Being Twenty Years Old in the Country of Ayatollahs: Living in the Holy City of Qom
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The headlines tell us about the thoughts and actions of the leaders of Iran, but here, for the first time, we hear the voices of hundreds of young Iranians. Through their own words, we learn of their lives, thoughts, hopes, and dreams.
Being Twenty Years Old in the Country of the Ayatollahs lets young Iranians—those who where born after the Islamic Revolution—tell their own stories. Zoubeida, Peyman, and the many others who are quoted in this book live in Qom, the holiest city in Iran. Islamic students come to Qom from all over the country to study the Koran to become an ayatollah.
Here the students have the opportunity to speak for themselves. When they do, we hear their attempt to balance their faith and their respect for the Koran with a desire to live a modern life.
In their hyperrepressive society, family life and relationships, work, study, and leisure time are all organized around Islamic standards. In public, secularization barely exists; women are required to wear the chador, alcohol and drugs are banned, and the morality police are everywhere. The young generation finds clever ways to avoid the rules, learning that hypocrisy is necessary just to get through the day. Yet with even greater hypocrisy, the elders and the authorities pretend not to see the students’ actions.
Over a period of three years, the author interviewed hundreds of young Iranians to explore their world of bizarre contradictions, a world that is seemingly opposed to Western society yet in reality hungers for modernization without loss of core beliefs. Khosrokhavar is the only sociologist who has been able to conduct an investigation of this magnitude in the country of the Ayatollahs and is thus in a unique position to expose us to the new emerging Iran.
Farhad Khosrokhavar : Farhad Khosrokhavar, a specialist in religion, is director of research at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Amir Nipkey, an anthropologist, has previously published Politique et religion en Iran contemporain: Naissance d’une institution.