In modern Iran, porn and prostitution are rampant

Aug 30, 2014
Politics
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To live in Tehran, writes British-Iranian journalist Ramita Navai in this collection of true stories, requires one essential skill: lying.

In modern Iran, porn and prostitution are rampant

“Morals don’t come into it,” Navai writes. “Lying in Tehran is about survival . . . when the truth is shared in Tehran, it is an act of extreme trust or absolute desperation.”

Tales of modern Iran

“City of Lies” features eight sprawling tales (all names have been changed, as have certain details, and several characters are composites). Each focuses on an individual, but Navai uses these personal stories to observe how people live, love and survive in a society ruled by fundamentalists.

Iranian youth read “Harry Potter,” watch Hollywood films like The Bling Ring, smoke joints and listen to Metallica and Radiohead — all the while knowing that one misstep can ruin their reputations and lives, including the possibility of prison or death. For women, sex outside marriage could mean “up to 100 lashes.” If convicted of adultery, a woman could be executed.

Crystal meth, ‘dog sweat’ and divorce

“Somayeh” (each story is named after its central character) concerns a 17-year-old girl, her father, Haj Agha, and her mother, Fatemeh.

Somayeh and her classmates were virgins, but “a handful had experienced illicit encounters, mostly with their cousins, who were the only males they were allowed to be in contact with,” Navai writes.

When the conservative Somayeh met her 26-year-old cousin Amir-Ali, a well-built young man with a surgically perfected nose (according to Navai, plastic surgery is remarkably common in Tehran), the attraction was instant and mutual.

For the most part, Amir-Ali and his friends hung out with prostitutes and spent their weekends smoking pot and “sheesheh” — or crystal meth, the country’s most popular illegal drug after opium.

A young woman smokes marijuana on the hidden side of a park in Tehran in February, 2014. Photo: Barcroft

A young woman smokes marijuana on the hidden side of a park in Tehran in February, 2014.
Photo: Barcroft

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