Team Melli Once United Iran at World Cup. Now It Reflects Its Divisions.
Tehran has come a long way since the 1979 revolution, with a new generation of young people and the world’s most-watched political rally.
On 30 October 2009, the day of the Iranian nuclear program’s worst-ever setback, millions of spectators crowded the streets of the city to watch the country’s flag-bearer, the leader Abolhassan Banisadr, stride to the podium to address the nation.
Tehran was ecstatic that day, but in hindsight the optimism looked somewhat naïve.
“People were all around thinking that it was going to be a great day for Iran,” says Naser Rassii, an author and former diplomat. “But when it turned out that the president had only the word of the supreme leader as a legal justification for the nuclear programme, the country was in an uproar. It was a real disaster.”
A decade after the Iranian revolution, it is still struggling with its legitimacy.
In the mid-1980s, young people who wanted to join a new revolutionary regime began to arrive in Tehran. The city’s suburbs, particularly Qazvin and Isfahan, became the country’s new centre of creativity. There, young artists and intellectuals who had worked in the US or in Europe had settled, and it became a centre of intellectual exchange. By the end of the regime, Iranians were coming into Iran in greater numbers, but for many they went for the job at home, not to join the revolution.
Today, most young people in Tehran are not from the revolutionary generation, but they have a different definition of revolution. They know the word “revolution” means a huge change in their life today. Most of them grew up under the Islamic republic that still governs Iran, and they have learned to adapt to the new system.