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One Reporter's Opinion @ Iranian Youth Give Hope for the Future

Thursday, 05 May 2005 12:00 AM

The paradox of Iran is that it just might be the most pro-American – perhaps the least anti-American – populace in the Muslim world. (Those under 30 are too young to remember the anti-American sentiment of the '50s and '60s and share little of their parents' ideology.)

Recently, I conducted a series of interviews with a brilliant young author, Afshin Molavi, who has written the critically acclaimed book "Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran," a brilliant tableau of today's Iran. Molavi, born in Iran and raised and educated in the West, has written widely on the Middle East, the Muslim world, the United States and the links among the three.

Molavi's book is a great read for anyone who wishes to better understand the growing divide between the Iranian people and their leadership. He covers not only Iran's vast geography but also its long history of foreign invaders, poetry and Islam. His Persian-language ability gives Molavi a significant advantage over Westerners who must depend on interpreters and "fixers."

But rather than just interviews with government officials, academics and political figures, he brings us a refreshing account of the real voices of Iran. He often has casual encounters with regular Iranians, from the local fruit vendor to the loquacious taxi driver.

Molavi says it is apparent that Iran's youth are the most disenchanted with the current government and that young people make up the bulk of the Iranian population (70 percent of which is under 30!). And nearly three-fourths of the Iranians Molavi polled said they want their government to restore dialogue with the United States.

The students tend to shun politics and embrace practical goals, such as getting a job and being admitted into a foreign graduate school. They're like us – they want a better future, more prosperous lives.

The young Iranians love our movies, television, books and culture. And what we may not know about them is that they have an unquenchable thirst for choice and opportunity. Consequently, 150,000 Iranian professionals leave the country each year, one of the highest rates of "brain drain" in the Middle East.

Young Iranian women are obsessed with their appearance. As CBS news correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, "They're lining up in record numbers to improve on the look nature gave them with cosmetic surgery." The most popular form of plastic surgery in America is liposuction, but in Iran, where the female form is kept largely under wraps, women prefer to spend the money where they can show it off.

"Iran, where the morality police used to confiscate eyeliner and lip gloss, is now the nose job capitol of the world," says one young Iranian lady. "A Western nose is more beautiful." The Persian nose, it seems, is out of style.

"They're lifting and they're shortening," says Dr. Hossein Heidar, who lifts and tucks and shortens. Says the doctor: "The hot look is inspired by Hollywood. Our women are shopping for new noses. They arrive with photos of [Hollywood stars]. A picture perfect nose costs around $1,500."

"Make my nose small!" say the Iranian women. But it's not only the women; there are lots of bandaged men on the streets, too. Iranians, in general, have big noses.

Whether it's noses, plastic surgery, scholarships or a growing mimicry of the West and America, perhaps it's time to take another look at tomorrow's future Iran and concentrate on the potential trouble put forth by the alarmists and nuclear Iran.

Molavi's book is a refreshing account of the real voices of Iran. After all, what do we really know about this country and her people? For a better understanding of the complex and important country and its people, from one who knows them well, read "Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran."

Related Links:

"Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran," by Afshin Molavi

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/14/world/main673876.shtml

http://cbs11tv.com/localnews/topstories_story_026092630.html

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The paradox of Iran is that it just might be the most pro-American - perhaps the least anti-American - populace in the Muslim world.(Those under 30 are too young to remember the anti-American sentiment of the '50s and '60s and share little of their parents'...
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Thursday, 05 May 2005 12:00 AM
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