After the 1979 revolution, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was fashioning Iran into a Shiite Islamic state, one of his many sayings was, "Keep the appearances of Islam." Public profile is important and so, if Iranians chose not to fast during Ramadan, well, O.K., but they were expected to eat in the privacy of their homes....
That seems to be the unwritten law in Iran today: no sharing. The act of publicly sharing ideas that challenge the system is forbidden, because, at a minimum, that amounts to challenging the appearance the government would like to promote....
Paradoxically, civil society here appears vibrant. It has not been crushed, the way it has by the authoritarian leaders in the Arab world. There is, on many levels, real politics here — often with the outcome unknown — and on the most important issues, leaders must draw consensus from the different levels of power. And so people in many spheres — arts, sports, politics, business — find themselves pressing against the limitations of what is deemed permissible.
Mostly, this is done behind closed doors, in the privacy of people's homes. Some people, like the rock musicians, do risk public sharing, but watchfully....
At a recent concert, as young men and women piled into a small room, one concertgoer leaned over and said, casually, "I hope the Basiji don't rush the place." He was referring to the vigilante squads of bearded men who often use violence to enforce strict Islamic social codes. As the music played, the crowd swayed and clapped, shouted out choruses, and bopped the way any audience of young men and women might in the West. The music, though upbeat, had a slightly funereal quality to it, as the singer took the chance to share his thoughts, in public.Have a right to be ignored and neglectedWhen the show was over and the lights came up the band seemed exhilarated — and frightened.
Have a right to be segued and be raided
Have a right to be damned a right to be jammed
Have a right to be sanctioned and banned.
February 15, 2006
That's a quote from a rock musician in Iran.