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Iran's young hope for change

Youngsters in historical city of Kashan hope the country's next president will aid them with their future aspirations.
Last modified: 12 Jun 2013 23:34
Iranians head to the polls on Friday to chose a new president [AFP]

On the road to Isfahan is the historical city of Kashan. More than 320,000 people live there. It's intolerably hot and dusty in summer, and many of its buildings tell the tale of hundreds of years of neglect, of a disasterous earthquake, and now, of a city in need of some hope.

It's still beautiful. Its dome-like buildings and old hamams (bathhouses) give it a distinctive look. Tourists stop through on the way to Isfahan, and Tehranis come for the weekend.

They provide people with cash through trade. They buy up the natural products Kashan is famous for; baklava, herbal juices and rosewater. But if you talk to young people in the city, that kind of trade is not even close to enough for a future.

Kashan may be small compared to Tehran, with its millions cramped together in a valley, but there are universities, factories - and life. The problem facing many of its young residents is how to make their own.

Making a life and a living is a problem young people across Iran face. The official unemployment rate stands at around 12 percent, but analysts say it's at least the double. For young people, unofficially the rate could be as high as 40 percent. Never mind the brain drain – the unemployment rate has been forcing young Iranian's to move abroad for at least a decade – and according to analysts it's not getting any better.

It's not that difficult to imagine in Kashan, especially when one speaks to a student like Ali Moqaddasian. He’s studying for a Masters degree in mathematics, but really wants to be working. When he's not at university, he can be found around town, studying hard or sitting in the back of his friend's van. His friend sells ice blocks on the street. Ali dresses well; pressed shirt, clean jeans and polished shoes. He looks out of place sitting with those labouring under the hot sun.

But that's where he is. “It's been almost a year since I got my Bachelors degree. I passed many employment tests, but no luck. If you have connections, finding a job is much easier,”  Ali said.

After he left university last year, he spent several months working in a textile factory, unable to find a job that matches his field. Many of his university friends are still working in the factory. That's why he went back to university – hoping that a Masters can finally get him a job he wants. He is clearly frustrated and says he sees no bright future for himself or people his age.

Ali finds himself stuck. It's exactly that situation which teenagers like Javad Jamalpour want to avoid. He's 17 and in highschool. Two days before Iran's presidential elections, he has gone to register for university. He wants to study, find a job and live in the place he's from. But even as a teenager, not quite yet old enough to vote, he knows there's a difficult road ahead.

“Many people in Kashan have to move out due to its lack of facilities and unemployment rate ... There are many graduates who are still unemployed, or those who are not satisfied with their jobs,” he said.

Javad can't vote but he's hoping the next president pays attention to people like him, to villages and small cities like his. To his teenage friends who find themselves a little bit worried and in the same situation. To people who want a future in their own country; and who want to contribute to their country's future.