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Persian love in the time of Covid-19

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

Iranian photographer Mehri Jamshidi documents the lives of two young lovers in Tehran during the Covid-19 pandemic

Negar, 27, a kindergarten teacher and Milad, 35, a psychologist and yoga instructor are one of the young couples in Iran whose lives has been dramatically affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Iran is the hardest hit country in the Middle East by the virus, with over 53,625 deaths by the 20th December. Milad and Negar had planned to marry in June, however, the restrictions that the government imposed to contain the pandemic made it impossible for them to hold the ceremony they had planned for months. In Iran, a traditional wedding ceremony begins weeks before the main party and continue during the days afterwards.

In the rented apartment where they will begin their life together. Unpacked boxes are piled up in Negar and Milad’s bedroom. The couple had postponed their wedding ceremony several times, hoping that they would be able to celebrate with their families and friends.

Milad and Negar spending time in the apartment they rent and even host their guests in, however, they don’t live together. Milad lives alone in the apartment, while Negar still lives with her parents. For traditional families, it is not acceptable for young couples to live together without a wedding ceremony.

Negar, photographed through the kitchen curtain while washing the dishes after hosting their first guest in their future home. Negar lost her job due to the pandemic spreading in Iran and the government shutting down kindergartens. Milad, also has fewer clients and works remotely from home due to the restrictions. The couple’s economic conditions have been further complicated by crippling sanctions imposed by the US which led to a drastic drop in the Iranian Rial.

Negar returns to her parents house after spending some hours with Milad in the apartment. The couple had no choice but to spend their time indoors as the fast spread of the pandemic in Iran forced the authorities to apply heavy restrictions.

"It is frustrating to drive and commute between our parents' houses and our future home to meet up,” Milad says. “We have no hope in what will come next.”

After Negar lost her job and Milad faced a sharp drop in the number of his clients, it is harder for them to pay their rent. COVID-19 has severely affected Iran’s economy which was already going through a devastating crisis due to the US sanctions and Washington’s "maximum pressure" campaign against Tehran.

Milad training his students in an online yoga course from home. Online courses are a new norm for Milad and his trainees. They practice remote training with no previous experience, challenging them both. He delivers his lessons for free with no financial benefit to keep in contact with his students.

A days after loosening up the protective measures from the first wave, Milad and Negar spend time in a public place practicing social distancing rules.

"I did not imagine a pandemic joining with this economic crisis could change all our plans,” Negar says, walking in Pardisan, one of Tehran’s parks. The day before this picture was taken, Negar and Milad had been doing a photoshoot to have some memorial photos at the start of their new life.

Milad's aunt, who tested positive for coronavirus, checking her WhatsApp messages to see a photo of Negar, taken during the photoshoot. The couple finally decided to celebrate their wedding without any guests and only with their intimate family.

"Here is our coronavirus-affected bride and groom," reads the text message that Milad’s mother sent to his aunt, along with a photo showing Milad and Negar in wedding dress. Milad’s aunt, participated in the wedding by replying to text messages with happy wishes.

December 2020 - The garden hall where the couple were supposed to celebrate their big day is still closed amid a new rise in coronavirus cases. The Iranian government imposed a two-week total lockdown in the capital which eased on the 5th December. The two-week lockdown helped slow down the wave of the coronavirus deaths but did not stop it. Before the most recent lockdown, the daily death toll was as high as 486.


Mehri Jamshidi

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