Ashkan Gomrokian is a young man who’s easy to find. Most afternoons he’s in the skate park in downtown Tehran, perfecting his crooked kick flip and lip slide. The commonplace scene would’ve been considered deviant in Iran a few years ago. Gomrokian, 26, recalls getting dragged off to a police station once and accused of being a satanist. He says authorities still don’t like his skater tribe much—“the oversized clothes, the hair, the tattoos”—but the Tehran municipality has built multiple dedicated skateboard spaces in the past few years, part of an effort to beautify the city and make it more livable.
People in Tehran celebrated the 2015 multinational nuclear agreement the way another city might mark a major sports victory. Thousands of young Iranians took to the capital’s streets, some dancing to electronic house music, an unthinkable scene a couple decades ago. In their lifestyles and aspirations, Iran’s youth likely have more in common with their global peer group than any generation of Iranians since the revolution.
The administration of U.S. President Trump nonetheless says its hard-line approach is intended to bludgeon Iran into becoming a “ normal” country. Trump last year decided to pull the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, colloquially known as the Iran nuclear deal, putting its future in doubt. As America and its partners in the Middle East step up pressure agai