Society

Monday, September 05th, 2011
Lake Urmia in the north west of Iran is drying up. Some blame drought. Others global warming; Others aggressive agricultural policies. The locals view the shrinking lake as a disaster, especially farmers and those who live off tourism, and whatever the cause, they believe the government should be able to do something. So last week there were protests in the region’s capital, Tabriz. They were put down fairly...
Thursday, August 11th, 2011
There has been some alarm over crime in recent months. There is the increase in knife attacks, particularly in Tehran. There were just over 1,000 last year according to the Chief Medical Examiner. And there have been some very lurid rape cases. Near Isfahan in Maya, a mixed gathering was attacked by intruders who locked up the men, and raped all the women. A week later a female student was gang raped in Mashad....
Thursday, July 07th, 2011
Last week the International Monetary Fund praised Iran for cutting their thirty year policy of subsidizing basic goods which encouraged waste, skewed the market and cost the government about $60-100 a year. Observers have also been impressed with the way the government has eased the pain for consumers by providing cash grants for the ‘poor’, which presently amounts to about 19 million families who are getting...
Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
His latest film, ‘Nader and Simin: a separation’ has won numerous international and domestic awards, and puts director Asghar Farhadi in the top rank of Iranian film makers. The story brings to the surface two old wounds. The first is the pull on middle class parents to move to the West for the sake of the children’s future, versus the obligation to stay and look after their own parents. In this story the wife,...
Friday, June 10th, 2011
Last week Mansour Ossanlu, the leader of the banned Tehran Bus Drivers’ Union was released from prison where he has been for much of the last four years. Ossanlu was originally arrested after organising protests about wages. His release is a reminder that workers who campaign for better pay or conditions can face less than a kind response from the government. This is certainly the view of the International Trade...
Wednesday, June 01st, 2011
Iran was one of the first countries in the Middle East to go on line and now more than 33 million Iranians love the World Wide Web and all it brings. But not all in the government are happy. There is the fear of Islamic values being undermined, and there is the Internet’s political impact, seen with the 2009 demonstrations that relied heavily on the social networking sites. The authorities have always been vigilant...
Tuesday, May 17th, 2011
An horrific acid attack on Ameneh Bahrami by the man she turned down for marriage has left her blind and disfigured, and much unease hanging over Iran’s legal system. According to the country’s laws, Ms Bahrami is allowed to ask the court for retribution, and she insisted on her rights. Accordingly last week she was due to drop acid into the eyes of her attacker, Majid Movahedi and blind him. But at the 11th hour...
Friday, May 06th, 2011
Iran’s battle with the drug trade is never far away from the headlines. Last month the police claimed they had seized over twenty five tonnes of narcotics and broken up hundreds of gangs. Some of the smugglers have been executed. The government is also building a massive wall to seal Iran’s long border with Afghanistan, still the world’s number one opium producer. Along with these announcements, there have also been...
Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
King Cyrus (ca 580-529 BC) is revered in Iran. He is the father of the nation; the founder of the Persian Empire; the liberator of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. And he is the ruler who gave the world its first charter of human rights. This can still be read on a clay cylinder, which is usually kept in the British Museum, but was loaned to Iran initially for a four-month period. But the demand to see the...
Wednesday, April 13th, 2011
One in four of us will have skirmishes with cancer: it will kill about one in eight of us. And quietly behind the scenes, whatever squalls and storms are on the political or economic or even spiritual landscape, scientists all around the world are working with total commitment to find a cure. Many of those scientists are in Iran, and recently there has been some good news. One of the country’s most famous experts...
Tuesday, April 05th, 2011
Last week President Ahmadinejad heavily criticized the way Iran’s capital was developing. He said, “There are few cities, as large as Tehran, in the world in which people enjoy the lowest quality of life in apartments, while facing the highest cost of living.” A lot of Tehranis would agree with him. In recent years there has been a property boom, making accommodation very expensive. Christians, who often face...
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
This week Iran is basically on holiday. It’s No Ruz, the ancient festival celebrating the Spring Equinox dating back probably to King Dairus (522-486 BC). And for most Iranians, No Ruz means visiting family. It’s a time to be happy with your loved ones, drink tea, eat sweets, and switch off a bit from life’s normal pressures. As with Christmas in the West, this family time can be emotionally challenging. Most...
Tuesday, March 01st, 2011
Unemployment for Ayatollah Khomeini’s baby boom generation has been something of a problem, especially among graduates. Nineteen to twenty nine year olds make up 25% of the population, and about 70% of them can’t find work. That has been having a debilitating effect, and has especially pushed back the prospect of marriage and settling down. President Ahmadinejad, originally elected with a mandate to help the poor,...
Friday, February 18th, 2011
Last month there was another appalling air disaster. On January 11th a 36 year old Boeing 727 crash landed near Orumeyeh in the North West of Iran killing 77 passengers. Usually though it’s not the ageing Boeings that get into trouble, but the ageing Topulevs from Russia. In January last year one crashed landed in Mashad; in July 2009 one caught fire mid flight on the way to Armenia, killing all 168 passengers on...
Friday, February 04th, 2011
Football is a national passion. Hopes were high that the newly energized Iran team under coach Afshin Ghotbi would book a place in the semi finals of the Asian Cup. It could have been. There were no goals for ninety minutes. Both sides had its chances. But then South Korea scored in extra time, the dream ended, and the national party of celebration that would have followed an Iranian victory was not to be. The...
Monday, January 24th, 2011
After China, the Iranian government carries out the highest number of executions per year. China though has a population of nearly one and a half billion; Iran has one of 70 million. 2011 has barely begun, and according to human rights groups already about fifty people have faced capital punishment. Some are executed for violent and dangerous crimes, like the two men hanged in Kaj Square, Tehran, one for stabbing...
Monday, December 20th, 2010
39 were killed and around 100 wounded in a suicide bomb attack in the city of Chabahar in Sistan Baluchistan on December 15th. The atrocities took place outside the Imam Hossein mosque during the Ashura anniversary when the grand son of Mohammad, Hossein, is honoured for his martyrdom at Karbala where he died at the hands of Yazid – a Sunni. The extremist group Sunni Jundullah claimed responsibility for the attack...
Monday, December 06th, 2010
The official number of AIDS cases is about 20,000, though some medical experts say it is probably about four times higher than this. To date it has mainly been a disease for drug users, aged between 25 – 35. They make up about 80% of the cases. However the news from the hospitals is that in recent years there has been about a 5% increase in the number of people contracting the disease because of sex. And this has...
Monday, November 22nd, 2010
Visitors back from Tehran talk of problems. One is the pollution. They are shocked that the city’s favourite mountain, Damavand, can no longer be seen from its streets. For a smog has descended on the capital, fed by the fumes of hundreds of thousands of cars stuck in traffic cars, some of them churning out black smoke from their environmentally unfriendly engines. All this is made worse by the fumes from all the...
Thursday, October 28th, 2010
For many years economists have been saying that Iran’s government was spending too much of its GDP subsidizing fuel, food, and other essentials for everyone (about $100 billion a year). Now President Ahmadinejad’s administration, which initially chalked up quite a reputation for lavish spending, is bracing itself to end the party and take away the subsidies. Commentators reckon that the average Iranian benefits to...

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