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What's worse than the creeping menace of illegal drugs in Iran?

Mobile phones, according to conservative cleric Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi. Persian-language quoted Shirazi as saying on September 15 that mobile phones have become "more destructive" than drugs and are quite simply a tool for promoting moral "corruption." Cell phones are extremely popular in Iran, particularly among young people who use them to pass along jokes, thoughts, and discuss issues that Iranian authorities regard as taboo.

During a recent "morality crackdown," lots of bystanders used their phones to document harsh police treatment and public confrontations in which women were being targeted for their hairstyle or choice of clothing (some of which is here on youtube.)

Radio Farda
notes that Iranian news agencies recently reported a new ruling in the country's Eastern Azerbaijan Province that allows police to monitor people's cell phones and detain those whose handsets contain "immoral" materials. But it's unclear whether that ruling has been enforced.

"Karogozaran" newspaper reported two months ago that police forces in Tehran's Sadeghyeh neighborhood were checking people's phones, although that report was dismissed by a Tehran police chief who denied any such cases in the capital.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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