The Persian carpet is a central element of the Iranian culture but is also an industry that gives work to one Iranian out of ten. It is now possible to find in Tehran’s bazaar high quality carpets (eighty knots per square centimeter) that have very little of the traditional patterns.
Omidreza, 20, lives in south Tehran and has been a member of the Basij, Iran’s volunteer army, which has played a fundamental role in its eight-year war with Iraq. The organization, claiming to have 1 million registered male and female members, offers spiritual and military training, college education, computer classes, access to sports facilities and camping trips. The Basij’s vote was vital for Ahmadinejad’s victory, and the organization is now enjoying a renaissance. Omidreza’s division is responsible for enforcing the Islamic dress code for women in his neighborhood, and for policing the activities of unmarried couples.
Danial, 18, lives in Apadana, a middle-class housing development constructed under the Shah. He is a member of the graffiti group ‘Rats’.’ The Rats have filmed a video inspired by the MTV series ‘Jackass’ which features hidden cameras, pranks in city parks and shots of the group diving into snow drifts in Tehran’s drained swimming pools.
Maryam, 33 (on the left with her mother), a single mother and painter, teaches art and art history at a high school in Tehran. All her students are girls aged 14 to 18. ‘Girls today are cleverer than in my generation,’ she says. ‘They know what they want and they demand their rights. I have six brothers and sisters. When my father died my brothers took over his hardware store. We spend all our free time together at my mother’s house. It’s good but it can get claustrophobic.’
Mehdi, 59, near his shop in the bazaar, is preparing to celebrate the birthday of the Mahdi, the 12th Shiite Imam who disappeared in 874AD and whose return, in Shiite belief, will summon the day of judgement and the end of history. Closely allied to the most conservative faction of the Ayatollahs, the bazaaris have seen major returns on their investment through high import tariffs and strict laws controlling foreign investments, which ensure that the economy remains their playground.
Massoud Jozani, 56, who received his masters in filmmaking from the San Francisco State University in 1977 is in the process of shooting ‘In the Wind’s Eye’, a 52-hour epic for Iranian television. With a budget of $12 million, it is one of the biggest projects in Iranian film history.
Mr Mohtashemi, who directs The Tehran Laughing School, believes that the physical act of laughing has positive effects on people’s well-being and self confidence. In classes such as this one, Mohtashemi guides his students through laughing exercises and lectures modeled on American self-help master, Anthony Robbins. Students pay $200 a year to attend his courses.
A crowd has gathered in the main mosque of the holy city of Qom for the religious festivity of Arba’een. They cry at the memory of the decapitation of the Imam Hossein, which occurred in the year 860 AD.
Ali Reza Dekhan, 42, and his wife Akramossadat, 35, photographed here with their elder son Hassan, 11, have been introduced to each other 13 years ago by their parents. They got married without knowing each other. Love came after a few years and is now growing day by day. “Love, he answers, is like a small flower. You’ve got to water it and pay attention to it every day, otherwise it will die overnight”.
Shieda, 37, goes skiing almost every weekend in the winter season at Dizin in the mountains north of Tehran. She and her friends feel less pressure here where sometimes the hood of the jacket takes the place of the veil and the customs are more relaxed. She is the manager of a beauty salon, has two children and is divorced.
Mahsan, Yashar, Elham, Mahriar et Arzaneh (from left to right) are all between 19 and 24 and are photographed in swimming pool that is kept empty as the laws of the Islamic republic forbid pool’s use if the neighbors can see the bathers. They are part of an Iranian upper middle class awash in oil money.
Sanaz, 32, has been a dentist for six years and treats both male and female patients. She was encouraged to train by her parents. ‘There are many female dentists in Iran, she says. ‘At the medical university women outnumber men.’
A young man, dressed in the green colors of the Iranian reformist movement, tries to hold back the crowd that came to protest the results of the president election held two days earlier. Tens of thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets shouting “where is my vote” and braving the police charges, the teargas and the Basij. These have been the biggest non-authorized rallies since the 1979 Islamic revolution.