(Reuters) – Twenty-one-year-old Iranian Farnoush has her own job but no longer her own telephone.
When her father looked at her text messages and discovered she had a boyfriend, he confiscated the cell phone, saying her behavior was not proper in an Islamic republic.
“You have no idea. It’s the worst feeling, the pressure, when your father finds out you have a boyfriend,” Farnoush said, while plucking a customer’s eyebrows at a Tehran salon.
Iran is governed by a version of sharia law which in theory prohibits any mingling between members of the opposite sex outside marriage or close family. While social rules were relaxed under reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, who was first elected in 1997, things have tightened up again since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad succeeded him in 2005.
With reformists sidelined after protests against Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 re-election were crushed, parliamentary elections next March may end up being contested only by various factions on the right, leaving little hope for social liberalization anytime soon.