Is there new hope for a more relaxed Iran?
August 15, 1997
Web posted at: 7:44 p.m. EDT (2344 GMT)
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- On a sunny summer weekend, people in Iran take their fun where they can find it, flocking to a lake outside the capital to escape the scorching heat.
However, as men and women frolic in the water together, there are a few things they can't escape. Whether parasailing or jet skiing, the women of Iran still must abide by the strict Islamic dress code and cloak themselves from head to toe.
And about a close as Iranians can get to painting the town red is a night out at a restaurant, with colorful clothes and live traditional music.
But many Iranians are hoping for a more relaxed social atmosphere under their newly-elected president, Mohammed Khatami. More than 20 million of them defied their country's conservative leadership by supporting the moderate Khatami, who showed particular appeal among the young in sweeping aside his hard-line challengers.
Of course, no one expects strict Islamic strictures to disappear, and people are still reluctant to openly complain about the outward requirements of Islamic rule. But, by their votes, the majority clearly demonstrated expectations of a new Iran.
"Freedom of thought is the most important thing for me," says one woman infused with the spirit of change. "So long as the authorities don't interfere in our lives, so long as I can be at ease, that is enough for me."
Says another: "Everybody likes (Khatami), because he has new thinking about young people."
Iran has been turned into a political pressure cooker by high unemployment, rising prices and a demanding youth. Electing Khatami was their way of letting off steam.
But many people in Iran are skeptical about how much change Khatami may be able to usher in over the objections of hard-line conservatives. They wonder how the new president will manage if Iran's parliament rejects his moderate Cabinet nominees at a hearing next week.