Thursday, June 16, 2005

Iran's youth snubs the mullahs for lure of West

Mustapha - not his real name, will not be making his mark in any other way when the polls open tomorrow. Like many other young Iranians, he plans to boycott the vote in protest at the strict vetoing of candidates by the country's conservative guardian council, the 12-strong clerical body that still wields the real power in the land. Those on the shortlist, he says, are all either "retread" hardliners, or people who have promised reform in the past but failed. "Voting this time is not going to make a difference, as Hashemi is going to get in anyway," he says. "All we will do is give the conservatives confidence that people have faith in their election system." Mustapha reveals his active apathy over a latte coffee in the Food Court, a US-style shopping mall in one of the richest suburbs of affluent northern Tehran. For a country supposedly micro-managed by anti-American fanatics, its range of outlets is somewhat surprising: a Tex Mex burrito restaurant vies for custom with a seafood cafe called California, while downstairs there are fashionable clothes outlets of Zara, Benetton and even a shop selling IKEA goods. "It's one of the very few places where you have a place for seating where large groups of young people can sit and talk together in mixed company," says Mustapha. "We need far more places like this."


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