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Friday, 25 July 2014

Hands That Do Washing

There is a strange kind of regime resistance going on in Iran - while the manual working class, and the badly educated, welcomed and still mostly support the regime of the Mullahs (a similar phenomena occurs in Turkey with the ruling political party), the upper class and educated middle-classes never really took to the rule of the mosque with quite so much enthusiasm.

Recently, these educated under 30's - the children of those parents so cowed by the violence of the new regime when the Shah fell - have increasingly shown sparks of resentment. There were all those 'liberal' green marches of a couple of years ago, that were crushed with considerable force, but since then, there have been flickers of the embers, that suggest that the regime may not last forever.

The prompter of this is largely social media, Facebook, Twitter et al, something that not everyone, including me, fully realises has very great power amongst in the under 35's, and in the third world in particular. It allows comments, events, art or films to 'go viral' and create great tension in repressive regimes. There have been a string of these rather innocuous looking 'viral' trends in Iran recently .... the 'be happy video', the 'bared head' videos, and the 'washing-up liquid bottle' are merely the three latest in the list.

The 'washing-up liquid bottle' picture, is merely a woman holding a world cup type bottle of aloft with soapy bare arms .... it was painted on a wall in June 2014 by 'Black Hand' who or are sometimes referred to as "Iran's 'Banksy'" (they may be a collective group, or one individual, no one knows). The image has since been captured and shared thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram .... and although its been defaced (again by person or persons unknown), it now lives in the virtual world, where it continues to circulate and resonate amongst Iran's younger educated classes.

Chained To Kitchen Sink - Iranian Style

The painted wall art seemed to show that in theocratic Iran, women are are only fit to do household chores ... chained to the kitchen sink so to speak, but aspire to so much more.

The reason this particular image has struck a chord with many Iranians, appears to be because the authorities have extended the already harsh bans on women attending football matches, to include volleyball games, of which there is a World League competing in Iran, but in point of fact, women can't attend any sports events competed for by male athletes (or where men are in the crowd, unless segregated). As the football World Cup in Brazil included the Iranian team, and which women could watch on TV (along with their friends or families), it merely emphasised how "very cruel, it's unbelievably cruel" as one woman put it, these bans are.

Harsh regimes like that in Iran, really don't know how to challenge this kind of 'subversion' ... I mean what does it mean? Why is it illegal? If they ban social media, it makes them look even more repressive than they already are (a feat in itself), and in any case is largely futile in a globalised world, where such bans can be bypassed. But futile or not, these regimes do not seem to moderate with time, and so each petty restriction just ratchets up the social pressure cookers, that always seem to lie just beneath the surface in these societies.

Who knows what the trigger event may be that starts the next upheaval in the region - in one country, a man setting himself on fire was enough to kick off violent attempted regime changes, and then later counter attacks by the regimes (notably Egypt and Syria), across North Africa and into the Middle East .... is Iran so secure?

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