2019

2019

There are no images for 2019. I haven’t been back to Iran since 2008 and I’m advised that it would be best for me not to travel there. Too many dual nationals have run into difficulties, including Nazanin Radcliffe who remains imprisoned.

Many of the issues for which the revolution was fought have not been resolved. The society is still radically unequal. There are forms of political participation, including elections and a lively digital environment, but one would be hard pressed to call the system democratic. Culture remains the purview of the state and artistic expression and cultural production often run into red-lines, censorship and worse.

Iran is more independent internationally than in its semi-imperial role under the shah but Putin makes for an uncomfortable ally. The JCPOA is just about holding despite Trump’s best efforts to break it up while reimposed sanctions bite hard into diverse areas of everyday life, including banking and medicine.

Women are one of the most active sectors of civil society. Women make up over 60% of university students, can be found in all areas of the economy including digital start-ups, motor racing and mathematics. And while hejab is not the most important issue, it has become a rallying point for activism of a certain kind: women posting photographs of themselves bare-headed on the My Stealthy Freedom page of Facebook.

The environment is perhaps the most catastrophic and pressing issue.. Air pollution is often dangerously high in Tehran so that schools are closed and the aged and infirm advised to stay indoors. Lake Urumieh in the north has almost disappeared, while in Isfahan the Zayanderud river that ran under those wonderful historic bridges has completely dried up, probably never to return.

And the human rights record of the Islamic Republic remains a travesty, with another young political activist, Vahid Sayadi Nasiri, dying in December 2018.

The revolution was made in hope. Forty years later, there is resignation, anger, defiance as well as creativity, dynamism, activism. Like the Armenian biscuits, the overall assessment is a mix of happy and sad faces.