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Correspondent Friday, 24 November, 2000, 17:21 GMT
Raising the Veil
Raising the Veil will be shown at 1850 GMT on Saturday 25th November on BBC 2.

Remarkable changes are taking place in Iran: a country more notorious for its Islamic militancy than the pornography now available on the Internet and satellite TV.

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As they emerge from the political chaos of the past century, Iran's younger generation are now demanding new freedoms - but any further raising of the veil is fraught with danger and could end in yet more bloodshed.

With Drug addiction, prostitution and corruption on the increase, there is rising tension between the young and the hard-line clerical leadership- a tension that has resulted already in over a hundred deliberately brutal murders of opposition intellectuals and the closing of dozens of opposition newspapers for being `unIslamic'.

The new women of Iran

Bobolsar, a traditional holiday resort on the Caspian Sea
Bobolsar has been a traditional holiday resort on the Caspian sea for years. The women from Tehran's families still observe a Victorian modesty when bathing. But this is relaxed compared to the past when women were forced to wear full Islamic dress or bathe on sexually segregated beaches.

In the evenings, families mix socially to gossip, flirt and party. There is a little secret drinking, and the dress code is relaxed. Young Iranians talk about relationships, the latest sports and fashions, with many following American basketball, and English Premier League football.

Upper classes survived the Revolution

In Northern Tehran, under the mountains, the homes of the new rich tower over the exclusive streets and more traditional homes of the old upper classes who have survived the revolution.

The Rouhanis are an old established family which has stayed on in Iran despite their Western leanings. The women of the family are encouraged by the social changes of the past few years and believe the rules are less strict.


I've felt and lived much like an intellectual. You know, a Jewish intellectual in the Nazi period for the past so many years. Because of my belief in human rights

Dr. Shahriar Rouhani
All the members of the family are well qualified. Dr. Shahriar Rouhani has impressive qualifications, but gives lectures in a private house as he is not allowed to lecture publicly at Tehran University. He is a dissident.

"I've felt and lived much like an intellectual. You know, a Jewish intellectual in the Nazi period for the past so many years. Because of my belief in human rights. Naturally I'm completely at odds with many things which go on in Iran in the irrational scene of the post-revolutionary period."

But in the 70's he was very close to the Ayatollah Khomeini - leader of the Revolution. When thousands of Khomeini's young opponents were sentenced to death, Shahriar's faith in the revolution was shattered.

Ghazali Rouhani
The gardens of Kashan inspired Ghazali Rouhani to study landscape gardening. Like her brother she went to America to be educated. But even though members of her family have been executed by the Revolutionary government she chose to return to Iran.

"I love Iran. I find my roots are here and I like our customs. In the US or Europe, I don't like that pace of life: running constantly after dollar and not having time to relax and to enjoy your family life."

She returned to an Iran where she had to adapt to the idea of women being presented as icons of Revolutionary correctness and ideological purity.

"Five years after the Revolution everything was much more restricted. We could not have any piece of hair showing and definitely no make up at all. Now you see colourful scarves and the length of the outfits have changed. We do have a little bit of make up and no one cares!"

Today, Ghazali runs a private consultancy handling five gardening projects across Tehran. As a divorced single mother and a professional working woman her preferred point of reference is still the Islamic world.

A new generation of professional women

Dr Dastgerdi a professional woman with impeccable Islamic credentials
Dr. Dastgerdi is presented by the regime as a new type of professional Iranian woman who is not only well qualified, but has impeccable revolutionary Islamic credentials. On one hand she is a convinced opponent of political liberalisation, on the other she is an ardent champion of women's rights.

Dr Dastgerdi is not just a doctor but is also an energetic politician. For eight years she was one of only fourteen female MP's.


A third of all doctors, 60% of civil servants and 80% of all teachers in Iran are women

Tim Hodlin
Despite her opposition to political liberalisation she made history by introducing a radical bill to improve women's rights by making divorce easier for women and giving them greater custody rights over their children.

Dr Dastgerdi is a model for thousands of women who have transformed Iran since the Revolution. A third of all doctors, 60% of civil servants and 80% of all teachers in Iran are women.

In the country

Mr and Mrs Tanaie are typical small land owners, and farm 40 acres West of Tehran. Education is the engine of change in Iran. It creates new aspirations - even in the countryside.

An unfinished mosque stands behind the farm, but one religious obligation must be sacrificed for another. The education of their five children is more important than paying for another mosque.

Farzeneh Tanahie sits by her new computer
Farzeneh, the brightest Tanahie Child is given a computer by a family friend. She is ambitious and already studying computer engineering. Although they took away a lot of rights from women at the beginning of the Revolution, the Muslim principle that both sexes should be equally well-educated was strongly promoted.

So in their turn, women have taken advantage of what initially seemed to be propaganda to win them over to the Revolution.

While Farzeneh has a future, Farhad, the eldest boy has many problems, as he has tried and failed three times to graduate from High School. Iran, like England has problems with its male students.

The working-class great expectations


I would be ashamed if someone found out that I was getting a divorce. I will try my best so that no one finds out

Mrs Talab
Mrs Talab has been to the divorce court. Her husband left her ten years ago with nothing. With two children to bring up she trained as a hairdresser to make ends meet. She has waited a decade to begin divorce proceedings.

Not out of any religious sentiment, but because of pride. "I would be ashamed if someone found out that I was getting a divorce. I will try my best so that no one finds out."

At the time of the Revolution, the family were picked by a photographer as typical supporters because they came from the same town as the Ayatollah Khomeini. It made a good story: the working class squatters with great expectations.

The current chaos in Iran is reflected in the Talab family themselves.

Massoumeh Malayeri
Massoumeh, dresses as though from the West
Massoumeh - the daughter is dressed like a Westerner and doesn't care about covering herself up. Massoud the son, has been whipped on four occasions in the past. Once for drinking, twice for drugs and once for having sex with a married woman."

Under the watchful eye of the Ayatollah

Drug addiction and crime rates in Iran are soaring. But its not the only addiction to disturb the authorities.

Iran may appear switched on and surprisingly in tune with the fast food lifestyle of the West, but more modern addictions are eating away at an Islamic society created some twenty years before the spread of the Internet and multi channelled TV.

Sacrifices of the Revolution are not forgotten
Under the watchful eye of the Ayatollah, young people are careful what they access on the internet, but what happens at home is an entirely different matter. The downloading of pornography is so extensive that it is becoming considered a medical condition.

Militant hard-liners make sure that the sacrifices of the Revolution and war are not forgotten. Every year the anniversary of the war with Iraq is celebrated. Posters and banners feature martyrs and heroes of the eight year long struggle.

As battlelines are drawn, reporter Tim Hodlin discovers that both sides fear a greater bloodbath than in the last revolution.

Reporter: Tim Hodlin

Producer: Bill Treharne Jones

Series Producer: Farah Durrani

Editor: Fiona Murch


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