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Socialist Republics of Latin America: the comparative cases of Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia in their relationships to Iran

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Abstract

The government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2005, has been characterized by an evolution of the speech on the necessary role of Iran as the leader of the international politic Islam movement. This evolution is marked by an attempt of rapprochement with the religious line of Sunnite countries leaders speeches on Islam, and, as a consequence, by the restriction of specific Shiite rituals on the national public sphere. The commemoration of the fourth Imam death Hussein as martyr, through Ashuras and Taziehs rituals, is the most obvious example of this political turn around. All long the 20th century, those religious manifestations have had a political meaning, concentrating the disapproval of the civic society toward the successive governments. A field work leaded in several neighborhoods of Tehran in January 2007, based on a participating observation methodology, permitted to observe the conflict between this centralized will of restriction, and the unpermitted manifestations of Ashura in the streets, organized by religious orthodox brotherhoods. According to the socioeconomic and religious characteristics of each neighborhood, Ashuras processions in January 2007 was illustrated by individual and collective performances integrating flagellations, exotic animals parades, uses of ambiguous images to decorate the streets. In this case, braving the authority of the Islamic State appears as a reactionary opposition to the attempt of secularization, leaded by the government. It can be considered as a political claim of the most radical part of the civil society. Actually, we will observe in which way those actors use modern technology, graphic design and music another category of population. Indeed, the night processions of Ashura attract also Iranian unreligious teenagers. In fact, the ceremony represents one of the only occasion to be outside, under cover from parents and police, with a religious pretext. Streets of Tehran become the theater of a double and opposed use: while the orthodox men parade rememorizing the death of Hussein, young girls and boys play the game of hidden seduction.