The Iranian moderators of the Instagram account “Rich Kids of Tehran” have opened a door that they’d seemingly not wished to crack – that door shedding a negative highlight of their home country.
The account came into existence in September and displays young, beautiful, and happy Iranians giving you a glimpse into their lives of flashy cars, designer clothes, high-end accessories, and flashy mansions. Their plan for setting up the account was to dispel negative connotations of the Islamic state by showing the “good side” of the country.
According to an administrator of the Rich Kids of Tehran account, “We Love our city of Tehran. We are in no way trying to put a difference between rich and poor. We are trying to show the world how beautiful Tehran and people from Tehran are. The Middle East is always on TV receiving negative attention and we just wanted to show that Tehran is not like that. This page is in no way political and we never had any bad intentions. We never thought the page would make headlines all over the world. Some of the people featured in this Instagram account don’t live in Iran. #richkidsoftehran #welovetehran.”
On the Rich Kids of Tehran page, which is quite similar to “Rich Kids of Instagram,” there are pictures of the young Iranian elite casually enjoying alcohol, a substance that is forbidden in the Middle Eastern country. There are also photos of scantily clad women sporting bikinis and mini dresses sans hijabs, a veil that covers the head and neck, which is compulsory for Iranian women.
Though innocent they may be, the pictures found on the Rich Kids of Tehran account do suggest that the Iranian elite are not as equally affected by the country’s penal code as the average citizen – as corporal punishments and executions are set in place for those who consume illegal beverages and do not follow the country’s dress code. According to The Times, many of the “rich kids” featured on the Instagram account are children of the country’s ruling class – living with immunity from a strict regime.
Lavish displays of skin and luxury is one that is not usually associated with this Middle Eastern country, and many find it curious that such an account was created after the Iranian government sought to crack down on the world of social media. In fact, just recently, seven young Iranians received 91 lashes and suspended jail time for simply posting an online video of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s hit song “Happy.”
Back in 2012, the World Bank stated that only 36.7 percent of the Iranian population was economically active – and this disproportion of wealth (and blatant display of favoritism towards the elite) is where most of the backlash comes from.
A counter page, “Poor kids of Iran,”, has recently been created and seeks to show a more accurate portrayal of the country, which is heavily burdened by sanctions. The creators of this page stress that though obvious signs of wealth can be seen throughout Tehran, only those who have high levels of political affiliations can remain unscathed from the punishing hands of the government.
According to Fox News, Iran’s annual gross domestic product shrunk by an estimated 25 percent since 2011, which is combined with a 60 percent decline in oil revenue from 2011 to 2013 and an inflation rate of an estimated 70 percent.
Looking at the major contrast between the wealthy elite and the “common man” — who is forced to bend under the hands of the law – it does beg the question of whether the Instagram account Rich Kids of Tehran is not just another clear example of wealth disparity that can be seen in many countries worldwide.