By Javad Montazeri (Source: Mianeh)
Women required to maintain strict dress requirements when swimming in public.
The shores of the Caspian Sea in northern Iran is the land of my childhood, on which I still look back with nostalgia.
These pictures, taken nearly 30 years after my own seaside memories, show how much things have changed, especially for women who now come to the beach in full hejab or Islamic dress where they would once have worn swimming costumes or bikinis.
When I was six or seven, my family lived in the coastal town of Nowshahr in Mazandaran province. Every Friday, my father would take my brother and me to the seaside so that we could spend the weekend swimming and relaxing on the beach.
Nowadays, men can still swim freely and boys freely whereas women have to be are completely covered up, even when they go into the sea to swim.
Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women could wear bikinis without attracting the looks that men now cast on them even though they are fully clothed.
Sometimes my father would point out a yacht moored near the shore belonging to the Shah's family, with the monarch himself at the helm. At that time I did not grasp the significance of a national leader relaxing with no entourage of bodyguards around him.
Iran has long shorelines in the south as well as on the northern Caspian coast, offering the potential for tourism all year round.
After the revolution, the beaches gradually became neglected and holiday villas, beachside hotels and recreational centres were seized by the new regime.
These days, there are hotels and tourist lodges along the Caspian coast, which play host to families from the capital Tehran and other parts of Iran in the summer.
Iranian officials have on occasion talked of segregating beaches with fibreglass partitions, which would allow women to go into the water in swimwear, but little has come of these plans.
About the author: Javad Montazeri is a photojournalist and multimedia expert. He formerly ran the photography desks at several Iranian daily newspapers.
About Mianeh: Mianeh is a new independent web-based initiative run as a project by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (iwpr.net) the award-winning non-profit media development organisation that works across the globe to platform local voices and promote international learning and engagement. Mianeh aims to be an open space for ideas, news and debate where writers in Iran can reach out to each other as well as to those outside the country who are interested in learning more about the vibrant and dynamic society that is Iran today.
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