A photo essay depicting Muharram observances and preparation across Iran in October of 2015. During the Islamic month of Muharram, Muslims of all backgrounds participate in a series of rituals observing the martyrdom of Husayn ibn ‘Ali, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad, and his companions at the Battle of Karbala in 680 A.D.
In 2014, we covered a wide variety of topics ranging from morality and consumer culture in contemporary Iran to Soviet state planning in Yerevan and Afghan pop from the 70s, provoking a great deal of controversy along the way. Check out our ten most-viewed articles from 2014.
Municipal politics around beautification programs reveal the complexity of governance in Iran and shatter illusions about the monolithic nature of the Iranian state. By exploring how local actors express often-contradictory opinions about the nature and future of Iranian cities, a fuller picture of modern life and politics in Iran emerges — one that highlights the diffuse nature of power and local decision-making in the Islamic Republic.
Like the city itself, the Imam Reza shrine complex grew gradually over time as political elites tried to establish their legitimacy. Rulers strove not only to appease the local religious establishment by funding elaborate building projects around the site, but also hoped to create physical testaments to their political authority. Due to the inherent political nature of these structures, the site was destroyed and subsequently rebuilt as it changed hands from dynasty to dynasty.
During the 19th century, Mashhadi Jews cloaked their identities and lived their public lives as Muslims. As a result, major documents, such as marriage contracts, mimicked their Muslim counterparts. The language, art, and general presentation of the texts serve as clues towards better understanding the precarious position of the Mashhadi Jewish community, as well the preferred aesthetics of the period.