'SIN' CITY in IRAN

Four years after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered a strict crackdown on ‘western fashion,’ there remains a district of  Tehran filled with Gucci, Versace and Hugo Boss which the president seems to have forgotten.

“The shops are supposed to be a secret – the government doesn’t want the West to know about this area.” (Lest we think they are getting soft on the oppression of women)

When the Shah was toppled thirty 30 years ago and we found ourselves living in an Islamic Republic, every slogan was about ‘evil’ western interferences; especially concerning cultural issues. From infant school upwards the government tried to brainwash youths into hating western culture.

But today, when you look at modern Iranian cities, it’s plain to see that many of these official programmes have failed. One of the best examples is demonstrated in clothing and style. Despite the government’s supposed crackdown on non-traditional clothing five years ago, people simply didn’t pay attention.

Citizens use the internet to follow what’s going on in the fashion world. Plus, there are underground fashion designers who hold private parties and catwalks in their homes. Obviously they are very careful about who they invite.

And then there’s the fashion centre of Tehran, in the north of the capital, where there are around 100 designer shops. Of course, they’re supposed to be a secret – the government doesn’t want outsiders (the West) to know or talk about this area. But neither has it ever got rid of it. No doubt they’re yearning to close the shops down, but when they think of the financial gains in tax, can’t bear to actually do it.

We have seen resistance to these famous brand boutiques in the past – both Basij officers and police often trying to bother them in some way; when the Benetton chain opened in 2006 it came under fire immediately. The Islamists called it a Zionist shop and attacked it during Operation Cast Lead on Dec. 31 2008.

Now, after Ahmadinejad made his speech about the chador and women’s dress on Jan. 11, the boutiques are being targeted for their being ‘western’. These shops are going to be under immense pressure from now on… OBSERVERS.france24

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