Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In town hideaway

According to the Washington Post's Thomas Erdbank, young people in Tehran can find some havens from constant supervision by the morality policy without going to the ski resorts.

Tehran’s coffee shops provide a retreat
Hidden in a corner of the atrium of the tiny Feresteh shopping center, right behind Tehran’s only Victoria’s Secret and a traditional pastry seller, the high-end Lime coffee shop is only for those who know where to find it.

The music of pop singer Ricky Martin filled the air as customers ordered $4 shots of espresso and connected to the shop’s wireless Internet with their cellphones. Girls with long hair spilling out from under their obligatory Islamic head scarves giggled shyly as they held hands with their boyfriends…

[C]offee shops are mushrooming in Iran’s cities, providing small retreats from busy streets and prying eyes.

Tehran’s coffee shops numbered just a handful 10 years ago. But now hundreds dot the city, with a new one popping up every few days it seems, even in places such as car washes and movie theaters. They are among the very few semi-public places where young people meet and artists and intellectuals debate.

But reality is never far away. On a recent evening, just outside the shopping center where Lime opened its doors in 2009, officers with Iran’s morality police — a unit that controls the streets to “promote virtue and prevent vice” — were stopping cars filled with boys and girls…

In Cafe Alme, near the campus of Tehran University, young couples gave a nod to the broad-shouldered owner, Abbas, before walking up a small staircase leading to a secluded area. Six months ago the morality police sealed off the section to “prevent flirting,” said Abbas, 30, who did not want his family name given. “I reopened it, because I need customers,” he said.

As Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” played in the background, Abbas poured a latte. “If young people want to be outside of their parents’ houses, coffee shops are often the only place they can afford to go to,” he said…

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