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Much of Iran’s youth are living a double life today, caught in the middle of a culture clash between the East and the West.
Many middle-class 20-somethings, known for their love of brand-name clothing and status symbols, protested against former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 after widespread allegations of election fraud. But after a fierce government crackdown, the financially privileged and their so-called Green Movement faded into the margins of political life.
(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); For Iranian-German photojournalist Kaveh Rostamkhani, this is the moment for a deeply personal project to document young Iranians.
“If I did not wear jeans in the streets of Tehran, people would ask me if I was a conservative right-wing supporter,” Rostamkhani said. “I am from this generation of post-revolution youth, so I began to wonder: How would it be if I had not left Iran? How would I be then?”
Spending one month in Iran in both 2012 and 2013, Rostamkhani sought access to the private lives of middle-class Iranian youth. Although resigned to the rules of the Islamic republic and the small loopholes in the system that may allow a group of girls to get away with smoking a water pipe or a couple to mingle in the quiet hills overlooking Tehran, many young people still fear allowing the public into their treasured subculture of rock ‘n’ roll and rowdy parties.
“My goal has been to go into private sphere, so you see so much leisure. It is a totally different set of behaviors than the public life,” Rostamkhani said. “Even the vocabulary that men and women use in their public life is different just to maintain a sense of moral correctness.”
Behind the walls of private complexes, these men and women smoke, drink and dance more as a form of individual expression than an outright collective defiance against conservative authorities. Away from the wary eyes of the morality police, female friends take drags from a cigarette and flirt with male companions. But when it comes to luxury and self-indulgence, this group of Ray-Ban devotees wants the spotlight.

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