Page last updated at 05:36 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 06:36 UK

Iranian views: Students of English

Two young people from Iran share their thoughts about growing up, learning English and discovering the world.


When I was 16 I decided not to go to school anymore because I wanted to do something more than studying.

Newsha Tavakolian
Newsha Tavakolian, 28
Lives in Tehran

I started learning photography and after half a year I decided to work.

I wanted to work because, as a woman, it was very important to me to be independent, not to ask for money from my father. Because first it's your father, and then when you grow up it's your husband.

When you have money as a woman you can make decisions for yourself.

I decided that I have to learn English because I didn't want to only be - as a photographer, like an Iranian carpet - only for Iran. I wanted to travel around the Middle East and other countries and take pictures like other women photographers working in the field.

But the problem at that time, 12, 13 years ago was that the only women photographers were in the artistic field. They were doing self-portraits or they were not in contact with the people in the news and society.


It was very difficult for male colleagues to believe that one young girl could work as much as and as hard as they do.

I had to prove myself to everybody, to show that as a young girl I could do better than you. It was lots of work, but I did prove myself.

In 1999, there was one of the biggest student demonstrations after the Revolution. I was there for one week with the students and I was covering everything.

I didn't go home for one week and my pictures were published all over in Iranian local papers.

So I proved myself and I was very happy.

Now that it's close to the elections it's crazy-busy.

I'm preparing my cameras now. I have an assignment to shoot for the New York Times newspaper about women singers in Iran. From childhood I used to sing, and it's one of my passions.

Any time I compare my pictures from outside of Iran with the work I do inside Iran, I see that my Iran pictures are more strong because I have more knowledge about Iran. Photography is not only about shooting; when you know about the subject or the story, the pictures are more strong.


My mother told me that you have to learn English. It took about 10 years.

Shervin Bashari
Shervin Bashari, 24
Lives in Tehran
English teacher

At four or five years old I was totally interested in English. There were lots of English cartoons when I was a child: the Flintstones, the Carebears, the Simpsons. I just wanted to understand what they said.

When I became a teenager I started listening to English rock music.

I started teaching English when I was 18 or 19. The first class that I taught included a 17-year-old student and a 52-year-old student.

All of them had different purposes for learning English. Some of them wanted to go abroad for studying, some of them wanted to go abroad for working.

Lots of people today are going to leave Iran and they are learning English because they realise that English is the most important second language.

With English they can communicate better with the world, and nowadays most people use the internet and most websites are in English and they want to be able to understand those websites.

Right now I am applying for some university courses abroad. I just want to leave Iran to learn more about the world.


Lots of my friends have left Iran to continue their study. I have got used to going to airports to say goodbye. They've gone to different parts of the world from Australia to the United States, Canada, Europe. Some of them have gone to Malaysia, India.

The reason I want to leave Iran is because here we don't have easy access to information. We don't have freedom of speech.

There are lots of things that I do love about Iran. I do love my country.

I think I'm going to miss things about Iran: the streets, friends, family. I'll miss everything, but you know for a period of time I have to leave. Nothing is left to be learnt here for me.

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