In Iran, They Want Fun, Fun, Fun

Written on June 21, 2012 by Ángeles Figueroa-Alcorta in Culture & Society, Globalization & International Trade, Middle East, News

By Nicholas D. Kristof

One of the most pernicious misunderstandings in the West about Iranians is that they are dour religious fanatics.

About half of Iranians are under the age of 25, and Iran has done a solid job of raising their education levels. I was struck on my 1,700-mile road trip across Iran by how many of them share American values, seeking fun rather than fanaticism. They seem less interested in the mosques than in amusement parks (which are ubiquitous in Iran).

“Young people don’t really go to the mosques,” said a 23-year-old man in eastern Iran, cheerfully exaggerating. “We want more ways to have fun.” He said he drinks — alcohol is illegal but everywhere — and, until recently, used drugs. Iranian officials have suggested that perhaps 10 percent of the population uses illegal drugs, traditionally opium and heroin but increasingly methamphetamines as well.

This man had joined the 2009 democracy protests, but then, he said, he was detained and beaten for several days, losing a tooth in the process. That soured him on political activism, and, like many others, he now just wants to go abroad.

In the northwest, that sense of hopelessness has led some young Iranians of ethnic Turkish origin to favor seceding and joining Azerbaijan. In soccer games in Tabriz, fans sometimes outrage the authorities by roaring secessionist slogans.

You wouldn’t think a New Yorker could be made to blush in Tehran, but I was taken aback by the hookup scene of one-night stands: young men with flashy cars troll for women, chat them up and then drive off with them. There is also prostitution, and Tehran’s former police chief was arrested in 2008 in a brothel together with six prostitutes.

Remember that Iran is the homeland not only of stern ayatollahs but also of the romantic hedonism of “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.” In Richard Le Gallienne’s verse translation: “Did God set grapes a-growing, do you think,/And at the same time make it sin to drink?” Read more…

As published in www.nytimes.com on June 20, 2012 (a version of this op-ed appeared in print on June 21, 2012, on page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: In Iran, They Want Fun, Fun, Fun).


Tezalia August 6, 2012 - 10:44 am

The perceptions were are being given or influenced to perceive in general about Iranians is truly related to being religious fanatics, as that can even be said to apply for the Muslims, as considering their religious belonging.And we all have to fight against such misconceptions, because we are all influenced by them. So the article here, should be spread all over the USA, so we, the Americans can see how people are all the same, no matter where on the globe we are situated, what is our race or religious belonging and that political propaganda is just a tool of the government.
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