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French Kissing in Public or Private? That’s an Iranian Question

July 23, 2020
Firouz Farzani
3 min read
French Kissing in Public or Private? That’s an Iranian Question

I am the father of two grown-up daughters. Simindokht is 18 and Parvindokht is 20, exactly the age for romantic fantasies and the ecstasy and anguish of first love.​ ​

Last Friday, we were all desperate for a break from TV coverage of Iran’s Covid-19 disaster, which is making us depressed and also a little paranoid, so I took my daughters to the Mellat-e-Park (known as Nation Park in English), just a stone’s throw from the state TV and radio building.​ ​

As I was putting up the badminton net, I noticed Simindokht staring at some bushes on the edge of the mini-golf course. ​I could not believe my eyes. There was a young couple making out in the most explicit way. My daughters’ flushed faces and burning cheeks showed how embarrassed they were. Without saying a word, we picked up our things and moved to the upper part of the park. There, we came across a different couple passionately French kissing, completely indifferent to their surroundings. In the center of Paris, they might have been unremarkable, but in Tehran!​ ​

The scene was impossible to ignore, so my daughters and I abandoned our badminton plans and went for a stroll and a heart-to-heart talk. They told me that almost all their female classmates at university have boyfriends, but Covid-19 is making life unbearable. The young woman live with their families who, these days, barely ever go out. With Mum and Dad always around, family flats are no longer free for an hour here and there for young lovers to be alone (empty apartments used for secret meetings and sex even have a name in Persian, “makan”).​ ​

Now, in the time of coronavirus, the only refuge for courting couples is public space – parks, where they hope there are no morality police.​ ​

Ever since, I’ve been thinking about how young Iranian woman seek sexual freedom. For years now, in spite of the Islamic dress code imposed on them, they have projected their sexuality by choosing to wear tight leggings under equally snug manteaux (the coat-like outer garment they’re supposed to wear) and feminine makeup. It seems to me this desire to be, and to be seen to be, sexual beings is unstoppable.​ ​

Then I realized that my daughters wanted to come to Mellat-e-Park, not for badminton, but to start this very conversation. They convinced me that my wife and I should leave our apartment now and then to give them space for romance, and some privacy with their male friends.​ 

​There’s no question this is more palatable than having them roll around with their boyfriends in the park shrubbery. I’d much prefer to meet these young men and exchange pleasantries before diplomatically disappearing. At least that way, I know who they are and can also be sure my daughters are in a safe place. ​

A photo essay on CNN’s website struck me recently. I have posted the link below. It shows how East Berliners, even in the darkest days of the Stasi, expressed and documented their most intimate selves. In these pictures you can see human beings pushing back against the suffocating norms of an oppressive state.​ ​

That’s what young Iranian lovers, women and men, are doing now too, aided and abetted by a most unlikely ally – Covid-19.​​​


Vintage photos capture the passion and restlessness of East Germany's youth​

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