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Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, very little has been reported from inside Iran — and the news we hear about the country often involves the words “nuclear,” “sanctions” or “Islamic repression.”
But what is life really like for Iranian youth? And how and where do they let their hair down?
The BBC’s Jiyar Gol traveled to the city of Erbil in Iraq to meet some Iranian youths who agreed to speak openly about their lives.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. It's HERE AND NOW.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, very little has been reported on life inside of Iran. And certainly, much of the news we hear about the country usually involves the words nuclear sanctions or Islamic repression. But what is life really like for Iranian youth? How do they unwind? Well, many of them cross the border to visit the city of Erbil in Iraq, where it is more permissive than in Iran. And that's where the BBC's Jiyar Gol met up with them.
JIYAR GOL: I'm at the Citadel fountains in the very heart of Erbil. This is Iraq, but not as we know it. Here, there are more cranes than minarets. There are more nightclubs being built than mosques. This place has become a mecca for fun in this region, especially for young Iranians who live just two hours away over the border.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
NAZILA: Normally, I love to drink tea.
GOL: Nazila(ph) is a 26-year-old woman from Tehran. It's not her real name. She's dressed in a tight, white t-shirt that reveals a large tattoo on her right arm. There's smaller one on her belly. She has one rail of clothes for Erbil, and another for Iran.
NAZILA: This part is some of my clothes I use that - when I'm going to Iran.
GOL: Although she likes to drink and dress in Western clothes, she is slightly critical of many of her fellow Iranians who come here.
NAZILA: The Iranian girl, when they come to go (unintelligible), they drink too much, because they can find (unintelligible) alcohol. They show themselves with the short dress. They just think freedom is only that.
(SOUNDBITE OF CROWD CHATTER)
GOL: Nazila has come to one of Erbil's most exclusive nightclubs. It's karaoke night, and there's plenty of other Iranians here, one of them Hammed(ph). He's a 20-year-old DJ from Tehran. He explains, while they do party in Iran, they are constantly under threat from the morality police.
HAMMED: (Through translator) Back home, we had a party in the penthouse. I saw that there was three or four people outside with long beards. I folded my laptop under my arm and hung on from the window with one hand. A few people were arrested and detained for three days. The rest managed to get away.
GOL: I am in a club in Erbil with seven Iranians, girls and boys. They are drinking alcohol. They are dancing - something they could never do openly in Iran.
Abdullah Najur(ph) is the owner of the Sky Bar nightclub, where the young Iranians are partying.
ABDULLAH NAJUR: A lot of people from Iran joining us in the past year or so, more and more, has been visited, especially on national holidays.
GOL: But Hammed is worried that the Iranian government might prevent him from coming in here in the future.
HAMMED: (Through translator) There was a concert here for the New Year. I was asked to be a DJ. Many of my mates planned to come here, but the border was closed, and the Iranians turned back many people, most of them single boys and girls.
GOL: Hammed and Nazila represent a new generation of young Iranians. They have refused to bow down to the strict Islamic rules that the Iranian clerics have attempted to impose on them for three decades.
CHAKRABARTI: That report from the BBC's Jiyar Gol. You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.