinoplasty and dreams of having her eyes operated on, because according to the young woman "without make-up my eyes are very round and I wish I had stretched them more". She also wears an orthodontic appliance to obtain "well aligned and perfect teeth", she emphasizes. In Iran, dentistry is more expensive than some cosmetic procedures because the materials used must be imported from other countries. Her nails are perfectly cared for, very long and sharp, but without colour, and her blond hair is discoloured. Its style is reminiscent of a Barbie doll. "Iranian women always try to be perfect, for us beauty is very important. We want to be beautiful, first for ourselves and then to live better on a daily basis," she continues, "We have learned to live in a macho system, but when we find ourselves at home, with friends, reality is different. I would like to be able to regain the feeling of freedom that I feel at home wherever I go. "In Iran, there is such an obsession with beauty that even in hospitals, my colleagues wear make-up and painted nails," says Setare, a nurse by profession who has not accepted to be photographed. "In hospitals, the norm is not to wear makeup. However, they all do it except me, which is why I am being treated by my old-fashioned colleagues."

Haircuts, colours and tattoos such as rebellion

Tattoos are not prohibited by law in Iran, but they are rejected by the Iranian authorities. Tattoo artists seeking to work in the country face fines, flogging or imprisonment. Milad, a 19-year-old boy, broke the rules by getting a full body tattoo, which cost him serious problems with people and the police. "The government doesn't accept my tattoos; people say I represent the reincarnation of the devil. I've been arrested twice. Last time, they even tried to kill me in prison because they saw in me a suppo of Satan. In Iran I can only be a frustrated person," says Milad. "I would like a lot to change in Iran, but what I will start with is not for the government, but for Iranian society, for the mentality of the people. Nazanin, 21, is not a fan of cosmetic surgery or botox. For Nazanin "beauty is in the hearts, smiles and eyes of women. Some women who have had surgery and are botoxed become real monsters and don't even realize it. However, Nazanin did not go unnoticed due to the color of his hair. "One day, I cut my hair and dyed it blue, which is my favorite color. When I came home, my father was very angry and he stopped talking to me for a week," says the young woman. Her transgression cost her a lot of trouble with her family, but it is her way of going against a government that oppresses women and forces them to wear the hijab, a garment she wears negligently, exposing almost all her blue hair cut in the Western way.

"Everything is a possible"

"In the street, everything is appearance," explains Shoreh, a young nurse from Rasht who clearly defies the rules imposed by the Islamist regime, "You can't smoke in public, you can't drink.. In reality, everything is a possible. Everywhere you can find alcohol, imported tobacco and other substances, just ask in your establishments (hotels, restaurants and even supermarkets) to get what you want. Women smoke in cafés, the most daring, in a hidden street in Tehran or Rasht. The vast majority of the Iranian population is not religious. We had to adopt the Muslim religion out of obligation, but we are not practitioners." "Rasht is the most permissive city in Iran," says Anahita, Reihane's friend, a make-up artist and eyebrow tattoo artist. To be at the top she uses the great means - profusion of make-up, false eyelashes, false nails - that she considers essential to see herself beautiful and attractive. "There are restaurants where they play music and people dance. If the police go through there, they fine the owners of the place. But, it's not a problem if you have money. In Iran, there is a lot of corruption due to state bans. People organize private parties and we dress in Western style, with miniskirts and sexy evening wear, drink alcohol, smoke and dance to the rhythm of Persian and Anglo-Saxon music. Although the government knows it, it can't do anything: it can't put everyone in jail." Pala_Kebab is an exclusive and sought-after Iranian restaurant located a few kilometers from the city of Rasht where there is live music. In the darkness, pocket flasks full up to the brim alcohol make their appearance.The few centilitres of vodka poured are quickly drowned by the lemonade to avoid any trouble. The atmosphere warms up and everyone begins to waddle to the rhythm of the music sitting in their chair. Although dancing is forbidden, some daring people get up and start making some hip movements that are immediately interrupted by the restaurant staff and gently force them to sit down; when the light intensifies again, they put their veils back on and extinguish their cigarettes.

"We want our social rights back."

Under the regime of the mullahs, Muslim scholars, women lost all their social rights. Even though they can go to university and be doctors or engineers, they will be under male supervision for the rest of their lives. Their father or husband will decide whether they can study or work. The government also employs thousands of undercover agents, the so-called vice police or bashashi, to enforce the rules imposed by the Islamist regime. Iran accuses women who remove their hijab of inciting prostitution. Every Wednesday, dozens of women reveal themselves, for about ten minutes, to protest and claim their right not to wear a hijab, defying a regime that oppresses them. The so-called White Wednesday began in December 2017, when Vida Movadeh, a 31-year-old woman, appeared in a video by waving her hijab in front of a crowd. The woman was arrested but the images of her protest were viralized, inspiring more and more women. Lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 33 years in prison and 148 lashes for defending women who had kidnapped their hijab. Mobina, a young psychology student at Tehran University and a close friend of Nazanin, says that "no one wants this government, no one likes the laws imposed by the state. Too many prohibitions. But everyone is afraid. The state controls everything and everyone. I have no hope of change with the current government. We women feel oppressed.

Text: Eva Rubio | Photography: Michel Martinez B.