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Iran And Israel Go To Battle ... Over Denim

Posted: October 8, 2013

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Elections may be less than free, and some music may be banned. But Iranians do wear jeans, in contrast to remarks by Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. An onslaught of photos and comments posted online proves the Iranians' point.

Two Iranian women look at clothing in a store in Tehran. Iranians have launched a

Two Iranian women look at clothing in a store in Tehran. Iranians have launched a "jeans protest" on the Web in response to a comment by Israel's leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Vahid Salemi

Iran and Israel are at it again, but at least it's not the nuclear issue. This time it's jeans.

It started last week when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told BBC's Persian TV that "if the Iranian people had their way, they'd be wearing bluejeans; they'd have Western music; they'd have free elections."

For Netanyahu, the leading critic of Iran's nuclear program, it was a rare chance to speak to the Iranian public — an estimated 11 million watch the channel. But his freedom metrics were off by a pair of jeans.

Iranian elections may not be that free, and their music options may be somewhat limited. But young Iranians are proud of their freedom to choose their own pants, and often they choose jeans.

An Online 'Jeans Protest'

Many young Iranians responded to Netanyahu's comment by posting photos of themselves with jeans and Western music.

Just one day after the comments, a Facebook page called "Our jeans in Netanyahu's face, Bibi watch out" had attracted more than 600 followers.

Australian pop star Missy Higgins briefly became the face of Western music when a photo of her On a Clear Night album circulated on Twitter.

One particularly fashion-conscious tweeter noted that jeans are behind the times.

One of the many ironies is that Iranians have expressed their national pride with quintessentially American apparel.

And in responding to Netanyahu, many young Iranians found ways to use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter that are formally blocked in Iran.

Many comments, like the ones above, were written in English.

Women have managed to incorporate jeans into their modest outfits. But it's worth noting that most women, who are required to keep their hair covered and wear loose-fitting clothes, did not show their faces in photos posted online.

The Darker Side Of Denim

In a dark twist to the flurry of comments about jeans, multiple photos appeared on Twitter showing murdered Iranian nuclear scientists and their kids wearing jeans. Iran has blamed Israel for those deaths.

One photo was of Darioush Rezai-Nejad, shown with his daughter.

And the photo above shows the young son of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan. He was killed by a bomb last January, and his boy — in jeans — stands next to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Finally, in his interview, Netanyahu spoke about Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman who was fatally shot at an anti-government protest in 2009. She was a key point in Netanyahu's argument about Iran's tyranny.

The moment she died in the street, Neda was wearing jeans.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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