Over the years, economic hardship, massive amount of brain-drain, financial corruption, and lack of some of the most fundamental human rights are indeed among the most vital and well-reported damages of the Islamic Revolution. However, 40 years onward, one of the most depressing destructions caused by the Revolution is the dangerous cultural desolation that currently plagues the Iranian society.
This Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution of Iran — a global phenomenon that for the past four decades has been paid for by ordinary Iranians, their livelihoods, economic growth, and societal well-being. In return, the 1979 Revolution, led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has produced trillions of dollars for the powerful minority regime-insiders, government officials, and the “fake devotees of the revolution” whose sole reason for supporting the regime is their financial gain.
For the past four decades the regime’s biggest betrayal was forcing people to “mask” their real identities by stifling their very basic human instincts, and forcing them to follow the regime’s singular narrative of what’s permissible and what’s not.
As a result, in today’s Iran, some of the most basic societal, cultural, inter-personal, and sexual matters are not properly defined; therefore, they’re being practiced in the most absurd manners possible — leading to the society’s further moral demise.
Much of this destruction is affecting the post-revolution and current generation of Iranians, ranging between 16 to 40 years of age. These are millions of people who live in a stagnant environment that has choked and continues to ban some of the very basic practices common among people worldwide.
These are people who were born and raised in a society where they were forced to discover matters on their own; and unless following the government’s “guidance,” they define their needs based on their own limited interpretation — except in secret.
Today, the Iranian society is polluted with a false and ambiguous definition of many basic desires and behaviors. From freedom of speech, interaction of opposite sexes, sexual affairs, use of alcohol, practice of Hijab, management issues, and respect, the society is drowning in an unhealthy hodgepodge of negative interpretations.
For 40 years the government tried to mask these issues; but today, you have an environment where not only people practice everything that’s banned — but they do it in an uneducated, over-exaggerated, and obsessive fashion.
The more you tell a child to not open the cookie jar, the more curious the child becomes. This prohibition will ultimately lead to the child opening the jar and eating the cookies in hiding.
The more you tell a teenage boy to stay away from sex, they more hungry he’ll become. The more you ban a teenage girl from wearing lipstick or nail polish, the brighter and bolder makeup she’ll have.
This is what the regime has done to the people — disrupting basic social norms in a sick effort to “purify” its people.
Comparing to the early years of the Revolution and the years following the Iran-Iraq war, the current Iranian society is a much more open space than what it was before. Women’s Hijab is nowhere as restricted as it was in the 80s and 90s; Western influence vividly exists in every strand of life in Iran; and nearly every single person has access to internet and thus an open window into the outside world.
Prostitution (both women and men), human trafficking, drug-use, prevalence of HIV, exaggerated plastic surgeries, obsession with social media, and inter-marital relations are some of the byproducts of this moral demise in today’s post-Revolution Iran.
The Iranian Revolution was formed with the promise of cleansing the society from dark money, prostitution, negative Western influences, and everything that the clergy deemed “un-Islamic” and “Haram”; but today, every single one of those “un-permissible” behaviors is a common practice.
Today, you have a society where despite the regime’s anti-western efforts, you won’t find one single shop in big cities across Iran that doesn't sell Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas decoration and gifts. In their effort to chastise people, the regime has created a confused, immature, and exaggerated version of what’s considered healthy by global standards.
After 40 years of regime’s battle with “Hijab” and forcing women to cover up, you currently have a society in which millions of women and girls in spite of their financial status — starting from an incredibly young age — have become addicted with plastic surgery, makeup, and external beauty, all to an extent that their entire identity is defined by their looks.
For 40 years, the society continues to have a secret, immature, and tabooed take on sex, premarital relations, and any interaction between the two sexes. The overall understanding of sex is based on the individual’s own interpretation of the issue, their fear of the society, and their own way of handling their desires. Today, sexual relations in Iran have gone out of control and the young people’s role models are the caricatures seen on cable channels and telenovelas that on one hand are banned by the government, and on the other are “imported” by the same regime-insiders.
More than ever, a striking number of married men are engaged in extramarital affairs with prostitutes or have second wives in secret. In addition, “temporary-marriages” are one of the biggest dangers facing families in Iran. Oftentimes, “men of faith” who want to “religiously justify” their sexual needs, take on multiple “wives” at the same time in order to fulfill their stifled desires.
On the other hand, in a society that for the past 40 years has defined women as second class citizens, you have trained a materialistic generation of women who would do anything for financial security, comfort, and stability.
These are young, at points educated and capable women, who out of desperate financial insecurity will become second wives, temporary partners, and prostitutes.
After 40 years of banning alcohol in public, the amount of alcohol consumption in Iran compares to that of many Western countries — except it’s done in hiding, bought in black markets that are controlled by the regime, and of course manipulated by poor-quality products that yearly kill many Iranians.
The irony of it all, is how such behaviors are not only practiced by ordinary Iranians but by the Revolutionaries and regime-insiders themselves.
After 40 years of anti-drug promotions and campaigns, drug-use is at a staggering high. After the revolution, the regime shut down night clubs and bars; but today, you can’t miss a house-party, taxi-ride, or street corner where Crystal Meth, Heroine, and Opium are not traded one way or another. Mind you this too is controlled by the regime.
In today’s Iran, you have a toxic society, where an inkling of “freedom” is improperly defined and excessively practiced.
A young woman whose father worked as an IRGC official who is now a liberal atheist, once told me that the biggest threat facing Iranian women is how the regime has dumbed down female presence and voices and has created caricatures of them — whether be of the Muslim woman or the anti-religious woman.
“Even though we have more freedom these days, we are so behind culturally. They have dumbed down women and have boxed them in irrelevant, at-times religious, and in other instances shallow ambitions — none of that can lead to their growth,” Faeze R. told me during our interview for my upcoming book.
In other words, the Islamic Revolution’s 40-year-old efforts to produce an Islamic society has severely backfired to an extent that the children of the regime-insiders are engaged in perhaps everything that their fathers have banned.
The issue today is far beyond enabling women to “remove their Hijab” as obsessively promoted in the West by U.S.-backed Iranian activists. Today, the biggest danger threatening Iranians — aside from a stagnant economic climate — is the lack of a healthy understanding of some of the very basic practices that exist in societies worldwide.
For 40 years, ordinary Iranians have learnt how to put on a mask in order to deal with the frustrating falsities of life imposed by their government — forcing them to face a catastrophic failing of their very own moral and cultural stability.
As the Iranian Revolutionary forces celebrate their 40th year of existence, they are confronted with a cultural chaos that may take up to 40 years to correct — only to become what it used to be 40 years ago.
Tara Kangarlou is an award-winning journalist who has has written, reported, and produced for CNN, CNN International, NBC Los Angeles, Al Jazeera America, Huffington Post, and Al Monitor. In 2016, she founded Art of Hope a non-profit 501(c)3 organization helping Syrian refugees overcome trauma, PTSD, and psychological wounds. She is currently working on her upcoming book on Iran. To read more of her reports, Click Here Now.
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