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Generational gap
When I see young people talk about "those religious bums" it's scary

By Najmeh Fakhraie
May 25, 2000
The Iranian

As I enter, I am encountered with a crowd of boys. A BIG crowd and really loud music. One boy has purple hair, one is wearing blue lipstick and one is putting on eye shadow. Of course the rest seem normal enough, except the fact that they have on enough hair gel to cover all of Mount Everest.

What seems weird to me is the fact that there are no girls, at least not any that I can see. But I'm told that it only seems that way. I am tempted to turn around and leave but I know I can't chicken out now. I pass through the herd of about a hundred boys and try to walk as fast as possible, all the time thinking "Why did I do this?. . . Why the hell did I do this?. . . Why did I decide to come to this weird party on the wildest side of town -- on Colloquial, one of the mountains around Tehran?"

As I go up, it amazes me to see how many people can actually fit on a mountain. I hear that its not like this on harder trails but unfortunately I couldn't even begin to imagine going up the others.

It seems that everyone knows everybody else here and I find out I'm right when one boy tells me: "This is the coolest spot in town on Fridays, we all come every week."

Let me tell you: it's a whole other world up there. Girls take off their scarves and put on baseball caps. I can hardly drag myself up, but the boys are carrying HUGE stereos playing anything you can imagine. Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, etc. I suddenly hear music louder then all the other ones around me, when I look around I see a bunch of people standing on a hill clapping while one boy is busy dancing to techno music. I can't believe they're so carefree. Aren't they scared someone will arrest them?

My heart suddenly stops pounding. A group of men, aged between 20 and 30 with long beards, black and white striped scarves and army boots aged between are coming down while all the time, saying something I can't quite understand. "They're reading the 'ziaarateh aashuraa'" a friend tells me. I expect them to start a fight with the ones who are dancing but fortunately they don't. That doesn't mean no one cares though. While sitting down, having a soft drink, we suddenly see one man kick a boy in the head and take him away, I don't know the reason but I get up to leave not wanting to get jailed at the ripe old age of 16.

Once we reach the "third stop", my eyes practically fall to the ground. I see a clergyman standing right in front of me. He has two bodyguards and just a few feet away from them another group of boys are busy dancing to techno music. My curiosity wins over my fright so I go over to where he is standing. A number of boys are standing around him and he's telling them that "they shouldn't spend all their time with 'those girls'." He is being hit with pistachios but he doesn't seem to mind. But once the pistachios turn into apples he starts to look around. I look back and see two boys laughing their heart out. The ones gathered around him are laughing too. And I have no idea why they are listening to him anyway.

A girl tells me : "It isn't always like this. On some days, especially in Moharram, there's a bunch of men up here with guns and they don't even let the girls and boys walk on the same side." But it's usually pretty "cool". She's been taken to the nearby police station three times for wearing too much makeup and taking off her scarf and so have most of the other people who come here regularly. But she and the others still manage to come every week.

I ask about the clergyman.

"He's been coming for the past couple of weeks, the damned. . ." and she goes on to call him with every unprintable name under the sun. "But he doesn't bug us much, just tries to 'guide' the boys." Do they listen? "Yeah right! He's way too old and religious to be taken seriously; he's pretty good for a laugh though."

I don't know, but as I am coming down I'm kind of disappointed. I was hoping for a quiet relaxing day somewhere away from the city crowd. This place was even more crowded and dirtier. And the "NO SMOKING" sign seemed only to provide light reading for the climbers. But I really can't come to a conclusion: Do those kids have the right to make all that noise and mess in public?

I know a lot of them come from real strict families and this is about the only fun they have during the week. I'm reminded of a girl in school who always wore 300 pounds of clothing -- not including the big black chador -- and had a father more religious then the pope. But she did things I would never even imagine doing. I bet anything that while a lot of those boys were dancing their father were at Tehran's Friday prayers.

The truth is that the generational gap is growing by the day and a lot of families are having problems. Though I don't really know whose fault it is or whose responsible, I can't help but pity both sides. I mean, if I ever wanted to dance I wouldn't have to climb up so high to do so for five minutes while at the same time risking arrest, beating and humiliation. I've always wondered about the fears, the pain, the anger, the truth that the blue lipstick and purple hair is designed to camouflage but the reasons run away from me.

When I see the way they talk about "those religious bums" (even if it's their own father), when I see how much hate they have for the opposite side, I only shudder. Though I think they have the right to feel that way to some extent, it's still scary.

These people are supposed to live under the same roof for many many years to come. Isn't one supposed to heal the other? Isn't one supposed to build a home for the other? Isn't one supposed to teach the other ones' children? And how can they do that all when they can't even bear to look at one another?

Najmeh Fakhraie is a 16-year-old student in Tehran.

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