• November 13, 2013

Musings: Coming of Age in Iran

Zahira Khan

Kiana Hayeri unveils the intimate and unseen lives of young Iranian men and women coming of age in a segregated, isolated Iran. She shares these stories from behind the scenes, where young people are trying to find a place to explore, discover, indulge in desires, and search for themselves and for freedoms no matter how small or fleeting, hoping to live outside the realities of a country controlled by religious rule.

Ashura mass mourning takes place in Jolfa, one of the trendier neighborhoods of Tehran. Although it is a mourning process, Ashura-Tasua is also a platform for the youth to socialize in public.
From the series “Beyond the Veil”

Hayeri is an insider—born, raised, and currently living in Tehran—but she is also an outsider, having lived in Toronto and studied at Ryerson University. “I was very comfortable with photography because I didn’t have to explain myself, so I started to relate to it very well,” she says. For Hayeri, storytelling is a key motivation and photography the means to that expression. “As an artist, you’re telling your own story through your art, whereas a photographer or a documentarian [is] telling other people’s stories.”

A group of third-graders at a high-end private school in northern Tehran play sangsar (stoning), a game similar to dodgeball. According to Islamic Shiite law in Iran, when a girl turns nine she is considered to be mature enough to take on life and her religious responsibilities. The definition of these responsibilities varies throughout the country.
From the series “The Day I Became a Woman”

Living in Tehran means leading a dual life. “Growing up with that culture, you learn you live at home in a way, and then on the streets it’s different.” Women are instructed to wear a hijab to cover their hair, as well as a manteau, which covers the body, to ensure they practice modesty. However, this is no guarantee against unwanted gestures and actions from men. “There is a lot of harassment toward women: in a known environment at work, or within family, or [from] a complete stranger.”

Three women shop for wigs in a high-end shopping mall in northern Tehran. In summer 2010, dyed blond hair would have resulted in fines by the morality police.
From the series “Beyond the Veil”

As a Pakistani girl growing up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I can relate. Censorship and segregation of the sexes were evident in every aspect of life: McDonald’s seating booths were more like stalls that were enclosed with shutters, and teenagers flirted by throwing French fries into neighboring stalls. But this strict division didn’t stop people from throwing house parties fully furnished with drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex.

Hayeri has intimately documented the lives of young Iranians who make up more than half of the population. Being a woman in Iran isn’t easy, let alone being a female photographer. “It’s really hard to photograph in public, out on the street,” Hayeri says. “If you take your DSLR camera out, it probably takes about 5 to 10 minutes [before] somebody comes up to you and stops you from photographing—and that person can be either an official or somebody ordinary. I’m careful not to jeopardize my subjects.”

Zahra, saddened, closes the fridge as she finds out there will be no cake for her ninth birthday in Tehran. Her parents had already spent a lot of money on the food, so there was no budget for a proper cake—only some cheap pastries.
From the series “The Day I Became a Woman”

But as Hayeri notes, change is coming to Iran, things like “gaining more freedom about how you dress or how you interact with the opposite sex, [which have been] a struggle for 30 or 40 years since the Islamic revolution. Slowly by slowly it’s changing, and the change has been drastic in the past, I would say, five to seven years.” For example, the Tehran Times, a place where citizens upload pictures of themselves dressed in fashionable attire, would not have existed a few years ago. Similarly, speaking about sex outside of marriage used to be taboo, but it is now openly talked about in major metropolitan cities.

Even though being bold and eye-catching is always a factor that concerns the morality police, Mina puts on her bright-red lipstick and gets ready to go out in Tehran.
From the series “Beyond the Veil”

For Hayeri, the challenge of photographing and sharing her work is worth its weight in gold. “It is a personal journey for me. I do work that I care about, I do work that I’m curious to find out. It is a pleasure for me to expose little parts of the ordinary life of people here.”

Two young men flirt with girls they have just met in the park while smoking a hookah on a snowy afternoon in the northwest of Tehran.
From the series “Beyond the Veil”

Hayeri’s work challenges the roles of women, religion, adulthood, self-expression, and censorship, asking questions and offering glimpses. She was the recipient of a National Geographic grant awarded at the 2011 Eddie Adams Workshop. Find more of her work on her Tumblr blog and on her website.

There are 113 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Dan Linstroth
    December 13, 2013

    Dodgeball, makeup and flirting. Turns out they’re just like the rest of us. Thank you for humanizing a county and its people that is so often reduced to a news headline on nuclear talks. Fantastic work. Quick suggestion: I loved reading the alt-text that you added for the images but did not notice this at first. It would be great if you put that same text in the captions of the photos. Thanks for this post.

  2. elena fava emerson
    November 23, 2013

    very interesting work

  3. mohammad
    November 19, 2013

    I think people should not judge Iran and Iranian just with these photo graphs they have to study more about Iran and the origin of hijab.

    • Sajeewa
      November 19, 2013

      Yes, as far as I know, Iran had a great culture of all time. PERSIA…!!! The great Persia is Iran. There wasnt a religion called Muslim then. But human beleived human as they worshipped gods, devils etc. the unseen forces. Anyway I think it is greater rather than following a religion full of hatred, lies,…….!!!

  4. Julia
    November 18, 2013

    It’s changing something in Muslin slowly and slowly. I’m pleasure to see them. I do believe it’s better in the future.

  5. Nelson Motta
    November 18, 2013

    very good witness this openness to Iranian women I particularly believe in freedom of expression and conscience to accompany the event
    a certain victory in this Country
    I’ve had the opportunity to read some books like Princess Sultana and Almonds and tells about the life of Arab women very interesting

  6. Kevin O’Reilly
    November 18, 2013

    Michael Lee: after reading your essay, I can only wonder if you’ve spent much time with Muslims. They are as different from each other as you and I are as non-Muslims. Now, the one piece of your essay I take very strong objection to is your ending diatribe against Western women. Western women are no more “depraved” than the Western men.

    • Michael Lee Pemberton
      November 30, 2013

      Kevin O’Reilly, it is a sad comment that “Western women are no more ‘depraved’ than the Western men”. Males of our species have generally conformed to the pattern that they are the larger, stronger, more aggressive, and dominant gender. Females have tended in the past to be the more genteel, compassionate, nurturing, and supportive gender. Our social organization for thousands of years was based on these character or basic personality models. There was a functional division of labor at the family unit level which facilitated our success as a species, a society, and a civilization. We evolved from the hunter-gatherer and our psyche has not evolved into the machine age as rapidly as our bodies and our intellect. Humans still possess the primal instincts and emotions of our ancient progenitors. I seem to recall a book entitled “The Naked Ape”, which expresses this theory.
      We are in a world gone mad because the basic rules of male-female relations no longer apply. Females were the stabilizing force that tempered the male aggression, but now they are in direct competition with the male in almost every aspect of our lives. Rather than evolving and adapting slowly, women have leaped from the supportive role to the antagonistic in a revolutionary and dramatic manner. Women have developed from the bearer of our children and suppliers of stability into confrontational competitors that are “out-depraving” their male counterparts. In some less developed cultures this has resulted in repression of women, because they have redefined their role and challenged traditional behavior. They have not been replaced in the scheme of society, they have simply abandoned their place in the natural order of human relationships. More technologically advanced societies have polluted the less advanced with notions of equality of males and females. The fact of the matter is that we are each specialized to perform specific functions, and these functions are no longer being adequately performed.
      We are in a process of decline due to this dysfunction. Women are seeking validation by alienating those with whom they should be bonding. It is obvious that the longer these conditions persist that the weaker the bond becomes, and it threatens our ability to create a stable society. Unable to establish a clear separation in the identity and role of male and female, we are seeing more abberant behavior, even deviant behavior, that does not conform to the functional role for which the two genders were created and intended by design or evolution.
      Studies of overcrowding have been conducted with rodents with similar results to that which develops in humans crowded into confined spaces; such as occurs in our large cities. The lack of privacy and the inability to achieve solitude, leads inexorably to frustration, hostility, and aggression. In rodents, a competition for food due to the overcrowding often leads to violence, and they are not above cannibalism. Compare that, if you will, to some of the events occurring on “Black Friday”, where people crowd around a store to secure something they desire. The resultant pushing, shoving, jostling, close proximity, verbal and physical confrontations is typical animal behavior; not a civil human interaction. We are the hunter- gatherer-warrior again, and the thin veneer of civilization disappears and the animal surfaces, although we usually refrain from murder and cannibalism. We are, none-the-less, reduced to adversarial animals reacting to the irresistable attraction of something so insignificant as a “SALE”.
      Women have been “liberated”, Pandora’s box has been opened, and the Geni has been released from the bottle. Women are no longer willing or capable of granting unlimited wishes without imposing certain provisos, conditions, codicils, rules, and restrictions, which are not conducive to mutual cooperation. Males and females are no longer bonding in exclusive relationships that enable them to work in unison and function in harmony. Miley Cyrus may arouse my libido, but she would never command my respect, devotion, or self-sacrifice. Self-reliance, independence, and overt hostility have replaced interdependence and mutual cooperation. We are all reduced when women immulate the male persona. We are a dying race, dying because the feminine is being purged from the female. It is genocide and suicide on such a grand scale that it is truly more depraved than anything ever dreamt of by mortal man or achieved by machines of war.
      We are hunters, gatherers, farmers, shepherds, fishermen, herdsmen, builders, dreamers, and anachronisms.

  7. Ali reza
    November 18, 2013

    I think its anti Iran report, Its injustice..Zahira Khan you born in akistan and raised in Saudi
    Arabia, which is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving or previously
    forbidden from voting or being elected to political office !!!!
    my question is : did you reported such articles from Saudi Arabia as a photo coordinator in Nat Geo!!
    or because such cuntries fill your pockets by oil dollers you cant ??!!

    ((I wait for your report from pakistani Al-Qaeda, for their supporters : America, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel , and other sunni arab cuntries))

  8. layla
    November 18, 2013

    If freedom means copying western culture then i think it would mean the end of the beautiful culture and tradition of Iran.As with personal experience with iranians i do believe that freedom implies looking like westerners both appearently as well as copying their lifestyle..

  9. eli
    November 18, 2013

    this is only the tip of iceberg. thanks for your fantastic photos from Iran

  10. Héctor
    November 18, 2013

    Es hora que llegue la libertad a ese pueblo, muy buen artículo.

  11. layla
    November 18, 2013

    Well if women wearing hijab are facing such harassment i cannot imagine any better situation if they stopped wearing it.the problem is not hijab or segregation but the attitude of men.Pakistan having not imposed wearing of hijab or segregation is not any better women face the exact same harassment.

  12. Rufat
    November 18, 2013

    People is a different and religiona ia differetnt!
    Muslims doing things does not mean that it is Islam!!!

    November 18, 2013

    My recollections of a trip to Iran in 2009 were of a country bursting for freedom of speech and dress, but that did not diminish the friendliness of the people I met, their rich History & Culture and their desire to embrace the rest of the world once again. Lovely people. Things will change.

  14. Ramaniraj
    November 18, 2013


  15. Flora
    November 18, 2013

    “it’s not easy to be a woman in Iran”
    I loved this part and yes that is true..sometimes it is suffocating to wear what you hate everyday and to behave in a way that they want you
    to..it is not fair to be a human and be treated like a robot just because you are pretty..
    thank you Hayeri..Iran needs women like you.

  16. Ramaniraj
    November 18, 2013


  17. john
    November 18, 2013

    I am lucky enough to have been in Iran prior to the revolution. It’s hard to believe it has taken so long to come out the other side. I would love to come back as I have great memories of the Iranians/Persians and their beautiful country.
    Don’t give up change will win.

  18. Umar
    November 18, 2013

    Having lived in Pakistan as well seen life in the GCC, the public-private duality is a fact of life. Great pictures. I would like to read more about this story.

  19. krishna p. rajdev
    November 18, 2013

    \good to read. I think women should have their freedom. Best of luck

  20. Corinne
    November 18, 2013

    I think it is important for people to not only see these images, but to understand the struggle that these women are going through. Very poignant!

  21. krishna rajdev
    November 18, 2013

    Women should have freedom Good it is changing . Best of luck

  22. krishna
    November 18, 2013

    Good changes are coming slowly. est of luck

  23. reza
    November 18, 2013

    we shouldn’t assume government’s mistake as Islam’s mistake,in Iran we live under threat of extremist who always try to find new condition to impose force on people,specially young people

  24. The Old Wolf
    November 18, 2013

    I would love to see Iran return to what they had in the way of culture before 1979… minus the brutality of the Shah’s regime. People were free to be Islamic or Western as they chose. I wish them prosperity and self-determination.

  25. Bill
    November 18, 2013

    Women covering themselves is not to “practice modesty”, its to protect them from the animals that enjoy a good rape. it is ho society blames the victim (women) for the celebrated tradition of rape and subjection of women practiced in this and other similar countries. Women there call it what they have been indoctrinated to call it… “modesty” but the world knows better. If there will be change it must come from within.

  26. Nima ZP
    November 18, 2013

    Nice article!. More detailed of this article would be better.
    There are a lot of paradox subjects in men & women relation forms which can be discussed.

  27. kausar
    November 17, 2013

    Its anti iran report……
    Its injustice..

  28. Sundaram
    November 17, 2013

    Well articulated! Kudos Ms.HAyeri

  29. Jerry Howe
    November 17, 2013

    Yes I love the Hajib as well, be being forced to wear one is another story. You country or your husband should not enforce this type of tyranny on a woman. She shpould be able to do as she pleases. But then, again this is a by product of inbreeding.

  30. Stephanie J
    November 17, 2013

    I come from a very different culture, but I have experienced oppression and for some sharing their story is extremely difficult. I believe art can change opinions, minds, and maybe the world. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

  31. Ali Haider Saleem
    November 17, 2013

    Hats off to KIANA HAYERI for some of the memorable pics she photographed.

  32. Sarah
    November 17, 2013

    I love seeing photos from Iran, but I’m really tired of reading articles with the angle “gender divide = evil” stereotype that is becoming boring even to the average American. I like the photos – thanks for those – but your opinion, especially when presented as fact, just reads like someone brainwashed to believe everything western humanistic values says about what freedom has to be like. What if the girls CHOOSE to cover up, what if both genders WANT to be separated, that might be why places like McDonalds offer options – we all know no corporation doesn’t do anything unless it receives positive feedback.

  33. sanjaya
    November 17, 2013

    Good work Hayeri. Freedom has same feeling to all genders. Sooner or later every one have same freeedom on this planet.

  34. Mitra
    November 17, 2013

    I admire Hayeri’svcourage for addressing these controversial facts abou life of women in Iran. It is our men as well as our women who need to be educated about what it means to be free and what it entails in being a human regardless of one’s gender. Sometimes the shame of living under a condition gives birth to the denial that keeps us hostage in the worst situation. Accepting reality of life in Iran for both men and women. Is painful. Who says it is dignifying for a man whose mother, sister, wife or daughter is treated as half. What is this if not ignorance. Yes our Iranian men need to be educated along Iranian women. Thanks for reading.

  35. Lisette Vis
    November 17, 2013

    The restrictions Muslim women have to endure seem impossible to live with to me. I hope they can be lifted soon.

  36. Trevar
    November 17, 2013

    Change is gradually coming to the good people of Iran…i wisah them well, they are such hospitable people

    • Michael Lee Pemberton
      November 18, 2013

      Trevar commented :”Change is gradually coming to the good people of Iran…i wisah them well, they are such hospitable people”. All that I can say to that is that the 52 American diplomats who were held hostage for 444 days as the result of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 might not agree, and neither would the Iranians who fled for fear of being killed by Khomeini’s thugs.

  37. Michael Lee Pemberton
    November 17, 2013

    With freedom comes responsibility; not just to defend freedom, but to exercise restraint, self-discipline, and mutual respect. There are negative consequences to the exercise of unbounded freedom, consequences that are just as real as those which occur when the physical laws which govern our existence are violated.
    From observation, experience, and experimentation, humans have developed the science that is physics. We have learned that some things cannot be done; such as humans flying or levitating unaided by machines. We have also learned that some things should not be done; such as stepping off of a cliff into an abyss and expecting to survive unscathed. We know that no two objects can occupy the same space simultaneously, and we have learned that no two individuals can exercise unrestricted free will when the choice of one impacts the choice of the other. A prime example of this is found where two children wish to play with the same toy at the same time when that toy is designed to be controlled by only one individual at a time. We have all witnessed the struggle and conflict that results as each child attempts to gain control of the toy for themselves.
    To avoid such conflicts, human civilization has developed some basic rules that govern our conduct. We have developed a social compact that allows us to co-exist and cooperate to our mutual advantage in obtaining the basic necessities for life. Humans require food, clothing, and shelter in a temperate climate with a breathable atmosphere. In addition, we require protection from predators, companionship, a sense of self-worth, and eventually the ability to procreate to ensure the survival of the species.
    The first rule which must have developed would have been a tacit agreement that they would not attack and kill one another without provocation. The second must have been an agreement to refrain from stealing from one another the basic items required to survive. Violating this second understanding would constitute a threat to their continued existence and would serve as a provocation to kill to recover what was stolen. With these two principles in place, it would have been possible to develop mutual cooperation, a division of labor, and sharing resources for the benefit of all. They would have come to enjoy a modicum of predictability in their environment that would contribute to bonding within the communities they formed. From this humble beginning, humans have continued to create more rules intended to increase the safety and predictability of their surroundings, and guide the conduct of the individuals within the community.
    Unfortunately, some human communities have developed a notion that only they deserve to survive, they have developed this philosophy into a religion, and they have used that religion to justify war, slavery, and murder. They prize character traits that will best serve their hostile agenda, have created a hierarchy based upon a division of labor, and have abandoned the concepts of mutual respect, cooperation, and sharing equally among members of their communities. Islam is such a religion, and it employs intimidation, coercion, extortion, murder and war to expand its power and influence. Women within the cultures where Islam dominates are little more than chattel and their freedom has been curtailed to the point that it closely resembles slavery.
    Iran is unique among the Muslim countries and has not been so thoroughly Arabized that they have forgotten that they were once a great nation with a flourishing culture. The Persian Empire and its civilization were conquered by Muslim Arabs, but they still resist becoming totally submerged by Arab culture. Unlike North Africa, Syria, Turkey, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Muslim Middle East, I believe that Iran still possesses the potential to plot a course that is independent of the Arab demagogues and may even come to question the tenets of Islam which make existence more like a dry husk than a succulent fruit.
    I opened with the statement that with freedom comes responsibility. Although I reject much of Muslim theology, I do believe in the existence of only one God, the sole Creator of all things, the God worshipped by Abraham and Moses. I recognize that too many people have rejected Him and His rules. I see too many people who have decided to ignore His laws and have exercised little or no restraint in their freedom to disrespect God and our fellow humans. Their excesses and lack of self-control needs to be corrected, but with compassion rather than brutality. Society in the United States of America has become so decadent, immoral, and corrupt that it is the polar opposite from Muslim society. American women possess so much freedom that they have become immodest and revolting. If humans are to survive, we must practice moderation and seek the middle course.
    My compliments to both Zahira Khan and Kiana Hayeri along with my best wishes for success and a long and happy life. May the hijab, manteau, or burqa never be allowed to weigh down your spirit.

  38. hossein Hajiagha
    November 17, 2013

    Iran is better as USA or Canada for living
    I am Iranian Canadian Artist and if I had some cash in my hand I never stay here to work as labor for Canadian …

  39. Hajiagha
    November 17, 2013

    you are know that I am Photographer and artist and in 2013 I was visiting from Iran and was jailed in political reason because I took photo from poor Iranian as Canadian. how ever I ran is nice place for Iranian problems is USA or BBC are spy and broadcasting propagandas news by 24 hours TV to change regime in Iran , in 17 years my living in Canada I never had a day be happy here bout in 6 month back in Iran and 30 days in jail was fun. this young Iranian come from capital Tehran are mostly just so lazy to go work they like to 24 eat and sleep and have fun and watch free American TV..do we have free TV in Canada answer is not , we pay expensive tax and they not …I do not care about them because most of the just complain with no reason
    photographer discovery channel, and national geography blog

  40. hady
    November 17, 2013

    we can hope this real thing.

  41. dan kaufman
    November 17, 2013

    get rid of the mullahs and join the free world

  42. Sophia Mendler
    November 17, 2013

    Through your efforts, risks and determination, your work is very delicate yet strong with a message. Congratulations and I respect all religions including the beauty of Islam. Continue your journey and all the best.

  43. Jerome Brown
    November 17, 2013

    Emancipation of women has been hard fought for in the UK, and although women can vote, there is still discrimination against women in our society today (UK). The women of Iran must fight for their rights, as our women did. The best way is to ridicule the silly religious views that are enslaving your society. Albeit secretively. Good luck!

  44. Karen
    November 17, 2013

    God loves you no matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you wear or who you are. It shouldn’t have to be so tough to live your life. I feel so blessed to live in a country where you can be yourself. I feel for the people in Iran.

  45. Shakti
    November 17, 2013

    Great article. Very informative

  46. Foad
    November 17, 2013

    quite realistic words,by the way women facing grossly tough situation here in Iran.

  47. M.Ramezani
    November 17, 2013

    As an Iranian man who where lived in a western country, I would say this article is adorable by westerners but for me is worthless.
    I do love Iran and I left west to come to my homeland for living. You cannot find such a nice people in the world like Iranians, hospitable, kind and generous and much more. We have been affected by our culture as well as our religion.
    Our holy land is family oriented country and some western cultures are not welcome here.
    It is very easy to get a camera and photograph some subject which is interesting for you in any way, positive or negative….
    I suggest you to take you camera to inner city in one Saturday night in a western country and shot the violence of your drunk young people, boys and girls… or go to one police station and take some pictures of teen girls were missing and show us more of the western culture from behind the scenes!
    And you name it freedom!!!
    Such a world we are living at… the definitions has been changed.

  48. Chele
    November 17, 2013

    The Key to a healthy free society is scientific education and intelligent emotional support as young people mature to learn to employ their own Free Will.

  49. judith whitworth
    November 17, 2013

    When I was in boarding school in England, we were many races, colours and religion, but we got along so well and some were from Iran, I send them my love, wish them well. Now we are “old ladies” we must help the young to be HAPPY, it is their right.

  50. Rose
    November 17, 2013

    It isn’t about whether you ‘love; hijab or not. Can’t you understand what the discussion is here? It is about the freedom to decide if you as a woman want to wear it or not. Freedom of choice is a basic human right that is denied here.some of the comments I have read on this discussion are so locked in prejudice it will be a hundred years before liberation comes . God help you all.

  51. Rose Figtree
    November 17, 2013

    It isn’t about whether you ‘love; hijab or not. Can’t you understand what the discussion is here? It is about the freedom to decide if you as a woman want it or not. Freedom of choice is a basic human right that is denied here.some of the comments here are so locked in prejudice it will be a hundred years before liberation comes . God help you all.

  52. Silvermane John
    November 17, 2013

    Religion and politics should be séparated at all times. Religion is something that must be free to practice! Men and women are equal and must have the same rights and as long as the Islam doesn’t recognise that, there will be always problems. One schould start to think that Muslim men are affraid that their women would be free to say and do what they want. High time to modernise the Islam and the mentality towards women and other religions.

  53. S
    November 17, 2013

    Growing up is hard regardless of your country of origin or religious belief. There’s sexual brutality wherever there are men unfortunately. Men need to start to learn women are not objects for them to play with. Just because a woman wears a veil does not make her any more a ‘toy’ than a woman in a boob tube & mini skirt. It’s time we react as humanity, not just as men and women to the behaviour of sexist morons out there. To the women of Iran: stay strong, stay true & fight for your freedom & well as the freedom of your daughters. X

  54. Mike
    November 17, 2013

    Thanks for some more insight into life in the middle east

  55. Tom Wood
    November 17, 2013

    When will we learn freedom in not imposing ourselves on others from a religious or secular perspective

  56. Ali Farsijani from Iran
    November 17, 2013

    Nation’s beliefs are crucial. The real democracy consider it.

  57. Phil Lim
    November 17, 2013

    Hope oneday young Islam people make it to freedom and equality.

  58. Brian Clark
    November 17, 2013

    I am pleased that women are starting to make their feelings known in theses male dominated countries. I can never understand why they feel it is necessary to impose their will on the female, are they afraid that if they give them more personal freedom they will not then be able to control them. It only shows them up as insecure people.

  59. Ali
    November 17, 2013

    Growing up in Iran is much more enriching than most western countries.

  60. Hamid
    November 17, 2013

    Somewhat true

  61. JMR
    November 17, 2013

    Enjoyed this glimpse behind the veil. Growing up in Jerusalem’s Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods youth have the same struggle between the open electronic world around them and the high moral standards of their homes and schools but somehow it meshes a bit easier since there are many different orthodox styles and a degree of flexibility is built into Rabbinic law. Youth tend to be motivated to remain attached to their faith and look for ways to experiment with life styles within the tradition. Also personal religion observance in Israel is totally separate from the laws of the state.

  62. Steve
    November 17, 2013

    I have studied many religions and the one take away is this “it’s about personal preference and belief”. In the Quran there is a passage that states, “there is no compulsion in religion” , but I’ll be damned if countries like Iran don’t try and “compel” people to adhere to Islam. People should be free to think and believe what they choose. Those are basic human rights. If Iran sees this differently, then people should be allowed to leave without fear of retribution. I once thought Islam to be a beautiful and simple religion. But in the end, it’s no better than any other. They all have self serving, corrupt people.

  63. Alisha
    November 17, 2013

    It is i possible to understand why millions of people continue repeating what they have been told for generations without stopping to think about it. Stop! We also do it in America. They way some part of society thinks about race, blacks, women, homosexuality, abortion. Look in the mirror!

  64. Deborah
    November 17, 2013

    NO. One reason women get sexually harassed in this culture is because they are afraid, and know they can’t really do anything about it other than physically fight back in the moment. You are more likely to be sexually harassed while wearing a hijab, etc. It’s been put to the test! This notion that everything woold be much worse if we didn’t wear them is a myth. This is what happened when people hold one gender above the other, have drastically different rules for them, and instill FEAR. Bad men take advantage of this. I fully support women’s right to decide to wear them, but it’s the culture that needs to change, NOT the clothes.

  65. Dorothy Koval
    November 17, 2013

    Beautiful photos, thought-provoking words.

  66. TG Powell
    November 17, 2013

    I enjoyed the article. The thing I wonder about is how long will it take for these repressed people to discover why they are repressed? Their social and home lives would improve greatly if they would lose the religious power. Islam is dead set in keeping women under the thumb. This is why a few of them go wild when they have the chance to live in a “free” world. Like kids in a candy store. Maybe she should anonymously and secretly photograph the “real” Iran.

  67. Mark
    November 17, 2013

    Religion should comfort and guide. Bad things happen when religion rules.

  68. Masoud
    November 17, 2013

    great photos and women with force head scarf by the regime

  69. Fehmima Siddiqui
    November 17, 2013

    its a one sided article. why did u connect religion with freedom.law n order is still maintained in saudi etc as compared to india. here women have excess freedom but no law n order n no security, atleast this insecurity does not prevail in saudi and other king ruled countries

  70. José E. Benítez
    November 17, 2013

    Iran is cradle of civilization and a former very powerful Empire. The kind of culture they show today, is not because somebody impose it. They are in a religious stage for may be centuries in the future. No comparison with western civilization.

  71. Casey
    November 17, 2013

    Though they may seem like an escape or a rebellion, drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex are not an improvement. They destroy lives.

  72. Zahra
    November 17, 2013

    Well done. Thank you Kiana. One should be a woman grown up in Iran to feel the depth of these photos reminding the tragic fate of millions of women in a religious patriarchal society. With those rules in Iran they make us hate religion.

  73. Casey
    November 17, 2013

    Respect is the key word…for men AND women. There are good things about religion and bad. Repression and tight rules breed contempt and rebellion. My hope is that the Iranian people are freed from these things that suppress their culture and individuals. I do not wish them to be like the masses in the United States. I am a citizen in the U.S. Our society has gone way over the line of decency and respect. Save your good traditions. Lose the ones that will degrade your society, like they have ours.

  74. Spencer M. Schulman
    November 17, 2013

    Excellent work!

  75. Jacqui
    November 17, 2013

    It is not only the domination of the religion which is frightening but the fact that a person cannot go about just taking photographs. Future societies will judge just as critically if there are no pictures.

  76. Mehdi
    November 17, 2013

    Everyone accept there is no point in compeling people to do something . But a small glance at western societies isn’t a bad thing my friend! What is the differenc between animals and humans ? For being a human we NEED some restrictions . What do you think my friend ? Waiting for your respond.

  77. Sagar
    November 17, 2013

    its such a great thing that you have made the pictures of the Iran in a public forum.Most of us are just curious of happenings of Iran which is highly stringent in terms of media freedom and internet censorship. really a great work Miss.Zahira Khan.. congrats mam

  78. Eddy
    November 17, 2013

    As usual, excellent journalism & photography. There is sadness in the suppression of youth, in the enforcement of strict religious values rather than education & freedom of expression. The article reveals the conflicts & contradictions that arise in those circumstances.

    Hope your work is a catalyst of positive change.

  79. Truth Stalker
    November 17, 2013

    We, the people of the U.S., need to see many more photos like this, because unfortunately, many of us are so consumed with bitterness, anger, resentment and hatred, along with being severely misled by the incessant indoctrination of our government and it’s underhanded agendas, that images like this infuriate the closed-minded, war-mongering masses, by showing the people of the ‘Middle East’ as humans who live their lives exactly as we do, and demonstrating to us all that they are NOT the cruel, anti-peace, brainless Zombies that many Americans love believing they are, which is ironic, considering that it is THEY THEMSELVES (the Americans I speak of) that are more like that than anyone else. Thank you again for this wonderful article. Please spread these and many more like this as much as you can, all over the Internet! =)

  80. daeijan
    November 17, 2013

    Not only I had no problem using my DSLR camera in public, but also I found everyone very friendly a supportive too.

  81. Judy
    November 17, 2013

    Beautiful photography! Keep the beautiful images coming…

  82. Ted Dickinson
    November 17, 2013

    When the USA banned drinking it started a mob war and underground bootleg business that funded the crime organazations. All they are doing in places like Iran is forceing things underground and punishing people to control power with religion. The Catholic church did the same thing in the dark ages, the only difference is they have moved with the times. Islam is still in the dark!

  83. Irwin
    November 17, 2013

    Great work . The world must be made aware of the plight of the female gender in Iran . Suppression in the name of religion is devoid of humanity by which most religions are based.

  84. Razi
    November 17, 2013

    Outstanding job. As we all better know that world is swiftly changing in every aspect.

  85. sujit
    November 17, 2013

    will this article change the things inside iran ?

  86. Sajeewa Wickremasinghe
    November 17, 2013

    Yes, it is very tough to live in a muslim cluntry as a woman. In those countries respect, treat, harassment, care, for women is very low. Must change this wrong culture.

  87. Rasool Zabihi
    November 17, 2013

    nice pictures.keep going on

  88. walkingupstream
    November 17, 2013

    I have an Iranian friend who visired Iran for the first time at 40 yrs old. This article says nearly the same thing he did, the contradiction in private and public life…private parties with drugs, alcohol, etc. These judeo-christian religions set up such hypocracy and conflict it just doesn’t make any sense. When will we fianally , as a human race become intellectually honest with what it is to be human and stop chasing our tails trying to make sense of those thing we can simply not know?

  89. Skye
    November 17, 2013

    There is a lot to be said about any society where one gender is considered inferior from the other.

  90. Xavier rivas
    November 17, 2013

    Beautiful Country with great History, good people, it is most dificult to undertand, for us westeners it is dificult to undertand Religion and Cultural diferences, one relates to our sourroundings and those doing something or living diferently are strangers for us, this a Human mistake, we in Mexicali, Mexico have Iranian presence and love their life attituded of work ethics and vision. On the other hand Women must be equal to Man here in Mexico we still see women as second citizen status, of course we gained great rights, but still in our society, the Macho factor lives, Women in Iran as your report says still must be trested as equal…I have in Saudi Arabia, Iran and yes Women there need to be as equal to man, congratulations to Kyana Hayeri and to National Geographic, my opinion is dedicated to my Daugthers also, Zahira, Samanta and Maria Fernanda..Women are excelente Mothers, Workers, Public Officials, bring Honesty and Cretiity!

  91. Liz
    November 17, 2013

    The “path worth taking”, should be a personal choice. How much religion, coverage of body parts, etc – a personal choice. We’re all different. Extremes of anything are never healthy or “the best path”.
    Bravo for the article! Keep it up.

  92. Rebekah
    November 17, 2013

    Beautiful series – love it

  93. dwight
    November 17, 2013

    Hayeri’s photography tells a complex story with sensitivity, beauty, and compelling interest. The elements of coming of age regardless of the formalities of location and rules is universal.

  94. roma
    November 17, 2013

    Beautiful country ruled by laws of primitive old men and enforced by ignorant younger men.

  95. Mary Ann
    November 17, 2013

    Freedom means equality.

  96. feroze
    November 17, 2013

    nice one! imam madad 😀

  97. hamid
    November 16, 2013

    Each country has its own rules.
    I love hijab

  98. Shane , US
    November 15, 2013

    There are bound to be cataclysmic effects from any society where religion is such an integral part of society . If we have learned anything from the past these changes will be met with hostility and prejudice . The only way to change is through opening the mind and some people find that as a violation of their world.

  99. Atikah
    November 14, 2013

    As stated, even strict division didn’t prevent from drugs, alcohol n sex. Imagine what would happen if there are no more of such rules being implemented? Beyond the veil is a strong heart and mind of a Muslim woman, not exposing body parts to be judged by the same superficial standards. What is the purpose of life? Because if it’s just for blind freedom to get the same as what others get, then it is not a road worth taking..

  100. nooshen
    November 14, 2013

    very one sided article.

  101. Marie-France Lamoureux
    November 14, 2013

    Freedom for F. (Femmes) in all countries; especially in countries where women freedom of being is still considered an aversion or something reprehensible.
    Very sensitive article and pictures. Thank you Hayeri for your work! Keep it up! If you want help for empowering women in Iran… we can see what we can do… Love.

  102. vicky barjo
    November 14, 2013

    womans deserves freedom after all they are also human being

  103. phyl ely
    November 14, 2013

    God have mercy on them

  104. QueenMarley
    November 14, 2013

    Everybody has the free will to be whomever they want to be!

  105. Zain
    November 14, 2013

    Very well written article. Good job!

  106. Yasmin Khalil
    November 13, 2013

    Your right about how the division can make the treatment for women be uncomfortable. I do think in some situations that the division is needed as far as our young people so mistakes won’t happen.

  107. Hossein
    November 13, 2013

    She shoud have seen the other side of the coin too. As it is mentioned women are gaining more and more freedom as time goes by, however the consequences of these changes cost a lot for families and couples. Things should not be taken at their face value and we should have a deep analysis of each change and consequences it may have.

  108. Tove Margrethe Damsgaard
    November 13, 2013

    Yes!! time for change i salue it!

  109. Abbas Haider
    November 13, 2013


  110. kamran
    November 13, 2013

    Growing up in this country is tough

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