Alessio Rastani, 33, is a London stock market trader of Italo-Iranian origin. He regularly visits his relatives in Tehran.
Although my family is Persian, I have lived outside of Iran my whole life. From my western viewpoint, I couldn’t help but wonder: how do my cousins and friends my age in Tehran, who live in a strictly conservative society, manage to find love?
When I visited my relatives in Tehran last October, my cousin told me about a street called Iranzamin which is notorious for being a hot meeting spot for young Iranian men and women. I was curious, so I went to see and brought my camera. I witnessed three types of scenes: first I saw cars that were slowly driving in apparently aimless circles, up and down the street. These cars were driven by young men or women who, my cousin told me, were patrolling Iranzamin in the hope of crossing a car full of members of the opposite sex and getting to meet them.
Second, I saw two cars suddenly slow down to a crawl, side by side. In one car were several girls, in the other two boys. For a full five minutes, the cars rolled together at a snail’s pace while their passengers chatted with each other through the car windows. Behind them, a growing column of vehicles began building up, until it reached practically the end of the street! Strangely, though, the held-up drivers were fairly patient, and didn’t start honking or yelling straight away.
Finally, I saw a series of cars, at least eight or ten of them, parked on the side of the road with bunches of guys standing outside them. They, I were told, go out in the fanciest possible car and stand there ostensibly in the hope of attracting girls. In Iran, having an expensive car is an important status symbol.
I think that young people in Iran, especially middle class urban people, are very frustrated with the regime. They were not around in 1979 for the revolution and they are sick and tired of hearing the same state propaganda over and over again on state TV, at school, etc. There are extremely disillusioned, which, I believe, makes them extremely materialistic – in some respects even more so than people in the West. Because they are not free to do or say what they want, people in Iran have no medium to express themselves other than their outside appearance and signs of wealth. That’s why many of them are so focused on money, looks and fancy stuff.”
Post written with France 24 journalist Lorena Galliot.