Istanbul, the oxygen bubble of the Iranians, suffocated by the sanctions and the repression of the Islamic regime

By Ghazal Golshiri

Posted today at 5:00 p.m., updated at 5:00 p.m.

For twenty years, Banou (the first names have been changed for security reasons) dreamed of attending a concert by Googoosh, the greatest living Iranian singer, exiled in the United States for more than two decades. When she learned that the diva of Iranian variety would perform on March 25 in Istanbul, during the New Year holiday (Nowrouz), which coincides with the arrival of spring, the 38-year-old photographer immediately decided to go there. to return.

Banou still lives with her parents in the city of Karadj, forty kilometers from Tehran, because her job does not allow her to support herself alone. To pay for the flight, four hotel nights and the concert ticket, a sum of eight million tomans (273 euros), equivalent to a month’s salary of a teacher at the end of his career, the Iranian sold a few gold jewelry. “The Iranian currency is no longer worth anything, but I managedexplains the young woman. The Googoosh concert, you have to do it once in your life, anyway. »

During the Googoosh concert, in Istanbul, on March 25, 2022.

Since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which ended the Pahlavi dynasty and gave birth to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey has attracted millions of Iranians every year. They find in this neighboring country, where they are exempt from visas, a bubble of oxygen. They go there with family or friends, to party, dressed as they want, unlike their country of origin, where the veil is compulsory for women. They come to drink alcohol, banned in Iran, and to shop in Turkish or foreign brand shops, which are increasingly impossible to find in their country, due to international sanctions.

In a street near Taksim Square, Iranians who came to Istanbul during the Nowruz holidays, March 25, 2022.

On this March 25, under the pleasant sun of early spring, a few hours before the Googoosh concert, Banou walks along Istiklal Avenue with his childhood friend Anousheh, who has been living for a few months in a town near Antalya. Born of a worker father and a civil servant mother, Banou worked from the age of 17, first as a secretary, then as a beautician and advertising agent, before becoming a photographer for ceremonies and parties. “Thirteen years ago, I managed to buy a car with my savings. Today it is no longer possiblelaments Banou. Purchasing power continues to decline. »

The last acclaimed Shah

The repression exercised by the authorities adds to the economic problems. When mass protests erupted in November 2019 over rising fuel prices, Banu, his broken leg in a cast, was following the news via satellite channels, which are banned in Iran. “I was crying that I couldn’t go down the street”, remembers the young woman. Her friends who had gone to protest told her that the police were firing live ammunition. “Another six months later, the police presence in the streets, very heavy, gave the impression that the city had been occupied”explains Banou, between two messages sent to the travel agency that sold him his package. “At what time does the concert start exactly? » she asks the agency, careful not to miss a minute.

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