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Relevant issues for this story, separated by commas (eg. war, race, gender):
Isolationism, Religion
Geographical region for this story (eg. Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia):
Middle East
Relevant key words for this story, separated by commas (eg. Africa, Hurricane Katrina, Mother Teresa):
Youth, Culture, Iran, Repression
A short summary for this story that will go on the stories page (1-2 sentences):
The work aims to depict a portrait of the daily lives of Iranian youth who dream of living "a free life." It attempts to to introduce Iranian youth to the world and narrate their stories and problems through this story.
Mehran Hamrahi

2014 — student winner

Iran is currently one of the youngest countries in the world. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran's population has grown to 76 million people, out of which 70% are the youth under 35. However, in spite of its 7000 year-old history and its rich culture and civilization, the youth are still deprived of basic human rights.

Iran is a theocracy based on Islamic and traditional beliefs, and thus tries to bring up Muslim and traditional youth through publicity and education system. Teaching the sacred and religious instructions begins at the earlier ages in kindergartens and continues till the older ages. However many young Iranian people who are not different from the western youth, do not bear the traditional thoughts.

Except for some percent of the youth who adhere to tradition, the rest are living a trendy and up-to-date life. They would like to have a sweetheart and have free relationship together, be able to go to parties and drink alcoholic beverages without any restriction and fear and enjoy their pastime. The want to live the way they prefer.

Being deprived of basic human rights and social freedom, the youth are mostly desperate. According to the Iranian Psychiatric Association Secretary, between 15 to 20 percent of the Iranian youth suffer from depression. Many of them dream of immigration and living in a free country abroad. 

Western people have a negative reputation of Iran in their mind and they believe Iranians are fanatic people with traditional beliefs. The present work aims to depict a portrait of the daily lives of Iranian youth who dream of living "a free life". I am trying to introduce the Iranian youth to the world and narrate their stories and problems through this story.

As a young boy, I feel an emotional connection to this story. Illustrating these issues, is a reproduction of my own problems in Iran and it is a tale of my own hunger for a free life. Iran is a cheap country and thus the grant will be enough for continuing the project. I hope to move the project forward and present the true image of Iranian youth to the world from behind the closed doors and tell the story of their deprivation. I do believe that this dream will come true with the support of great Alexia Foundation. 

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Arash, 26, is dancing with his friends. This is his 26th birthday party. He offered the policemen 1000 dollars in order not to confine him and his friends. This is forbidden for girls and boys to dance together and in case the police is informed of this, they will be confined. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), March 1st 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Mahnaz, 19, is trying to check her Facebook account in her room. Facebook and other social networks are filtered in Iran and the youth have to use VPNs to access these websites. Having an account with Facebook is a crime in Iran, and even it might lead to debarment of somebody from employment in state organizations. Selling VPN and anti filters to people is a crime in Iran and it is considered as action against national security. In case of discovery, the person will be confined and imprisoned. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), July 27th 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Ghazal, 18, is checking out a manteau in a boutique.  After the Islamic Revolution and the mandate for Islamic veil, choosing the right clothing became a challenge for women and girls.  Women and girls are obliged to wear manteau or Chador. The manteau should be in a style not contradictory to Islamic rules, otherwise the person would be confined and sentenced to pay a fine. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), May 8th 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Fatima, 18, and Farzaneh , 20, are wearing makeup and getting ready to go to shopping. Iran is the seven largest consumer of cosmetics in th world and the first consumer in Middle East. However, the police chief has announced that those girls who wear lots of makeup will be confined. He has called these girls void of identity and morally disordered. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), July 10th 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Mohammad, 27, has a tattoo on his chest and arms. Though having tattoo is considered as abominable in Iran, some youth are very interested in having a tattoo. If a person has tattoo on his body, he/she will be not only confined, but also he/she might be deprived of some social rights. For example, if a person has tattoo, he/she can not be employed by a state organization or apply for a driving license. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), July 1st 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Azin, 30, is praying in his room. She is grown up in a Muslim family, but found herself inclined toward Christianity during her adolescence. She has not converted her faith officially, and secretly prays to Jesus Christ. The fine for conversion of the faith is the death penalty in islam and those who leave Islam will be sentenced to death penalty. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), July 21st 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Navid, 22, is drinking alcoholic beverage with his friends in the courtyard. According to Iranian law, if a person drinks alcoholic beverages, he will be lashed 80 times. If he is lashed again for the same crime, he will be sentenced to death. However, 60 to 80 million liters of alcoholic beverages are smuggled into Iran each year and most of its consumers are the youth. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), May 16th 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Sheida, 18, is smoking a cigarette in a café. She says " I feel safe in the café".  Smoking the cigarette is not restricted legally in Iran, however the girls are afraid of smoking in the public places. The radical Muslims and traditional people consider this as a abominable act for girls and they might annoy them. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), July 1st 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
Ali, 26, is talking to his girl friend, Feri who is 25. They prefer to meet each other in their home which is safe. Relationship between single boys and girls is illegal in Iran and meeting out the house might lead them to confinement. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), July 19th 2013. Mehran Hamrahi
(From left to right) Navid, 22; Mehran, 24; and Nima, 30. They are enjoying the loud music while driving the car. They are outside the city to enjoy the loud voice of the music. Due to the lack of recreation, driving through the city and suburban areas without a specific destination has become one of the main entertainments of the youth. Driving the car in the city is not illegal, however the police prohibit the youth from this entertainment.  If a car driver listens to a loud music he/she might be confined and the car will be seized for some days. Ahvaz (Southern Iran), March 27th 2013. Mehran Hamrahi