See the original link for Sidsel Wold’s own photos of daily life in Iran.
- Michael Jackson's death devastated the green spring
We are sitting at an undisclosed location in Tehran, three young Iranian men in their twenties and me.
- Michael Jackson's death devastated the green spring, Babak sighs. A quiet nodding goes around the table in the café's darkest corner.
ABOUT NAMING AND use of pictures
Fearing trouble with the regime the three men in this article only wanted to reveal their first names. They did not want to be photographed.
The owner of the cafe also would not risk trouble by openly allowing Western journalists to do interviews in his premises.
The atmosphere is strained.
All three have just told me that they would prefer to leave Iran. That they see no future here now.
Babak has visited the British Consulate for two years to ask for a residence permit, but in vain.
Want the neighbour to rebel
- I just want to leave this country. I am desperately trying to get away from here, says Babak, who hopes to take a PhD abroad.
Borna would prefer to go to Europe or Canada, but not forever. He hopes that Iran will undergo changes while he lives abroad.
The others laugh. For here we are at the core. Everyone seems to want the neighbour to rebel.
Are dissatisfied Iranians not ready to go out into the streets themselves, as the Syrians do? I ask.
This was how the uprising after the controversial counting after the presidential election in 2009 ended.
When the Basij militia began using sharp ammunition on people in the streets, the protesters stayed at home.
In Iran, I'm trying to figure out what had become of the green movement and where all the students who participated are now.
Some have travelled abroad. Others continue with their lives and hope for the best.
Several are sitting in cafes like these young men, being depressed.
Not enough to lose yet
All shake their heads over the blood bath in Syria. It is cruel.
- Assad cannot survive this. Eventually, all dictators will fall, Borna thinks.
- We Iranians are somewhere between Syria and Europe, says Sina.
- We do not have enough to lose yet, so we do not demonstrate with our lives on the stake, as the Syrians are doing. But we're not as civilized as the Europeans, he says.
- Do you dream of a good future in Iran? I ask.
- Maam, I am just hopeless just now, Babak repeats sorrowful.
- We all live in social depression, says the three.
- Have no Mandela
One of them is an accountant, the other a musician, the third an engineer.
They are in their prime of life and an example of the brain drain that has afflicted the Islamic Republic for decades, but that reached a new peak after the 2009 elections.
But change will come, they believe. The collective depression here cannot continue as it is now.
Sina does not want a revolution, just reforms. Babak believes it is appropriate to impose sanctions on Iran in order to put pressure on the mullah regime.
- But the sanctions also affect the people. It has become dangerous to fly now. Iranian aircrafts cannot find spare parts, and are often affected by technical errors.
- I wish Russia and China did not support us. It would be better to be completely isolated, and force a crisis that would lead to a change.
- If sanctions were imposed like in South Africa? Asks Sina as to vent the thought.
- No, we have no Mandela. Our hope for change and reform has no leader.
- A warning for the regime
What do the three think about the Arab spring?
- The Arab uprising is a warning to the Iranian regime. Sina says.
- The Arab spring does not help me, Babak interrupts.
- Why did the West not help us in 2009, when the uprising began here? We were at it, but then Michael Jackson destroyed everything. When he died the world press went out of its wits and broadcasted nothing else. The world forgot Iran altogether. Why did Michael Jackson die just when we finally stood up against the regime? Borna sighs.
They look down at the table. Sina lights another cigarette.
We have to go. It is clear that neither the guests in the cafe nor the owner feel comfortable with the presence of foreign journalists.
When we walked out it was like a sigh of relief closed the door behind us.