With a population of 8.5 million, Tehran is the largest city in Western Asia, the 19th largest city in the world and the capital of Iran. It was one of several places we visited that Peter felt were experiencing upheaval or on the brink of some kind of change.
An Islamic Republic run by Islamic conservatives, Iran is a flashpoint for international relations and has an uneasy, suspicion-laden relationship with the west, the USA, Israel and with some of its close Muslim neighbours. Shiite Iran and Sunni Iraq still have a prickly relationship after the Iran-Iraqi war which lasted nearly 8 years (September 1980 - August 1988) and became the longest conventional war of the 20th century.
More than two-thirds of Iran’s population is under 30 but unlike many countries with such a young population, literacy is 82%. Likewsie, in stark contrast with other conservative Islamic societies, women make up over half the numbers in university classes and play pivotal roles in society, including in government. The imbalance between intractable, conservative Islamic political leadership and the reality of a large, educated, young population creates an almost tangible tension that defines Tehran society. After the Federal election of June 2009, huge numbers of dissenting young people took to the streets demonstrating against the results, protesting that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ‘stolen’ the election from the reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi.