For many observers of Iran it is hard to fathom that a country under severe international sanctions can also be the hottest market for luxury cars in the Middle East. According to one report, “Maserati and Porsche sell more cars in Tehran than in many metropolitan areas in the United States or the European Union.”
Parivash Akbarzadeh, 20, has drawn scorn in Iran after the crash of a luxury car she was driving killed her and the car’s rich young owner, Mohammad Hossein Rabbani-Shirazi.
But the recent fatal crashes have revealed another side of Iran: A country in which the gap between rich and poor is on the rise, and nepotism and corruption is making a minority super wealthy and a majority struggling to make a living: “It might have been surprising and confusing to discover that, at the peak of sanctions enforcement, hundreds of luxury cars found their way into Iran’s markets. At that time, government officials were not able to import the necessary medical supplies and food — and yet the rich and the well connected managed to get their Maseratis using hard currencies. One could say that, for them, a Porsche is more important than bread. Children of privileged officials enjoy these luxuries to the fullest, and feel protected from any possible intrusion.”
Any first time visitor to Tehran will notice how much the city has been changed not only in physical / environmental sense, but the increasing divide one sees between the rich and poor classes of Iranians. As Behrouz Mina poignantly brings to our attention in his perceptive article Rich Kids of the Revolution, one does not need the Instagram of Rich Kids of Tehran to remind residents how “conspicuous consumption and over the top luxury have become hallmarks of Iranian society in the fourth decade of the Islamic Revolution, a revolution that started by promising justice and free bread for all….“The class divide in Iran is a direct result of state monopolies,” Javad, a professor at Tehran University, tells IranWire. He believes that contrary to popular belief, the roots of a phenomenon like Tehran Rich Kids is found in the feverish day of the revolution. “Nationalizing the Iranian economy in the early days of the revolution had no other result other than creating numerous economic monopolies for the revolutionaries and their dependents.”
As expected, Iranian officials have reacted to the news about the Instagram account of “Rich Kids of Tehran,” blocking it inside Iran. But as it has been demonstrated repeatedly, this will not be a final solution. Young Iranians have an incredible ability to bypass internet control in Iran.
Social media has changed Iran, and post-revolutionary Iranian youth have used this medium to show the powerlessness of the Islamic Republic and its rulers to impose their version of “Islamic” behavior on them. As this article explains, the rich kids of Iran use social media to document “the lives of the sons and daughters of an elite class of Iranians, Tehran’s one-percenters. They live in a country that until recently was stereotyped in the media as a place ruled by mullahs and populated by Muslim extremists, where women don black chadors and people chant “Death to America” 365 days a year. The list of stereotypes was never-ending until stories of sex, drugs and alcohol among the country’s elite came to light — some now call it the “Erotic Republic” of Iran.