The End of the Affair, in Iran


Kamin Mohammadi

Here's a lovely piece in the Virginia Quarterly Review by the dual-passport Iranian-British journalist Kamin Mohammadi, about her long and mostly submerged affair with an Iranian lover from the countryside, and the complex web of pressure and release created by the government, technology, Islam, and more. Pretty hard to excerpt; here's a chunk that focuses more than the overall essay does on Liberation Technology:  

He also started to accompany me to the local internet café where I joined all those lined up at the banks of computers to connect with the outside world. That was the beginning of another revolution that has changed so much in Iran; the ever-watched youth of Iran—a colossus in number—suddenly found in the internet two things they did not have in their everyday lives: an instant connection with the outside world, and anonymity. In a society in which most are forced to dissemble to some degree, to wear some sort of a mask in order to survive, a way to express oneself unhindered and without possible repercussion was intoxicating, and soon became addictive. In separate groups boys and girls were squeezed into the booths, giggling while tapping away. And pornography, of course, was the most popular search, any kind the limited bandwidth and censors would allow. This was before cell phones and before people had internet at home, before pornographic material started being passed around over Bluetooth and on CDs, and perhaps something about looking at this illicit material in a public space, its heady thrill, made what came after easier, made the chat rooms and the virtual dates inevitable. […]

Given the Sharia laws that govern Iran, there are few places where young people can go. Most live at home with their parents. Like that of American teenagers of the 1950s, most recreation takes place in cars, where there is at least a small patch of autonomy and privacy. […]

Photo by Reuters

I noticed a group of girls nearby, elaborately made up, the season's latest fashion in headscarves perched on the back of piled up hair, their manteaus worn almost as short and tight as they were in Tehran. There was a lot of looking over in our direction and a lot of conferring before S's cell phone started to beep furiously. After this happened a few times, I asked him why he didn't answer, and he explained that these were not text messages but requests to connect through Bluetooth with nearby mobile phones—an ideal way in a watchful society like Iran to contact someone nearby who has caught your eye, since an open approach is impossible. Of course you run the risk of not being quite sure whose request you are accepting, and once the information has been exchanged you may still not be sure of whom you are then calling, or who is calling you—a sort of dating lottery with nothing and everything at stake at the same time.

Whole thing, well worth your time, here. Hat tip to Richard Abowitz, who covered the John Stagliano trial for Reason. And make sure to brush up on Charles Paul Freund's Reason classic, "In Praise of Vulgarity: How commercial culture liberates Islam–and the West."


NEXT: The Spanish Prisoner

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  1. Of course you run the risk of not being quite sure whose request you are accepting, and once the information has been exchanged you may still not be sure of whom you are then calling, or who is calling you

    Anonymous electronic intercourse. They’re one step away from glory holes and orgies… Alexander the great is smiling somewhere.

    I think “sharia,” “Islam,” and “Iran” are Google’s keywords for Baconnaise ads.

    1. It is kind of funny that with all the repression in Iran–the blatant stolen election and extra-judicial killing and beating of peaceful protestors afterwards, repression of religious minorities–that the most prominent freedom seems to be the freedom to shtup some persian peasant.

      1. From the videos of the protests it looked more like “peasants” were beating down the well educated, well-to-do students and professionals in the big cities.

        Even that is backwards in that country.

    1. I love the Iranian gov’t reaction:

      1. These are lies – there was no attack.

      2. We stopped the Zionist assassin!

  2. And Liberty will arrive as the Nuclear Armed Theocratic State miraculously withers away!

    Seems the most likely outcome to me. I can’t think what possibly could go wrong.

  3. Other Iranians doing things they’re not supposed to. It always warms my heart to discover metal from another repressed country.

  4. That story had such a sad ending. It could have been much worse.

  5. The most important question here is would you hit it? And yes, yes I would…

  6. Judging by the photo, Kamin Mohammadi didn’t need to go to the hinterlands of Iran to have an affair. She could have gone to the hinterlands of, oh, someplace near where I am. Just as an example…

    1. The worst crime of the mullahs was to cover up Iran’s women.

      1. No kidding.

  7. Many Iranians are very unhappy with conditions there. But most don’t seem to be.

    We all like to assume that western style rebellion is universal. It is not. Although people when they see freedom, they may yearn for it, the yearning may not be in a consistent way that enables liberal democracy, and civil society, and secularism and all that. If the Iranian liberals got their revolution and somehow took the government, in 20 years, those same people would be having yet another counterrevolution, asking for more conservatism and more religion. They would not like the results of more liberalism probably. The underlying premises of what leads to western style democracy are not there and may never be there. Not that I am saying that democracy is perfect. It may very well be that the strict religious life, with the rules set by universal consensus, and at the same time a few covert opportunities to have an affair or listen to rock or sneak a little brandy, is more satisfying that our extreme liberalism, which often amounts to license, which bans nothing, which wants to break down all barriers.

    1. The extreme religious life will always appeal to some people, but not to most. Western culture and lifestyle is very seductive. If they could sell the extreme religious life on its own merits, they wouldn’t need terror to enforce it.

      1. how do you know what appeals to be most? You are ethnocentric. People are not attracted to the west as much as you imagine. people want wealth, but they dont’ want the values and culture.

        Terror is part of the merits. And it works.

  8. The neo-cons want to nuke these girls.

  9. If I have said it once, I have said it a million times – f*cking is the foundation of freedom.

    BTW, of course the personals advertizement is for Muslim chicks…but why not completely veiled?

  10. The author’s point of view very personal characteristics, but also very deep concrete worth reading

  11. The author’s point of view very personal characteristics, but also very deep concrete worth reading

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