Despair spreads in Islamic republic

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From around 10:30 on most nights, on the major boulevard nearest to my apartment, young women can be seen openly soliciting sex. To the uninitiated, they are simply well-dressed girls waiting to be picked up by friends.

But there is a specific, subtle dress code — and if you watch long enough, you will see them negotiating with men through their car windows. Again, I am told that this was unheard of five or six years ago.

It is difficult to find anyone in this city who will speak positively about their government, or even their society at large.

Almost every person younger than 35 whom I have met plans to move abroad. Some plans are more concrete, while others are just pipe dreams. This year alone, I have known several Iranians who have left their country out of despair.

Next to the feeling of despair is a sense of powerlessness to effect any change, as the turnout for last year’s parliamentary elections indicated.

The government announced a 64.5 percent voter turnout nationwide, remarkably close to the 65 percent prediction by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In May, Mohammed Maleki, the first post-revolution chancellor of Iran’s respected University of Tehran, wrote a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei to warn of the social crisis in Iran. He waited months for a response from a man he has known since before the revolution and finally released his letter to the public in December.

Mr. Maleki urged Ayatollah Khamenei “to accept that Iran is at the verge of collapse” and recognize, among other things, the catastrophic effects of the sanctions and the dissatisfaction of the population.

Within days, the 78-year-old academic was thrown into Iran’s notorious Evin Prison to serve six years for his apparent act of defiance.

• Brendan Daly is a pseudonym to protect the reporter from Iranian government reprisals.

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