The Beauty Obsession Feeding Iran's Voracious cosmetic surgery industry
A desire to gain a husband, western looks, or even clients are a few reasons why Iran has the world's highest nose surgery rate.
Of the many ways in which revolutionary ideals have backfired in the Islamic republic, perhaps none is more visible than the Iranian obsession with physical beauty. Far from focusing on internal spiritual values, young people – some aged 14 – are having cosmetic surgery in the hope of attaining "doll faces" to make them look like the actors they see in Hollywood films and satellite television programmes from the west.
Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world. According to a report in the conservative Etemad newspaper, as many as 200,000 Iranians, mostly women, go to cosmetic surgeons each year to reduce the size of their nose and make the tip point upwards.
For many, surgery is a reaction to the restrictive rules of compulsory hijab. "They won't let us display our beauty," one woman said.
"It's human nature to want to seek out attention with a beautiful figure, hair, skin … but hijab doesn't let you do that. So we have to satisfy that instinct by displaying our 'art' on our faces."
Others see it simply as taking advantage of the benefits of modernity.
"Science and technology have progressed, and people can look more beautiful," said one. "Why shouldn't we?"
The spike in inflation experienced by Iranians in recent months has compounded the already high price of such surgery. At present, the cost of an average nose surgery in Iran is 50-100m rials (about £1,100-£2,200), a tummy tuck can be had for 30-70m rials, a facelift runs to 30-60m rials, and a complete forehead lift can cost as much as 150m rials. This in a country where the average worker in a major urban area earns about £275 a month.