Inside Iran

Photographs by Reportage by Getty Images

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Satellite dishes are illegal to own in Iran, a result of government efforts to restrict access to news from the outside world. And yet the apartments of Tehran are sprinkled with them like rooftop gardens, clusters of reflectors aimed toward space as plants grow toward light.
In Iran, it is forbidden for an unveiled woman to consort with an unrelated man, and yet off the coast of Qeshm Island, young couples embrace during evening swims, beyond the prying eyes of adults and morality police.
Homosexuality is also illegal in Iran, technically punishable by lashing or death. But behind closed doors, gay Iranians smoke, drink and flirt at discreet house parties.
In all societies there is a contradiction between the law and human behavior, but this disparity exists in sharp relief in Iran, home of the notorious Gashte Ershad and vigilante offshoots who enforce their strict interpretation of modest dress. And so, for many Iranians, particularly the young, life finds its fullest expression at the boundaries of official sanction.
The country’s rules of public behavior are matched in their stringency by the government’s media censorship. Foreign press in Iran operate under strict constraints, which has created a one-dimensional image of the country in international media, one dominated by women in chadors, scurrying across public markets.
This photoessay, made by a photographer who wishes to remain anonymous, aims to depict a more intimate side of Iranian life, from family picnics to underground parties to a young couple’s evening meal at home. As quotidian as these scenes seem, they are images the Western viewer scarcely encounters, due not only to censorship but also to the narrow appetite of international news coverage, focused as it is on geopolitics.
Outside the home, the photographer also spent time in places of worship, including those of Iran’s officially recognized religious minorities: Persian Jews, Armenian Christians and Zoroastrians.
Zoroastrianism is the country’s oldest religion, predominating in ancient times before the Islamic conquest of Persia. After centuries of persecution and forced conversion, there are just over 25,000 Zoroastrians in Iran, a large community of which exists in Yazd, 650 kilometers south of Tehran. There, the photographer visited a Zoroastrian temple, where worshipers pray before a fire that has burned for hundreds of years, regarded as an agent of spiritual purity and medium of divine wisdom. The flame sits in a cauldron at the center of a darkened room -- the environment to which the human spirit, in this country, must so often retreat to express itself.

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