It was a cute photo, so I place it on my blog. a great photo of a happy young teenager holding a water sprayer, somewhat wet herself, and smiling happily.

There is enough bad news in the world, so I like to post stuff that reminds us that not all of life is war and politics and horror.

From Finestkind Clinic and fish market

The story: A group of young people in Tehran decided to get together and stage a “water fight” party. Bring your own spritzer.

And the intrepid Amir, of TehranLive Photo blog took some photos and put it on his website. Amir’s photos of Tehran remind us that not everything is war and revolution, so you might be shown a photo of a concert of traditional music, or of kids riding in go-karts, or a photo of a street or shop.  But sometimes I guess the candid photos upset someone *.

And then, the morality police stepped in and arrested some of the participants.

From the SydneyMorning Herald:

The head of Tehran’s morality police, Ahmad Roozbehani, said: ”A mixed-gender event took place on Friday … They had been asked to bring water pistol toys, which most of them had in hand … they acted against social norms.”The city’s police chief, Hossein Sajedinia, said the participants behaved ”abnormally” and disobeyed Islamic principles of gender segregation…

Or maybe the reason is more than simple prudishness:

An Iranian blogger in London, Potking Azarmehr, said: ”There are two issues here which have troubled the regime: people having fun and people organising a gathering through the social media. Both are perceived as a threat by the regime.”

The danger seen is not just that teenagers are “out of control” and having fun, but they used the social media to do so.

If you are following the “Arab Spring” revolts in the various Arab countries, you are aware how the social media helped spawn these revolts, and that the Iranian “green revolt” against a stolen election was also helped by the social media.

So how do you keep folks in line? Smash down the little things.

Strategy Page has this report on how the “lifestyle” police are keeping busy interfering with ordinary people:

With the warm weather, comes the lifestyle police, to harass, beat or arrest those who dress or behave in un-Islamic ways. The rules are stricter this year, and the universities are even starting to segregate male and female students in class. The clerics seem to go out of their way to torment the young reformers, secure in the knowledge that there are plenty of young Islamic conservatives who enjoy beating up college students.

Like the “broken windows” theory of crime, keeping people in line with little things is one way to impose mind control on a country.

As a Christian, I admire women who wear a headscarf and modest clothing to show their devotion to God. Here in the Phlippines, the usual garb in our provincial town is jeans and teeshirt, but some Christian churches have their women wear skirts, schoolkids wear uniforms, businesswomen wear skirts, the gays wear earrings and dye their hair, and Muslim girls have a headscarf. No problem.

But as one living in a democracy, I object when the government tells you what to wear.

Which brings us to another problem.

When people are unable to express themselves freely, they can rebel, or they can become hyper religious, or they can take drugs.

Another sad story of Iran is heroin.

Over 2000 Iranian police and border control soldiers died last year fighting opium smugglers, but some still wonder if the government has looked the other way to keep the kids and troublemakers too sedated to rebel. From a Washington Post story from2005:

“Our people in Iran have been in the front line in this war on drugs,” Hashemi said.

Yet despite such bloodstained evidence, drugs remain so prevalent that many Iranians describe their availability as evidence of a government plot. After students rioted at Tehran University in 1999, residents of a locked-down dormitory told of drug dealers being allowed in to distribute narcotics for free.

“I believe this is the policy of the state, to make all the youth addicted,” said Hamid Motalebi, 22, a police officer on duty in a south Tehran park almost overrun by junkies sleeping on the grass or staggering like zombies. “It’s the lack of policy and management. If they could create enough jobs, enough entertainment, why would people turn to drugs?”

Iran is an ancient and complex society, where the moderate Islamic revolution against the secular Shah’s corruption, social engineering, and tyranny,  had been taken over by the extremists.

So no water fights, please. Keep in line or the powers in charge will arrest you.

If you can arrange some innocent fun via Facebook or twitter, who knows? The next meeting might be political. Indeed, much of the now crushed “Green movement” to reform the revolution after the last election used Twitter and other social media.

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* the photo at TehranLive has since been removed. Presumably to save the reputations of those involved.

A full report on this can be found HERE at Global voices, including photos.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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