A new Instagram account showcasing the lifestyles of wealthy young Iranians has provoked both amusement and anger in Tehran, lifting the lid on a rarely seen side of the Islamic Republic.
With its parade of women sporting identical nose jobs and men in European supercars, “Rich Kids of Tehran” has attracted more than 20,000 followers in a month.
The unabashed celebration of life among Iran’s nouveau riche, many of them children of the country’s ruling elite, is a world away from the common view of Iran abroad.
While the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, took a swipe at the perfidy of Israel and America this weekend, the rich kids of Tehran spent their time by the pool or at the usual house parties where contraband whisky and vodka flow freely.
The photos have attracted plenty of compliments but the ostentatious displays of wealth have also caused resentment. Despite rallying in recent months, Iran’s economy remains constrained by sanctions imposed to curb the country’s disputed nuclear programme. Beyond the neighbourhoods of north Tehran, unemployment is soaring — as high as 50 per cent among women.
Aware of the criticism the account has attracted, the managers issued a suitably brazen response at the weekend. “Every country of the world has the wealthy and the poor. I know it can be emotionally draining for some people that might not have such lives as the pictures we portray but you don’t need to follow us.” they said.
Despite Iran’s austere image, sex, drugs and alcohol are freely available to the youth of Tehran. Fearful of the authorities, however, most tread carefully. Last month, six Iranians were sentenced to 91 lashes for posting an online video of themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams’ hit song Happy.
With hardliners launching a crackdown on civil society, there is irritation that the elite can party with impunity.
“Everyone knows these guys. Most of them have fathers who are untouchable. If they get in trouble it will disappear. Others are not so lucky,” said Sara, a young IT consultant in Tehran.
As Rich Kids of Tehran makes clear, the Islamic Republic is one of the strongest markets in the Middle East for sports cars, despite the sanctions. When Porsche unveiled a limited edition model of its classic 911 sports car in 2012, two companies linked to the Revolutionary Guard requested 1,400 vehicles to meet the huge demand. Since only 1,911 were being made, Porsche declined…