- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

TEHRAN Iranian authorities have begun cracking down again on signs of Western influence after years of relaxation of the Islamic republic's infamous social restrictions.
But as the gulf widens between the hard-liners and the rest of Iran, the young people who form about 60 percent of Iran's population have begun to defy and even fight back against the restrictions.
Semiofficial Islamic fundamentalist morality enforcers, who answer only to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, have redeployed on the streets of this city of 12 million over the past two or three months, witnesses say.
Tehran Police Chief Morteza Talaei told reporters last month that "not dealing with social disorders would be an insult to the youth." Such "disorders" include everything from armed robbery to playing loud music to using tinted car windows.
In Tehran's Pasdaran Square one recent night, the rough, bearded men of the moral police, known as the Basiji militia, were out in full force, looking inside cars for unmarried couples.
In Vanak Square, a popular hangout for young people as well as prostitutes and their customers, police began roughing up youngsters and women and loading them into police vehicles. This time the youths, in greater numbers, fought back with their fists, and a near-riot ensued.
"It was crazy," said Saeed, a 24-year-old gypsy cabdriver who came upon the scene. "I thought to myself, 'It's going to be a long summer.'"
As the temperatures rise, newscasters have been warning women to dress more modestly, a message to young women who wear skimpier headscarves and overcoats with each passing day.
Once again, authorities have begun stopping cars and questioning young people. Once again, they have begun breaking up parties in private homes.
Mohammed Khordadian, a popular Los Angeles-based Iranian-American dancer, has been locked up in prison for three weeks after he was arrested in the airport on his way back to the United States. He was charged with "inciting and encouraging corruption among young people," according to media reports.
The police have even confiscated Barbie dolls from toy stores.
Some Iranians say the crackdown is connected to the third anniversary this week of the July 8, 1999, student uprising in which security forces cracked down violently on students protesting the closure of newspapers.
"Every time summer begins, they start to crack down," said the editor of a reformist newspaper.
But this summer, the discontent of the Iranians is growing more apparent.
A young man took a break last week from putting up banners on streetlights bearing pictures of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and an exhortation that Israel "must be eliminated."
"Look at what a sad shape I'm in that I have to put up these posters to make a living," said the man, who asked to be identified only as Koochaki. "The thing is, I happen to believe Israel is in the right."
Despite a ban on alcohol and threat of a whipping for all those caught with liquor, beer lovers continue to buy cans of decent ale at many grocery stores. Despite the ban on men and women dancing together, wild parties abound. And every Thursday night, at the beginning of the Iranian weekend, the streets of Tehran are alive with music and the tooting of car horns.
One recent evening on chic Jordan Street officially called Africa Boulevard young people cruised for members of the opposite sex, chatting with friends and blasting pop music as police and security forces pulled people out of cars, took names and issued summonses.
Sahel, a 24-year-old sociology student driving along the street, said he wasn't afraid of being arrested. "What have I got to lose?"

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