5 Ways Life in Iran Is Nothing Like You Think

#2. There Is a Thriving Parkour Scene Among Iranian Women

Iaroslav Danylchenko/iStock/Getty Images

Iran is kind of a dick to its female athletes: In June 2013, one woman was denied recognition for her record-breaking swim because her body was briefly visible through the full hijab she wore the whole freaking time (she awesomely stated that the record for her 20-kilometer swim was "being held hostage by people who cannot even swim 20 meters"). Luckily, Iranian female athletes do not give a fuck. Despite being repeatedly told about how modest and incompetent they are, they're doing everything from climbing Mount Everest to learning martial arts to defying law and social convention by practicing parkour in public.

As a philosophy, parkour is all about finding ways around obstacles and seeing the world in a new way, so it's actually not that weird that Iranian women are so into it. They've found lots of ways to defy the restrictions imposed on them -- from turning their oppressive dress standards into fashion statements to dominating higher education -- but back-flipping off bridges while wielding nunchucks in physically restrictive clothing is probably the most awesome way to show that you couldn't give less of a shit about the laws of man and, like, physics. It also proves that oppressing women with headscarves is like oppressing Bruce Willis by putting him in an air duct -- it just makes their inevitable badassery all the more impressive.

Hitall Girls, via Girl Parkour
Yippee-ki-yay.

Parkour has become associated with petty crime and drugs in the eyes of authorities (for them, the fact that young people do it is reason enough). One teenager I spoke with recounted that his instructor had been detained for training earlier that week. And since women are more likely to be bothered, they're also more likely to be found practicing in secluded areas -- meaning that Iranian culture has made the not-so-great decision to breed a generation of oppressed people who are in great shape, awesome at sneaking around, and really tired of being told what to do.

#1. Their Holidays Kick Ass

Bertil Videt, via Wikipedia

At a certain point in spring, I heard explosions going off. Not just little pops, either -- major bangs. It was loud enough that I checked the news in case there had been a gas explosion or, you know, a war. But then I got it: It was the Festival of Fire and Nowruz: a celebration in March that's basically New Year's, if you celebrate New Year's by building bonfires in the street, shooting fireworks at each other, and doing doughnuts in your car in the middle of crowded intersections.

Photos.com
Nothing reminds us of the holidays like the earthy smell of burned rubber.

One of my friends reported that he had spent part of the day in a car while the occupants exchanged fireworks with other cars on the freeway at 60 mph. There are thousands of injuries, with over half resulting from homemade grenades, naturally. Oh -- and did I mention how many people are dressed as Blackface Santa? Sure, the character's face is supposed to be covered in soot, but no amount of cultural understanding can prepare you for your first sight of children boarding a midnight bus looking like they're on their way to a minstrel show.

Pedramgh, via Wikipedia
Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1899.

You might think, "Wow, Muslim festivals are pretty badass," but the truth is that Nowruz actually comes from Zoroastrianism, a religion older than either Christianity or Islam. Only 35,000 to 90,000 Iranians (out of 74 million) self-identify as Zoroastrian, but you wouldn't know it when pretty much everyone celebrates their major holidays -- although, again, who on Earth would pass up an opportunity to celebrate "blow up everything day"?

Mehdi Ghasemi, Islamic Society of North America
Their sparklers can flash-fry a horse.

Despite the fact that Zoroastrian values have had a massive influence on Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the country is currently divided on how to treat this ancient religion that everyone celebrates despite technically not belonging to it. While some have persecuted them, and members have historically been treated as second-class citizens in ways that don't really work for comedy websites, the fact that the entire country seems hell-bent on keeping Zoroastrianism around means that even though we've managed to avoid any actual war with them, Iran is likely to continue kicking our asses at partying for the foreseeable future.

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