IRAN: Tehran youths' plan to cool off lands them in hot water
They were just looking to cool off and have a little fun in the middle of Tehran's scorching-hot summer.
Instead, a group of young Iranians got all tangled up with authorities in the Islamic Republic and paraded on Iranian state television for participating in a mass public water pistol fight in a Tehran park, Iranian media reports say.
On Wednesday night, state channel broadcast images of some youth who were arrested at the event on July 29, the Iranian daily Assre-Iran reported.
They said in the program that they had chatted with each other on Facebook and decided to meet at the park -- ironically named Tehran's Water and Fire park -- at that date with water guns, added the report.
The event reportedly attracted about 800 people through a Facebook invitation.
Photos posted online said to have been taken at the event showed something rare in Iran, which is run by a gang of aging clerics, extremist military men and their hangers-on: groups of laughing young men and women spraying water at each other with colorful water guns and pouring water bottles over each other in the hot summer weather.
One city official was quoted by the semi-official Fars news agency as saying the water fight angered authorities because some of the women did not wear their Islamic headscarves in an appropriate manner and because the crowds were too large. The young people were also accused of using too much water from the taps in the park.
Chief commander of Tehran's vice police, Gen. Ahmad Roozbehani, reportedly vowed on state TV that the detainees will face harsh punishment for “breaking norms."
The ill-fated water fight is the latest in a series of similar gatherings organized via Facebook recently in Iran, according to a report by Radio Free Europe. Previous public events held include paintball and bubble-blowing gatherings.
It was not immediately clear why the July 29 water fight irked the authorities more than the previous ones. One theory is that the photos posted online on several blogs and websites showing smiling men and women soaked in water and playing together angered conservatives who want to impose their austere version of Islam on the nation.
Other observers say the water fight crackdown might have deeper roots in the conflict between Iran's die-hard Islamic puritans and a population yearning for a connection to its pre-Islamic past and the outside world.
Every year, Iranian Armenians celebrate an ancient pre-Islamic water festival called Ab-Bazi, which has roots in the ancient faith of Mithraism.
This year the ritual was turned into a youth festival for all Iranians, regardless of their faith, posing yet another challenge to hardliners in the Islamic Republic.
One parliament deputy, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, accused the organizers of seeking to "distance the youth from Islamic principles," according to Radio Farda.
-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photos: Young Iranians spray water at each other in a Tehran park on July 29. Credit: Iranian news websites via TehranLive.org