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Regime says West pushing waterfights.

The regime is now blaming the West for fomenting the rash of water fights that have engaged young Iranians in recent weeks.

But some within the establishment are saying the regime is going way overboard in trying to attribute political meaning to a mere summer diversion.


On Monday, Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossain Mohseni-Ejai, accused unnamed foreign hands of organizing the water gun campaign.

"This is not simply a game with water. This act is being guided from abroad," he said. Some of those detained last week have admitted "they were deceived, and some said they came out based on a call from a counterrevolutionary," he said, according to the conservative website Tabnak.

State TV has aired statements by some arrested in previous water fight crackdowns asserting they were motivated by "foreign invitations." Some confessed they were given water guns to use.

Many of the water fights are organized through calls on Facebook, which is banned in Iran though Iranians routinely access it through proxies. Most of the Facebook pages are not political--but they express the sort of secular youth culture of those unhappy with the country's Islamic rule.

The first such water fight was a large affair involving hundreds of youths assembled by Facebook and emails on July 29 in Tehran's Water and Fire Park, named for its numerous fountains and light shows. Since then, there have been reports of copycat water fights all over the country. For example, one human rights website said 30 youths were arrested Friday in Mashhad's Mellat Park while engaged in a water fight.

Last week, a Facebook call went out for Tehrani youths to bring their water guns Friday for another session in Water and Fire Park. But the police assembled in even larger numbers. The water fight never got started as the cops picked off youths arriving with water guns.

Tehran Deputy Police Chief Ahmad-Reza Radan did not say how many arrests were made. Calling the youths "rebels," he said, "A handful of people who wanted to challenge social norms and hold water fights were arrested. The people involved in such actions are either stupid or not respectful of the law. The police will not allow them to achieve their goals, and will confront the main organizers."

Cracking down on water gun fights reflects the leadership's nervousness and wariness of any sign of opposition sentiment.

But even some conservatives who are strong supporters of Islamic rule thought it was going too far to arrest young people who were wet all over and not just behind the ears.

"I feel bad when I see some young people were detained for water fights. Those who support such detentions think the Islamic system is somehow very fragile," said Mohammad-Reza Zaeri, a conservative cleric, on a state TV talk show recently.

Lawmaker Mohammad-Hossain Moghimi, another conservative, said young people were holding water fights because of a lack of entertainment and the many restrictions on them. "Sometimes, we make it too hard for people and constrict them, so they react," he said. "We have to make people comfortable."

Agence France Presse reported that more than 36,000 Facebook users had announced their intention to join in Friday's abortive water fight in Tehran. While nowhere near that number actually showed up, the volume of responses indicates how much Facebook is used by young Tehranis.
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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Sep 9, 2011
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