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Youth grappling with economic, cultural hurdles in modern Iran | Iran News

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Tehran, Iran – Frank Sinatra’s performance of the 1944 song “I Fall in Love to Easily” made it an American jazz standard.

In a dimly lit studio in downtown Tehran 75 years later, Azin Elahi sings it is an act of youthful rebellion.

The 19-year-old dreams of a career as a vocalist on the big stage. But in Iran, where the sound of a solo female singing voice violates strict Islamic codes of conduct governing public life, stealing moments of freedom in private spaces, behind closed doors, may be the closest she gets.

“For a female vocalist in Iran, it is not just about [a woman singing in public] being illegal. The society doesn’t recognise you,” said Elahi.






Millions to mark 40th anniversary of Iranian revolution

“My entire life, I wanted to sing. It’s like breathing for me. I can’t do anything else. But as a [professional] or an artist, you are not recognised, especially if you want to sing.”

The social stigma attached to the public act of singing, being a woman, can be as insurmountable an obstacle as the country’s Islamic laws, she added.

“We have so many talents here. The thing I want to say in the end is if you feel it in your heart, go for it and don’t let anyone or any religion or anything push you away.”

Despite her ambition, Elahi and her four bandmates acknowledge that American jazz does not fit the public image in Iran, and realising their musical dreams may mean leaving home.

They were all born two generations after the 1979 revolution and the Islamic Republic is the only Iran they’ve ever known. According to a 2013 study by the United Nations and the University of Tehran, a third of Iran’s population are aged between 15 and 29.

But many young people like them often speak nostalgically of a more liberal time before the revolution, an Iran they’ve never experienced.





According to a 2013 study by the UN and the University of Tehran, a third of Iran’s population is aged between 15 and 29. [Al Jazeera]

But the sound of music from small corners of the capital is a reminder that despite the conservative public face of the Islamic Republic of Iran – 40 years after the 1979 revolution – a diversity of perspectives still manages to co-exist in the country.

Daughters of martyrs

There is a segment of the Iranian population that says the clerical system of government is over-involved in matters of public life and personal freedoms. But there are also ardent supporters of the system that is promoted and enforced Islamic codes of public and private conduct in place for four decades.

Hajar Chenarani is a member of parliament and was born in 1979, the first generation of Iranians born under the flag of a new republic.

In many ways, she is a poster-child for the revolution: A devout Muslim having humble roots, highly educated, and her father died fighting in the Iraq war.






What will Iran sanctions mean for life in the Islamic Republic?

She’s one of millions of Iranians who see the 1979 revolution as a kind of referendum that determined Iran be governed by Islamic ideals in perpetuity.

“We should accept that we are a country that enjoys a rich culture rooted in the purity of Islam,” said Chenarani, adding that “we should consider we are an Islamic country, in line with [Islamic] ideals”.

“We may not allow some freedoms in the country that are permitted in other countries.”

But Chenarani acknowledges Iran’s youth is restless and blames the government’s failure to address issues of youth unemployment, which has contributed to increasing brain drain.

Many educated young people, who find themselves unemployed or under-employed, have been leaving the country.

“There may be some dysfunction in the country, some officials may make a mistake,” she said. “We always ask, what has the revolution done for us. But I always ask myself, what have I done for the revolution?”

Culture of fear

Iranian politicians often point to an urgent need to engage with young people to address the concerns of an entire generation.

A culture of fear limits open dialogue about even the most benign issues. Criticism of government officials and policies is common, but only behind closed doors, for fear of government retaliation.





Young people born to the children of the revolution, often refer to themselves as the “burned generation”. [Al Jazeera]

“We hear the time before the revolution was [economically] better, but I can’t talk about this transparently. In fact, I won’t dare do that,” said one Tehran shopkeeper in his 20s. “I can say a lot. But I prefer to say nothing, to keep my head on my neck.”

In deeply religious parts of the country, like Qom and Mashhad, many young men and women remain stalwart supporters of the ideals of Islamic Revolution.

But in Tehran, where the success of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rebellion in 1979 was the catalyst for sweeping change across the country, younger generations seem to be drifting away from conservative religious and political sentiment.

Young people born to the children of the revolution often refer to themselves as the “burned generation”. They say economic circumstances for them are so bleak, the hope for prosperity that came with Khomeini’s revolt is little more than historical record. For them, the revolution anniversary is a reminder of their tough financial times.

“To be honest, it’s like a wound that you can never get rid of,” said Amir Hosseini, the guitarist in Elahi’s band.

“It has never had a huge impact on my life and I was never a fan of these celebrations. Maybe I’m a shame to some guys who are fans. But everyone has their own thing to do and no one can force anyone…it’s a free life, I think.”






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Ottawa announces new funding to combat online child abuse

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Ottawa has announced $22 million in funding to fight online child abuse.

Noting that police-reported incidents of child pornography in Canada increased by 288 per cent between 2010 and 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale made the announcement Tuesday.

It follows a London meeting last week that focused on the exploitation of children between Goodale and his counterparts from the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, collectively known as the Five Eyes intelligence group.

Major internet companies, including Facebook, Google and Microsoft, were also at the meeting and agreed to a set of rules the members of the group proposed to remove child pornography from the internet quicker.

On Tuesday, Goodale warned internet companies they had to be better, faster and more open when in comes to fighting child abuse on line.

In this Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 photo, detectives use the Cellebrite system to extract information from cellphones at the State Police facility in Hamilton Township, N.J. “Operation Safety Net,” the results of which were announced in December, netted 79 people suspected of exploiting children. (Thomas P. Costello/Asbury Park Press/Canadian Press)

“If human harm is done, if a child is terrorized for the rest of their life because of what happened to them on the internet, if there are other damages and costs, then maybe the platform that made that possible should bear the financial consequences,” Goodale said.

The government plan includes $2.1 million to intensify engagement with digital industry to develop new tools online and support effective operating principles, $4.9 million for research, public engagement, awareness and collaboration with non-governmental organizations and $15.25 million to internet child exploitation units in provincial and municipal police forces across the country.

Goodale said the strategy recognizes that technology is “increasingly facilitating the easy borderless access to vast volumes of abhorrent images.”

That, he said, makes investigations increasingly complex,

“This is a race where the course is always getting longer and more complicated and advancing into brand new areas that hadn’t been anticipated five years ago or a year ago or even a week ago,” Goodale said.

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Gas prices expected to dip in Ottawa

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If you can wait an extra day to fill up the gas tank, your bank account might thank you.

Roger McKnight of Enpro is predicting a five cent dip in gas prices Wednesday night at midnight.

This comes after a four cent drop this past Friday, just ahead of the August long weekend.

McKnight said the reason for the drop, both last week and this week, is due to comments made by US President Donald Trump. 

He says after the drop, the price will be, on average, 118.9 cents/litre in the Ottawa region.

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Oka asks Ottawa to freeze Mohawk land deal, send RCMP to Kanesatake

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The town of Oka is asking the federal and provincial governments to slap a moratorium on a proposed land grant to the local Mohawk community in Kanesatake and to establish an RCMP detachment on the First Nations territory to deal with illegal cannabis sales outlets.

The requests were contained in two resolutions adopted Tuesday night by the Oka town council.

The administration of Oka Mayor Pascal Quevillon held its first public meeting since the start of the controversy that pitted the town council against the Kanesatake band council over a decision by a local promoter to give local lands to the Mohawk community.

The three resolutions are addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, Quebec Premier François Legault’s government and the Kanesatake band council led by Grand Chief Serge Otsi Simon.

As each resolution was read into the record, Quevillon stressed that the town of Oka was only looking to live in peaceful cohabitation with the Mohawk community.

The town also called upon Ottawa to establish a consultation process that would take into account the concerns of residents in Oka and  Kanesatake.

Quevillon’s administration also wants access to the plans detailing what lands are at the centre of negotiations between the federal government and the Mohawk community for purchase, suggesting the talks are simply a disguised form of expropriation.

“They’re giving money to (the Mohawks) to buy our land and annex it to their territory,” Quevillon said.

Despite its demands, the Oka council adopted an official statement addressed to the Kanesatake band council saying the town’s population wanted dialogue and peaceful cohabitation, with Quevillon citing the 300 years of close links between the two communities.

During the council meeting’s question period, some residents suggested that the council deal with other groups that say they are speaking for Kanesatake, including Mohawk traditionalists. Mayor Quevillon replied that the town would only deal with the band council and did so out of respect for Grand Chief Simon.

The mayor also argued that the RCMP, a federal police force, was best suited to be deployed in Kanesatake, where it would ensure the law would be respected, particularly on the issue of illegal cannabis shops.

Quevillon contended such a deployment was the only way for both communities to work together toward their mutual economic development.

Meanwhile, the apology Grand Chief Simon has said he is expecting from Quevillon for remarks he made earlier this summer about the Mohawk community in Kanesatake does not appear to be coming any time soon.

Asked by a resident if he would apologize, Quevillon left the answer to those citizens who attended the meeting, the vast majority of whom replied, “no.”

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