Conflict & Justice

Controlling Iran's youth

Iran's demographic bubble has been swelling for years and in the 1990s it coincided with a social reformist government that promised a lot and delivered little. Since a hardline President, young people have felt the boundaries tightening, making an escape more needed. One escape is the ski slopes along the country's northern edge. This is Iran and women's hear isn't supposed to be flowing in public and recently police went to the ski slope to tell women to cover their hair. The young women made no effort to hide their frustration. In the past year the government has deployed a special police force to ensure social safety. At this mall, one of Iran's most fashionable venues, the atmosphere is tense. A young woman says police were just around arresting women who didn't fall into line. the woman herself has bleached blond hair and sports makeup and she's been arrested a few times. She says she feels helpless and powerless, and this man says that's the idea. The young man says before his recent spats, he had trouble with the police: they told me my hair can't be curly, which is naturally how my hair is. He says it's gotten to him and he has nightmares about being busted. He still has Iran is a good country with good people, but just has some problems. The big problems�inflation, unemployment, pariah status in the West�are all bigger than these social issues. One woman says she thinks the government is trying to keep people focused on small things. Her companion says several of his fellow university students are in jail for political activity. He says the police force is meant to keep Iran's burgeoning youth movement in line. the chief of Iran's judicial authority did not respond to an interview request for this story, and after the next elections, social control might get even tougher.