This Instagram account will change your perceptions about Iran

When George W. Bush gave his famous (or infamous) “axis of evil” speech in 2002, the three countries he listed as evil doers were Iraq, North Korea, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Every since then, the American people have been deluged with a torrent of screeching denouncements from their political leaders decrying the wickedness of the Persian nation’s people.

(Certainly Iran’s government is no liberal democracy and has perpetrated many crimes against its citizens and foreign journalists, however.)

But where once the public was left blind, deaf, and dumb and forced to rely solely on their leaders’ word about Iran’s alleged wickedness, social media has enabled a different side to be shown of this misunderstood country. And one Instagram account in particular has lifted the veil of secrecy in fascinating ways to show Iranians are not all that scary — and are even friendly and hospitable.

Everyday Iran is a photo project from local Iranian photographers that showcase daily life and culture in the Islamic Republic. The project was co-founded by an Iranian named Ali Kaveh in 2014, according to the travel site Momondo, which interviewed Kaveh about the project.

“Our goal is very simple,” says Kaveh. “It is fighting and challenging the stereotypes of Iran that are generated by Western media.”

Kaveh went on to say:

Before social media, we didn’t have any access to the world in order to show or express our country, our feelings and our everyday lives. Today, through social networks, we can have hundreds or thousands as an audience — in every corner of the world.
All we need to do is to send some photos and they (the audience) can judge for themselves. Before this, there were a lot of filters — a lot of editors, who did not really like to publish these sorts of photos in their media.

This is the magic of the age we live in. For nearly all of human history, national leaders have dehumanized other peoples in order to stoke the flames of war and conquest.

The dehumanization of Iran took place after the 1979 revolution there that toppled the U.S-installed dictator and Iranian students occupied the U.S. embassy in the capital city of Tehran, taking 52 hostages which they later released.

Americans have been told to despise Iran and its people ever since.

But thanks to social media profiles like Everyday Iran, we have been allowed to see another side of our so-called “adversaries.”

Scrolling down the page gives a sense of life in Iran much different than what you’ll see on the news.

In one photo, a boy shows off his BMX bike skills in a local park. In another, a group of veiled women run around a sports track for exercise. Here two young men walk down the street with pictures of the American flag emblazoned on their shirts; the flags aren’t on fire nor are they proclaiming “death to America.” They could easily be worn at any 4th of July celebration.

But other images project a culture that is authentically Iranian.

Here you can see the caverns of an 18th century mosque in the ancient city of Shiraz. And here the mysterious beauty of a woman wearing bright traditional dress dances before the camera.

Everyday Iran is not the only photography exhibition of this kind, however. Projects like Everyday Africa, Everyday Asia, and Everyday Eastern Europe are empowering local photographers and challenging preconceived notions all over the world.

So it’s heartening that despite the recent rise of inward-looking nationalism and cultural isolationism, dedicated individuals are using digital artistic tools to bypass agenda-driven governments and media to enlighten the world and build bridges.

And in the process, these everyday projects are creating little everyday miracles.

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