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Tattooed in Tehran

Iranian officials are actively trying to stem the appeal of tattooing, which is illegal but increasingly popular among youths.
Two men display tattoos on their arm and neck while standing in front of an Iranian painting at a shopping centre in northern Tehran September 21, 2006. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl (IRAN) - RTR1HM9D

Studies of the remains of ancient Iranians reveal that many people had tattoos. In the past century, a number of Iranians got tattoos, most of them with some sort of significance attached. For example, women generally got tattoos because it was believed that they made them more attractive. They preferred images of birds, berry bushes or trees below the neck to make themselves prettier, or flower bushes on a breast or under the navel to supposedly boost sex appeal. Some women believed that tattoos would protect them from the evil eye. Men admired for their strength and masculinity usually had tattoos, typically consisting of images or a verse of a poem symbolizing their power or praising their mother.

In recent years, tattooing has become increasingly popular among youths, in particular among females. A little more than 20 years ago, Iranian women began getting tattoos as permanent makeup, which sometimes gets them in trouble because women need approval from guards to enter government buildings, which means they cannot show hair or wear makeup. If a woman has tattooed eyebrows or a permanent lip liner, she would have to demonstrate to the guards that no matter how much she rubs her face or lips with the tissues they have provided, the makeup will not come off.

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