In Israel and the west Iran is seen as a religious extremist country controlled by Ayatollahs but it seems reality is different.
Many young Iranians lead secular lives. A young Tehran-based computer technician and DJ told Ynet of parties he organizes in the capital, where young Iranians are drawn to the tunes of western music, drugs and alcohol.
Hip Hop in Tehran (Photo: Reuters)
It seems President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not popular among the country's young.
"It is very easy to buy drugs in Tehran," 27-year-old A. told Ynet. He is well aware that drugs are banned under Muslim law but says that "it is permitted to smoke drugs and drink alcohol in parties that I organize."
He said police raided one of his parties once and arrested him and his friends. They were jailed for two days and asked to pay a fine.
His parties are held in a secret location in the affluent north of the capital. He says the south is poor and overcrowded.
"When I organize a party I tell my friends to tell their friends on the internet and by SMS," says A.
The head of Iranian Studies at the Tel Aviv University Prof. David Menashri sketched the changing trends in Iran: "There is life behind the veil. The Iranian youth is more secular than any Muslim country in the Middle East. The regime of the religious led to a rebellion in the direction of secularity and distance from religion. Young people dance at parties, leave for trips outside the capital and climb mountains at the weekend – they ski."
The Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards are in charge of enforcing strict Muslim laws and ensure the survival of the revolution.
"The Revolutionary Guards learned to live with this and today they are more forgiving to these things. Outside they behave like the regime wants them to, but at home they drink, go wild, and listen to western music. To a certain extent there is double life," Prof. Menashri says.
"Teenagers have a very critical attitude. This young generation was born after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 which expected them to be the most observant, but the education imposed by the regime doesn't necessarily yield loyalty. There is a process whereby people who grew up under an oppressive regime learned to live with it and the more the regime oppresses, the will to look on the other side is stronger. I believe that the Iranian people will start asking questions and the public will be the one to do things itself," he adds.
A of Tehran admits that says young Iranians are distancing themselves from religion: "I am not a good Muslim. I don't fast over Ramadan, and half of my friends don't fast. It is true that we don't eat on the street, but we can eat at home or away from the eyes of the regime."
Bloggers against AhmadinejadJudging by blogs Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not as popular as one might think.
Iranian blogger Mar Bahi, a 28-year-old computer expert from Tehran, wrote about his president: "I am going crazy over what he is doing, from his blog where he wrote only once, passing by denying the Holocaust, his offer to hold a televised debate with Bush, claims that unseen forces are protecting him, to the lies he tells people about the inflation rate, freedom of speech and the people's rights. He is an outcast who likes to show off without thinking whether it is for the better or worse, he doesn't car. How small can people be?"
A poll conducted by the state-run broadcasting authority in Iran showed that 65 percent of Iranians are dissatisfied with their president. A similar poll conducted last year showed that 60 percent of correspondents were satisfied with their president's economic and social policies.
Another blogger, an Iranian youth on exile in Canada, says Ahmadinejad's nickname among Iranian youths is 'I am mad negad'.
Prof. Menashri explains: "Among Iranian teenagers, Ahmadinejad is not very popular. He and Hizbullah are more popular among teenagers in other Middle Eastern countries."
Menashri says Ahmadinejad's rising unpopularity at home is due to his anti-western stance. "He rode a wave of anti-western and anti-Israel attitude, building his career. A populist from the land of the populists. Two years ago no one knew him. For regime leaders he delivers the goods. He turned Iran's nukes into an Iranian national issue."