Robert Tait in Tehran
Monday August 6, 2007
Iran's drive to enforce Islamic morals netted revellers from Britain and Sweden after police swooped on a "satanic" concert organised over the internet.
Police arrested 230 people and seized drugs, alcohol and 800 illicit CDs after raiding the event in Karaj, 12 miles west of Tehran. Those arrested included young women in skimpy and "inappropriate" clothing, officers said.
Reza Zarei, Tehran's provincial police chief, said the operation also resulted in the confiscation of 20 video cameras, with which organisers allegedly planned to shoot "obscene" films and then blackmail female participants.
The event included rock and rap performers as well as female singers, who are banned under Iran's Islamic laws. The authorities described the artistes as "satanist" without elaborating. Iran's rulers routinely label much of western-style popular music and culture as decadent.
Preparations were kept so secret that revellers were made aware of the venue only hours before the rave.
Although security guards were hired to act as lookouts and plans were made to clear the site of alcohol and drugs the police found 150 bottles of alcohol and drugs, including marijuana.
Most of the detainees came from rich families and included people from Iranian backgrounds who had travelled from Britain and Sweden, Mr Zarei said. "This is the first time that tens of male and female participants have been invited to such an event through an internet call," he told the semi-official ISNA news agency. Rock concerts are rarely permitted in Iran but are sometimes held illegally in venues such as underground car parks.
Last Wednesday's raid occurred during a government-backed "social security" campaign in which police have arrested or cautioned thousands of women whose dress or headscarves have been deemed insufficiently Islamic. While such offensives occur periodically, this year's has been carried out with unusual intensity over a prolonged period amid accusations that the US is trying to topple the Islamic regime through a "soft revolution".
Authorities last month doubled the number of officers deployed on morals patrols. Police have been instructed to arrest young men with "western" hairstyles. Those arrested are released only after giving the names of their barbers and making signed commitments to get hair-cuts. They then have to return to the police station to show their new hairstyles.
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