IRANIAN (FASHION) REVOLUTION
From the front page of today’s WaPo: The Appearance of Change in Iran
The young woman dressed in a manner forbidden by law was complaining about something she saw on a television channel that’s illegal to watch.
“The stuff on Euro News,” said Nesa Hamlehdar, exasperated. “They show Iranian women in chador. Boys as soldiers. Old cars.”
She rolled her eyes. “This is the image the West has of us!”
In Iran, reality looks a lot more like Hamlehdar. Pausing in a fashion mall on her way home from a day of college classes, the 22-year-old language student wore tight bell-bottoms under a tunic cut not like the all-enveloping chador, which translates literally as “tent,” but more like the little black cocktail dresses that now pass for outer garments in some parts of Tehran.
There was eyeliner and nail polish. And her scarf was pushed back to reveal fully half her hair — something officially prohibited shortly after then-President Abol-Hassan Bani-Sadr in 1981 explained that women’s hair emits rays that drive men insane.
“The limitations that used to be,” Hamlehdar said, “do not exist now.”
That basic fact of Iranian daily life signals a fundamental shift in politics. The dramatic relaxation of the theocracy’s strict official dress code is but the most visible aspect of a grudging yet steady expansion of what Iranians call “personal space.” The term describes the realm of purely personal liberties that extends from holding hands in public to watching satellite television without fear of a police raid.
Initially championed by reformers who also demanded political freedoms, these personal liberties are being granted by the conservative Islamic clerics who control the most powerful institutions in Iran’s government. The hard-liners, who wrote the rules in the first place, now see a political advantage in allowing them to be widely ignored.
This is big, indeed.