Last week Iranian police arrested several underground hip-hop artists for allegedly making music videos and consuming alcohol. Coming just months after authorities banned certain Western hair styles, and after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that teaching music was incompatible with Iranian values, it seems the regime is cracking down on youth culture. Indeed, Tehran is also targeting student activists, reportedly arresting hundreds in recent sweeps.
But the reality is that Tehran remains loath to take real action against the youth culture, analysts say. One reason for the regime’s reluctance: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps allegedly takes a cut from sales of alcohol, Western movies, and other illicit items smuggled into the country. The larger reason, however, has to do with demographics. More than half of Iran’s population is under 35, and many youths are avid consumers of satellite television and Western music. In the aftermath of the Green Movement in 2009, Iran’s leaders are afraid that any violent effort to stamp out youth culture would trigger greater sympathy for the opposition.