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Crossing Continents Thursday, 10 January, 2002, 14:17 GMT
Changing faces in Iran
A Tehran girls' school assembles under the watchful eye of Ayatollah Khomeini
In the first of a new series of Crossing Continents, Tim Whewell visits the Islamic Republic of Iran, and finds a country facing major changes in almost every aspect of life.

 Listen to this programme in full

Twenty years after the overthrow of the Shah, the Islamic Republic of Iran is entering another era of social transformation. As it marks the anniversary of the revolution, and prepares for municipal elections on the 26th of February, Tim finds out what everyday life is like in a country infamous in the West for fatwas and Islamic fervour. He meets Iranians who don't inspire international headlines, but who make up the second revolutionary generation and who will decide the country's future.

Iran must face up to the demands of its young people
With more than half the population under twenty, young Iranians explain how they reconcile their lives with the Islamic Republic's ideals - in some surprising ways. Following Iran's dramatic international football games during last year's World Cup, Tim meets women who are pushing back the frontiers of "acceptable" behaviour, and demanding their places on the terraces, and even the football pitches. From the whooping fans at only the third-ever women's football match in the country, to a crusading women sports journalist, they explain the balance between women's private and public roles, and the importance of sport in their lives.

The Koran meets the CD-Rom in the holy city of Qom
Also in the programme, a visit to the Holy City of Qom for an insight into the ways that new technologies are impacting on the new generation of clerical students. As the Koran and holy texts are transferred to CD Rom, and religious students are allowed access to the Internet, the clerical class are now being directly exposed to western influences. But it's a two-way process: getting on the information superhighway also means they can disseminate Islamic ideology more easily.

And as Iranian films are gaining the country an international cinematic reputation, the programme takes a look at the importance of the silver screen in Iran's cultural life. We hear one woman's story of working in a Tehran cinema for over forty years. Under the Shah, up to 400 foreign films a year were shown in Iran and she fell in love with "The Sound of Music". During the Revolution, she watched her cinema burn. And in the 90s, although there has been a great renaissance in art-house cinema with Iranian films from directors like Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Mokhmalbaf, most Iranians call these "the films with no box office" and audiences have plummeted.

Decorations for the 20th anniversary can't hide all Tehran's architecture
WEB EXCLUSIVE On this Web page you can also find an exclusive report on the sorry state of architecture today, in a country whose buildings once inspired landmarks across the Islamic world - even influencing the style of the Taj Mahal. Classical Iranian architecture, with its beautiful tiling and elegant proportions, is renowned worldwide, but today's Tehran is a dusty and unlovely city.

Tim Whewell takes a stroll through the city with architect Tarene Yalda to find out what went wrong - and visits an extraordinary new house to see how some Iranian architects are still drawing on the country's heritage to design beautiful places to live.

'Do-Re-Mi' - 1960s Farsi-language version
"The Sound of Music" - sung in Farsi!
Taraneh Yalda, architect, in Tehran February 1999
takes presenter Tim Whewell on a walk around Tehran...
See also:

08 Feb 99 | Middle East
07 Feb 99 | Middle East
01 Feb 99 | Middle East
28 Jan 99 | Middle East
23 Jan 99 | Middle East
15 Jul 99 | Middle East
15 Dec 98 | Middle East
Links to more Crossing Continents stories are at the foot of the page.

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