Thursday 29 September 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 29/9/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Hannah Lucinda Smith

Freedom fighters

This is not the first time that women in Iran have risked their lives for the right to uncover their heads. But the protests that have erupted across the country over the past fortnight, sparked by the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by the morality police, have lasted longer and are growing larger than any other revolt of this kind in recent memory. The creaking regime in Tehran should be worried.

Iran’s greying politicians and mullahs have long been out of touch with the country’s worldly and well-educated urban youth. The Islamic revolution of 1979 gave voice to Iran’s religiously conservative population and swaths of the liberal youth left. Those still inside the country had until recently been ignored or opposed. But things have changed.

Azam Jangravi fled Iran after leading anti-hijab protests four years ago. When she ripped off her headscarf in the middle of Tehran in 2018, she drew a small crowd of curious but unmoved onlookers, before plain-clothes intelligence officers hauled her away to arrest and torture her. Now passers-by are joining in with the demonstrating women, swelling their numbers to thousands in cities across the country. “It’s not about small and gradual changes any more,” Jangravi tells me over the phone from Canada, which is now her home. “The people of Iran want this brutal regime gone. Today the majority of Iranian people do not fear the brutal forces of the Islamic regime. They are not just there to protest the hijab.”

The regime has lost credibility since it shot down a passenger jet that was largely filled with its own citizens in January 2020. Meanwhile, the country’s economy has been pushed over a cliff by US sanctions and previously apolitical Iranians who are furious at soaring food prices are joining the protests. Iran’s standard response to civil unrest is that it is the work of foreign enemies. A growing number of the population knows this to be untrue.

Hannah Lucinda Smith is Monocle’s Istanbul correspondent.

Image: Getty Images

Migration / Germany

Safe harbour

Germany now has more than 84 million residents, the highest number since its reunification in 1990. The German Federal Statistical Office believes that the uptick has been driven by an influx of about 750,000 refugees from Ukraine. But what makes the country such an attractive proposition for Ukrainians who have fled the war in their homeland? “Germany has huge benefits,” Olga Tokariuk, Ukrainian journalist and non-resident fellow at the Centre for European Policy Analysis, tells The Monocle Minute. “It is far enough away from the fighting but also close enough for people to periodically return home to see friends and family. Refugees also receive help from the German government that might not be available in other neighbouring EU nations.” How long they stay, though, will largely depend on the conflict to the east.

Image: Reuters

Defence / Finland

Good fences, bad neighbours

The Finnish Border Guard is calling for new measures to control its frontier with Russia. The agency has suggested building a fence, which could reduce its reliance on officials on the Russian side. It could also provide additional protection in the event of war. The Finnish-Russian border extends for more than 1,300km.

Like Donald Trump’s “big, beautiful” version, the proposed Finnish fence would be partial, covering between 130km and 260km in the southeast of the country, where there is the most traffic. Though the project comes with a hefty price tag – potentially hundreds of millions of euros – it is unlikely to cause much controversy. As with Nato membership, Finns now understand that Helsinki needs to be prepared for the Kremlin’s unpredictability.

Image: Alamy

Architecture / Japan

Curtain down

Tokyo will soon lose an architectural landmark: the Imperial Theatre building, constructed in 1911 as Japan’s first Western-style playhouse and rebuilt in 1966 by architect Yoshiro Taniguchi. Located in front of the Imperial Palace, the building (pictured) also houses the Idemitsu Museum of Arts and has long been an important hub of the city’s cultural scene. It is now expected to close in 2025 as part of a redevelopment plan for the area by Mitsubishi Estate.

This isn’t an isolated case. Recent demolitions in Tokyo include the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art building from 1938, which had Bauhaus and art deco influences, and the wonderfully eccentric Nakagin Capsule Tower. Ageing structures and earthquakes have often been cited as justifications but the pace of change is worrying. Protecting these architectural wonders requires money and public support. Japan’s politicians and civil society need to do more.

Image: World Tourism Organization

Tourism / Bali

Leisure centre

The world’s tourism ministers have been gathering in the south of Bali to rethink their sector. The meeting of the UN’s World Tourism Organisation earlier this week followed a G20 summit on the same subject the previous day. Fiji’s minister Faiyaz Koya (pictured, far right) described how he had spent the previous few days relocating 40 of his citizens because their village was sinking. And there were calls for education and job security to make a career in tourism something to aspire to despite the recent trials of the pandemic.

There was a strong sense of resilience but perhaps the most honest encounters happened the next morning, when many had swapped their suits for swimmers. What do you say to Libya’s minister at breakfast when he’s in his shorts? Tourism can be a great leveller.

Image: Héctor Serrano

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Feria Hábitat Valencia

We continue our coverage of the London Design Festival and then cross over to international trade fair Feria Hábitat Valencia.

Monocle Films / Paris

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.


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