Everyone knows the recent political history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, punished by the International Community and controlled by the Ayatollah. Probably it is also well known its thousand-year-old history and culture, being the home of the first civilization. Called for many centuries Persia, Iran is a multicultural nation where cultures and populations influenced and contaminated each other. It is true that this cultural aspect has been overshadowed during the last centuries, in which the country faced revolutions, a new constitution and a change of regime; however, even if the Ayatollah and the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to suppress every form of artistic expression not conformed to the Islamic rules, culture never dies, on the contrary, it flourished in the underground.

Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

Let’s start with the most famous Iranian graphic novel. Actually, Marjane Satrapi wrote her memoir in France, where she lives now. But, both in the graphic novel and in the animated movie, we follow the story of young Marjane, born before the Revolution and who grew up in a troubled historical period. Marjane as a young woman was a rebellious teenager, and more than once, she broke the modesty codes of the regime. Then, she was sent to Vienna and finally she came back in Iran for completing her studies in visual communication. The title of the graphic novel is a reference to the ancient capital of Iran. After the enormous success of the graphic novel and the animated movie, she wrote Persepolis 2, and nowadays Marjane continues to write and direct movies and of course, to draw comics awarded all over the world.

No One Knows About Persian Cats

This is a 2009 movie, directed by Bahman Ghobadi and it won the Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It explores the rock scene of Teheran and follows the dreams of the band members who want to leave Iran. The beautiful music and the dramatic force of this movie make it a must see.

Jafar Panahi

One of the few directors who try to show the reality in the Islamic country through his movies even if Panahi cannot leave Iran and for some periods even his flat. Jafar Panahi was awarded at the Berlinale both for Pardé (2013) and for his last film Taxi Teheran (2015), and before also for Offside (2006). Realism, humour, a will to testify the impositions of the regime and an incredible technique make him one of the most appreciated directors on the international scene. Absolutely suggested is The Circle, about a group of women that faced the bans of society.

The Philharmonic Orchestra

Ali ‘Alexander’ Rahbari, a world famous orchestra director has been call back in Iran this year in order to revive the Philharmonic Orchestra of Tehran. And he made it! At the opening night, the 89 musicians, all Iranians, played Beethoven, gained a standing ovation and the congratulations for the ‘Ode to Joy’. Rahbari promised that this is only the beginning!

Mahsa Mohebali

She is a young but already famous Iranian writer, hosted in conferences all over the world and she also runs different writing workshops, and she participated at the prestigious Iowa Writing Program. She started writing in Reza Baraheni’s workshop, the most famous writer of the Islamic country, former president of the PEN award – Canada. Noteworthy are the short story collection Love-making in Footnotes and the novel Don’t Worry, the story of a young drug-addict in Tehran.

This is only a little part of the rich cultural scene in Iran. There is also the International Book Fair, the movies awarded in different festivals, young writers and musicians. The hope is that with the new moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, and with the new deal on the nuclear, Iran can rediscover the importance of the cultural aspects and that cultural tourism will become a habit.

It is also important that all artists can express themselves freely, and that the regime of the Ayatollah does not exercise anymore the censorship. Luckily, artists do not surrender, as Ahmad Farahani shows in his last movies, We Are Journalists, which teach us how freedom and justice are essential. Hoping that one day no one in Iran will live in fear.