When I see young people talk about "those religious
bums" it's scary
By Najmeh Fakhraie
May 25, 2000
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
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.