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Jun 16, 2005

The Moin Girls vs. Rafsanjani's Babes

If Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution" set a new media standard for sexualizing the democratic process in the Arab world (Betty Boop Takes Lebanon - link;  In Love With Lebanon - link), the Iranian election has taken it to the next level. 

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For all the hysteria about nuclear ambitions and the spread of fundamentalism, many of the news photos of the Iranian election reflect a society that has come a long way since the Islamic Revolution.   If you can rely on the hajib as a symbol, the stylizing of this garment provides clear evidence of a growing liberalization.

Dress codes aside, however, what do these images say about the media's election coverage?  If the photos from Beirut's democracy demonstrations last March were sort of scruffy -- like scenes from MTV's Spring Break, the Iranian election shots are positively glamourous, even sensual -- like they came out of Vanity Fair, or Vogue. 

The shots are not just sensual, though, they also have a lot of passion.  Whereas the Beirut images profiled young women expressing love for flag and country (and themselves), these Iranian photos express affection for a political figure.  That makes them a lot more intimate.  And, whether you're buying it or not, the infatuation of a young girl for an older man is a pretty strong visual allusion.  (What better reinforcement than that for a "fatherland?" )

There are any number of ways to account for the sensuousness.

It could be that democracy (or, at least, the presumption of it) is the passion of the moment. Or, maybe the "sexing up" of election coverage is a new fact of life as an increasingly profit-hungry media "goes tabloid" over spontaneous expressions of political will. (By the way, if you don't read sex in these images, your impression of the barely pubescent female is a relic of the '50's. For my taste though, I appreciate the woman taking that delightful drag on the smoke under the nose of Rafsanjani and his twin.)

Or, perhaps the sumptuousness is just more particular to Iran, reflecting specific cultural, political or aesthetic factors. Maybe these pictures are elegant because Iran/Persia has (like Iraq/Mesopotamia, with its ancient tradition of learning) a deep and enduring sense of poetry -- visual and otherwise. Or, perhaps the PR-conscious mullahs are happy (even desperate) to project refined pictures right now, both to their own restive and Western-hungry youth, and to a skeptical world. Or, it might be that Iran is just a less repressive (or repressed) society than Bush and the neocons make it out to be (just like the supposed gap at home between Blue and Red is also a lot less wide or differentiated than advertised).

I just had a few other thoughts about content. (Of course, I'm hoping the growing legion of BAG analysts will have much more to add.) For one thing, I was wondering how much of the passion in these pictures (especially for Rafsanjani) is based on genuine affection, youth fandom and cool, naive idealism -- or a form of feigned allegiance that a disaffected populace has learned to artfully play act. (Looking at it that way, it seems that these images might reflect a whole lot more personality than partisanship.)


I was also wondering how to understand the desire to dress (or plaster) ones self in campaign material. Is it just the political marketing move of the moment? Or, could it be one more subtle jab at the regime?

Besides a parody on dress requirements, perhaps the "look" is subliminal confirmation that the election is a "put on."

(Complete photo credits to follow) (image 1: REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters.  June 1, 2005 in YahooNews)


re: Rafsanjani's Babes

I think Americans, in general, have a stereotypical view of women in Iran and Iraq.

I recently attended an international inventor's symposium in Geneva, Switzerland. In the section assigned to the Iranian inventors, 65% of the high tech inventions were invented by women, who were there representing themselves, seeking either marketing or financing. This does not fit with the image of veiled women excluded from a full societal role and relegated to home and husband.

Perhaps the electioneering images will wake up the American sheeple to the fact that reality is not exactly as it is depicted by US propaganda.

There is nothing under the smile of moin and rafsanjani and their girls, nor the Iranian people will be decieved by that.

Becuase the mullahs know the poeple are not interested in their circus called 'elections' they are using anything they can. Giving out oil's money to buy the votes is not too difficult.
Iran cool on Cash-For-Vote Program.

One may wonder, on the other hand, who were the young people, including young women, who cheered Bush in the republican convention in NYC!
I find these political photos attractive, sexy, and everything else you and other viewers here will say, but I also find them out of reality with the Iranian politics. It seems they are appropriate for the main cities in Iran and for the export propaganda, but in the countryside, they will not make a hit.
One caution, just because these pictures can be seen as "progressive", Iranian internal politics are repressive.
To add, in spite of the superficiality, Rice, Bush and company hoping that they will get the Iranian people "fight for the USA interests", read as vote, is just a delusion.
Iranians are intensively against USA policy in the Middle East and all attacks/criticisms by the Bush administration of the Iran just increase that sentiment. Iraq is just too much of an example how USA "liberates" and that is not an attractive option.

Iraq is just too much of an example how USA "liberates" and that is not an attractive option.

I think Christopher Hitchens proved otherwise.

I'm always amazed how Americans 'discover' other cultures.
To most of the literate world there's nothing new in these photographs.
(which is not to say there's nothing impressive). But your 'critique' or whatever you want to call it is merely the intellectuality of surface, spoken from what you know, which is apparently not much.
Go back to Cal Arts please

I'm diggin' the Jackie-O vibe in Iran. Makes me want to spin a Jimmy Smith LP.

lytom makes a good point on how much of the population this represents ... but as we have found here in the US – it does not take a majority to drastically change the image of an entire nation.

To Danny 37:
To quote you:
"I think Christopher Hitchens proved otherwise."
To respond:
I do not consider Christopher Hitchen "an authority" to prove that USA occupation of Iraq is a moral one! His interview is far from reality and seems to be written with "pay in mind". I suppossed you dig the title:
Reality should be obvious even to Bush and his advisors.

Hey, sex sells.... I wonder to what market these photos are directed? My guess is the West (18-35 yr olds!), since a lot of the subjects seem to be western-ish--sunglasses, cigarettes, cars, gas, women's rights/suffrage, happy campaign rallies, pluralistic elections, burgeoning DEMOCRACY for crying out loud....! I just wonder which Madison Avenue firm is pushing the image here...?! Whether Iran's elections are bona fide or not, whether Iran is liberalizing, etc. are valid questions. These photos are too pretty and seem to me more like a Bush town hall meeting than a progressive march to the future.... just my opinion.


Iran is pretty "Westernized", they have cars, indoor toilets, toilet paper, running water, telephones and so forth. I don't see that sexualizing women is "women's rights", and lots of campaign rallies are fake (see the Bush rallies where only the faithful are allowed), so maybe Iran is really westernized in more ways that we can appreciate.

Incidentally, I have the pleasure of having several Iranians in my extended family, many of whom fled to the US in the last 10 years. So I am not ignorant and looking in from teh outside.

I was also wondering how to understand the desire to dress (or plaster) ones self in campaign material. Is it just the political marketing move of the moment? Or, could it be one more subtle jab at the regime?

It could be as simple as an adaptation of the protester's t-shirt/hat. Or they aren't allowed to bring sticks to use to hold up their signs, so instead of banners that would be help by several people, they decided on the more compact "personal billboard" approach; an adaption of the Sandwhich Board maybe?

Great pictures, but then there are tons of great pictures. Who ARE these women, what is the context? Were they hired to pose or what? I like the one with the cig too...but then I am an old timer....

Iran is pretty "Westernized", they have cars, indoor toilets, toilet paper, running water, telephones and so forth. I don't see that sexualizing women is "women's rights", and lots of campaign rallies are fake (see the Bush rallies where only the faithful are allowed), so maybe Iran is really westernized in more ways that we can appreciate.

Incidentally, I have the pleasure of having several Iranians in my extended family, many of whom fled to the US in the last 10 years. So I am not ignorant and looking in from teh outside.
I agree with Carol, although I would never use the word 'westernized' to describe Iran. Similar ways to here in the west seems more appropriate.

One of my best friends from college is Iranian born, fled to the US in the last 10 years.[A stunningly beautiful woman I might add.]

lytom writes:

Iranians are intensively against USA policy in the Middle East

Not according to recent polling data

A recent public opinion survey of Iranians, conducted by The Tarrance Group, surprisingly found that a vast majority (74%) of Iranians feel America’s presence in the Middle East will increase the probability of democracy in their own country. The survey, which was the first of its kind, found two-thirds of Iranians believe that regime change in Iraq has been a positive for both neighboring countries: with 66% believing that it served Iran’s national interests, while 65% believed the Iraqi people will, in the long-run, be better off.

eh? "The Tarrance Group", bwhahahahahahah...

oh spare me.

Funny, it seems no one thinks being 'westernized' is a negative trait. It is always desirable, I guess. And where are the Iranian men in all these silly pictures? They're just as good-looking as the women. True, many Iranians think Dubya will provide their salvation. When I told some young men I hate that man, they looked at me in disbelief: he liberated Afghanistan and Iraq, how can you hate him? Because he's destroying the U.S. The idea was beyond their comprehension, no resonance there. I suggested the twenty-year old who praised Bush, volunteer to fight for the liberation of Iran and that his father help foot the bill. These details did not register. Why do U.S. persons (the commoners, I mean) think they have to preach to the world, have the right to do so, find it desirable to fork out the cash to keep the Wolfowitz and Chalibi bigwigs happy? Why don't they walk down the streets of their own towns and see the unhappiness of the uneducated, uninstured, underfed right around the corner? Always the great mission of conversion and pervsion for profit. U.S. persons cannot believe, will not deeply accept, that other people do things in different ways. Is every one, everywhere, pining for 'freedom'? Anyway, more interesting, does anyone know if Coca Cola is breaking sanctions in Iran? According to the label of the 'Coca Cola' sold there, it is 'original' and made 'under authority of the Coca Cola company'. The bottle looks right, the taste seems genuine. So what is up? Before you know it we'll find out that Halliburton is trading in Iran -- oops, that's old news. May Iran get a nuclear weapon! Even if the moderates or progressives or whoever ousts the mullahs you can be sure the nuclear program will continue. The adminstration is twitting the people again, but the people like to be twitted since there is no outrage about the Downing Street Memo. I cannot fathom to what depths of decadence the U.S. has descended. But, then, I'm just, as the savvy say, naive. Remember, Mr. Wolfiwitz told us quite a way back that the argument about WMD was only a convenient ploy to get the public behind the plan to go to war. You heard hardly a squeak then about his arrogance and deceit. The people and the media did not feel they'd been made fools of. No, Mr. Wolfowitz now distributes money to the super rich of poor countries. It almost makes me want to become a Communist. The idea is as quaint as the Geneva Conventions on people captured in war.

Have you considered that Iranian culture has always had a glamorous, sensual, streak a mile wide? Ever read any Persian sufi poetry?

You might also look up Persian manuscript art from Iran, Central Asia, and North India.

Yes, sm, for sure. And it still does. Even the mullahs. Many U.S. persons talk about Iran as if it is some kind of backwater, and they're encouraged in their liberation impulses by the Iranian Chalabis hanging around Los Angeles and beaming non-stop t.v. to their fatherland, which they have decided they have the right to repossess when the time is right. The Shrubs should only have grown up in such a backwater. Then they would at least have some style.

Hubris Sonic expressed it well...

I am adding on:
You write "according to recent polling data"
What you call recent is the poll taken in August 23-28, 2002, in Tehran only.
Since that time, things have changed greatly in Iraq. The greetings of soldiers by Iraqis are no longer with flowers.
The exposure of Bush and Blair lies and uncovered memos put everything in different light for those who could not see that before.
The occupation, continued bombing and aggression of US-British troops, the multinational mercenary forces, show only blood and destruction.
I guess, you have not been following that yet...
Well year is 2005 now, get with it!

AOG must be losing track of time. Was he really referring to a poll from the middle of 2002? Anyway, the election results in Iran have created a whole new set of conditions, no matter which of the two candidates wins or steals the second round.


You are incorrect. Check the source link. Here's the relevant passage:


Commissioned by the Iran Institute for Democracy, the survey was conducted
among N=758 adults age 16+ (voting age) in Iran, from May 26 through June 4,
[emphasis added]

One October I was doing some archaeology survey along the St. Lawrence Seaway, the locks, hydro power and dams we share with Canada, (one of Abbie Hoffman's haunts before his demise and the tribute at the Palladium in NYC, that was torn down for NYU dorms, recently in NBC news as they help free two murder suspects wrongly imprisoned)the NY power authority was looking to return some of the "taken" properties in construction back on to the tax roles (one place Waddington, NY its church originally endowed by Trinity Church in NYC has about 95% of its property off the tax records) and they had a TV ad for "cow stickers" in the local election. You, if you were for the candidate, were to come down and pick up "cow stickers" and place them all over the dairy cows northern New York is known for, though I'm not sure if it was "tongue in cheek" people are always looking at cows arent't they? And mooing? It was a wet fall.

Iranian Student:
Can you explain why Hashemi’s name is rendered in English letters? Also, Hashemi seems to be Rafsanjani’s first name. It seems uncharacteristically informal for an Iranian to refer to a mullah by his first name. Is someone trying to impress Iranian-Americans and Iranian-Brits who speak but don’t read Farsi?

This story on Yahoo from the AP shows how Bush impressed Iranians:

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's spy chief used just two words to respond to White House ridicule of last week's presidential election: "Thank you." His sarcasm was barely hidden. The backfire on Washington was more evident.

By BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press Writer

The sharp barbs from President Bush were widely seen in Iran as damaging to pro-reform groups because the comments appeared to have boosted turnout among hard-liners in Friday's election — with the result being that an ultraconservative now is in a two-way showdown for the presidency.

"I say to Bush: `Thank you,'" quipped Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi. "He motivated people to vote in retaliation."

i want a freind.

The person as a billboard is an interesting concept. Though people were still getting thrown out of our (USA) leaders "town hall meetings" for wearing non-offensive I am not sure what westernized democracy is any more.

The beautiful people theme runs throughout photographers work, and marketing. I recall the National Geographic cover with the young girl from Afganistan with the beautiful face and captivating (blue?) eyes. I was at a U2 concert that they were filming a DVD for and I spoke with some people who had been waiting in line to get into U2’s heart stage (fan seating/standing room in the middle of the stage) – the producers had ignored the organized line and went down the line giving admission to attractive people. And U2 is a pretty “liberal” group (I read in the newspaper about it the next day and it was reported that U2 had not known, and upon finding out abolished the policy).

As for our perception that looks, hygiene, modernization, etc is unique to the US, I agree that many people are way off, having a great country like America does not mean that no other country is decent, or clean, or beautiful, or a modern places. People in many other countries have more large cities than we do, taller buildings, more healthcare, lower gas prices, world wonders, lower infant mortality, more cell phones, greater broadband coverage, South Korean scientists have cloned a dog (not that they should) & made advancements in nano-tech, etc. So there is a lot of "westernization" and "modernization" across the globe.

In these pictures case it is more beauty than modernity, but I think they are tied – and as mentioned above, very prone to our perception. Our perception is largely formed without the benefit of much, if any, direct knowledge of many places that are important to the debate. Actually it is often formed without even being able to identify the continent or hemisphere in question.

Another thing with these pictures (even though some are likely marketed to the west, even though the signs are not in English) is the enthusiasm. It makes me jealous that they are so excited about the process, even in its neo- or pre- natal phase. I wish we had more of this spirit since our debate is very interesting, and important to our future.

As for the poll AOG notes... come on! Iran is dominated/contains a vast majority of/by Shiia, and Iraqi Shiia were being oppressed by a Sunni and or secular government. Is anyone who has read a newspaper in the past 3 years surprised that Iran would support the war that gives power to the Shiia in neighboring Iraq? I have seen on many websites that the Washington insider joke is: "The war is over, Iran won".

As for this comment:
"I think Christopher Hitchens proved otherwise.", I think I'll pass on taking the advice of Ahmad Chalabi's buddy.

(from the interview: “Christopher Hitchens: Well the despised Ahmad Chalabi, who's still a friend of mine and who I still admire, would”)

Tracy pointed out that the name, Hashemi, is in English. Actually plastered everywhere, the other signs are not.

What is the symobolism of the name plasted across the face? Anyone have an Iranian insight (or worldly) into what that might mean? I percieve it as a visually mixed message.

post for me information

the problem that moslems country nowdays are the existence of hardline movement such as; Hizbut tahrir,JI, Al Qaeda, And other wahabi movement. It seemas that anywhere in this world they have only one thought and one goal goal is to retain the power of their superior in any moslem country in all way dirty or clean. And the recent research say that theia movement are being characterzed as "Neo-Khawarij" Which killed Sayyidina Ali Prophet Muhammad son in law. And their operation in some conflict country sometimes making worst the country itself

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