RFE/RL reports: When Mahmud Ahmadinejad was elected to a second term as president in 2009 as a result of what is widely regarded as vote-rigging, Iran’s younger generation played a leading role in the massive street protests that ensued and gave birth to the opposition Green Movement.
Iran’s rulers were shaken. For the first time since the days of the shah, Iranians screamed “death to the dictator!” from Tehran’s rooftops. Iran’s youth were energized — and angry.
It was Iran’s younger generation (60 percent of the country’s population is under the age of 30) that was at the heart of the Green Movement, and it was that generation’s political spirit that the government sought to crush. The heavy-handed clampdown — forever seared into memory by the shooting death of 26-year-old philosophy student and protester Neda Agha Soltan — eventually muted the mass street demonstrations, jailed the moderate opposition’s most ardent supporters and leaders, and allowed the establishment to continue on almost as before.
For Iran’s young, however, it was a different story. Bereft of morale or leadership, they became increasingly apolitical under the second term of the virulently anti-Western Ahmadinejad and watched — almost helplessly — as their country became more isolated and more mistrusted and more extreme.
It was a source of depression for many Iranians, but an interesting thing happened: as young people became increasingly disenfranchised from politics, they poured their energies into other areas. According to an observer in Tehran who spoke to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, recent years have witnessed an explosion of creativity in art, music and, above all, theater. [Continue reading…]