Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Persian Letters

Iran, Where A Water Fight Can Land You In Prison

Young Iranians gathered to spray water on each other last week in Tehran.
Young Iranians gathered to spray water on each other last week in Tehran.
Yet again, a number of young people have been arrested in the Iranian capital.

Their crime: engaging in a water fight.

The evidence: water guns and bottles.

The accusations against them: violating Islamic principles and norms.

It sounds absurd, but sadly it's the reality in the Islamic Republic of Iran where, among other things, having a bit of fun can also land one in prison.

The young women and men had gathered last week in a Tehran park, ironically named the Garden of Water and Fire, and splashed water at each other.

The event, planned and organized on Facebook, had reportedly attracted around 800 people. Pictures of the event show happy girls and boys soaked with water, carrying colorful water guns.

They weren't chanting opposition slogans or protesting against the government, but they were having a good time in public, which can be seen to challenge state-enforced codes of conduct. Their photos were shared on websites, blogs, and social media.

Many praised them for their creativity, for managing to organize the event, and also for having fun, which is not always easy in Iran.

Not everyone was happy, though. Conservative websites used the "incriminating" photos to accuse the young people of immorality and corruption.

On July 31, Tehran's police chief, Hossein Sajedinia, said a group of young Tehran residents were arrested for splashing water at each other. Sajedinia warned that the police would act against others who disrupted "public order and security." He provided no details on the number of arrests.

One parliament deputy, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, said the organizers of the event were trying to distance the youth from Islamic principles and the values of the Islamic republic. Another lawmaker, Hossein Ebrahim, called on the judiciary to take action against similar events.

The water fight is one of the latest such events to take place in Tehran in recent months. Last week, in another park in the capital, a group of young men and women got together for a game of dress-up in unfashionable clothing.

In January, young people with curly hair celebrated their locks at a gathering in another park (see video from the event).

There were also gatherings for paintball, kite flying, and blowing bubbles. All the events are said to have been organized through Facebook.

It's not clear why the water fight has caused more sensitivity than the previous events.

One reason could be the photos of happy boys and girls mingling that were widely shared on websites and social media. The event apparently attracted more people than the previous gatherings, which could be also a reason why the authorities felt the need to take action.

Officials, of course, are also wary of any kind of gathering, especially among youth, for fear it could take on antiestablishment overtones -- even perhaps in the case of these apparently apolitical events.

It could also be that the water-loving youths have become victims of the political rivalries between the different factions of the Islamic establishment.

The hard-line, pro-government Rajanews website attacked Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf over the case and accused his team of having been behind it.

The Hamshahri website, which belongs to Tehran's municipality, reacted by accusing Rajanews of lying, and saying that the municipality did not organize the water fight.

Both sides appear to agree on one thing: by engaging in a water fight, the young people have acted against Islamic laws.

Some of the young people, however, disagree. "All we want is a bit of joy," one participant wrote on Facebook. "So that Islam is not endangered during water fights, women on this side , men on the other," someone posted sarcastically on another of the Facebook pages devoted to the water fight.

The fun-seeking young people don't appear to be intimidated by the warnings and reported arrests. Some write on Facebook that there will be more actions in future weeks.

"At the worst case we will run away if the police come," wrote a young man on the Facebook page of "Water Gun Wars in Tehran."

The incident highlights the gap between the establishment and the population, of which about 65 percent are younger than 35 years old. It also highlights the shrinking tolerance of the establishment and the braveness of young people who, despite all restrictions, manage to find ways to breathe a bit of fresh air and be happy.

"Laughing and joy is becoming a rare phenomenon because of all the problems people are facing in this country," a Tehran-based observer who did not want to be named told Persian Letters.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: sara from: London
August 03, 2011 20:50
They are such idiots arresting people. If they want to stay in power at least they could try a little and clean their act. Instead of trying to make up for all the damage they've already done they're only making it worse... :(

by: thomas j bragen from: bayonne, new jersey USA
August 03, 2011 21:32
when a despot and his followers rule a country , and extinguish all that
is natural and God given, such as freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to enjoy God's creation, than that despot is evil incarnate. They rule in such a way as to make slaves of those they are desperate to control. They live off the fruits of another's labor and hold in bondage those that dare hold another opinion, or those they perceive as threats to their rule. They hold these people as slaves and that in itself is evil and a threat to the democracy of any country. We did it once here in America and that was wrong and lead to a civil war where millions died to free the slaves that ohters owned. this to be is what is happening in what was once a beautiful Persian Country gone wrong

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix AZ
August 03, 2011 22:03
This just goes to show us all what a dismal failure Islam has turned into. No smiles, happiness, only tragic bombings and murders, and a life of captivity and misery. God will be pleased when it banished permanently from humanity.

by: Kiumars from: Iran
August 05, 2011 19:01
Why nobody ever posts a comment on this site that disagrees with the article?
Is it possible (or censorship) ?
In Response

August 12, 2011 08:21
Well when people get arrested for a simple water gun fight, I would agree with the article to. I do not know about other articles here, but this one is an example of an abuse of basic human rights.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

Guerrilla Translators

Seen anything in the Iranian blogosphere that you think Persian Letters should cover? If so, contact Golnaz Esfandiari at esfandiarig@rferl.org