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Iranian police arrest 300 people for attending party where men and women mixed

Iran's flag (Dreamstime/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iranian police arrested 300 people at a party in the central city of Semnan because the event allowed the mixing of men and women.

Colonel Ali Mirahmadi, deputy commander of Semnan Province’s law enforcement, announced the arrests at a “mixed-gender party” on November 14, “utilizing covert intelligence and surveillance tactics” at the gathering, which was held in a hall located on the outskirts of the county.

Accused of violating social norms, the 300 men and women were detained in a reflection of the increasing efforts by Iranian authorities to curb activities deemed inappropriate under the country’s strict Islamic codes. Mirahmadi also confirmed that the venue hosting the event was closed down for “trade violations.”

Separately, the Qom University of Medical Sciences has imposed academic suspensions on several students for organizing mixed-gender parties, accusing them of “undermining the social and educational structure and promoting permissiveness through social media activities.”

In addition to parties where both men and women are in attendance, some gatherings, called “hijab unveilings” — women in attendance do not wear the mandatory head scarf — have also seen police interventions.

The hijab became compulsory for women and girls over the age of 9 in 1981, two years after the Islamic Revolution in Iran. The move triggered protests that were swiftly crushed by the new authorities. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Women have also launched campaigns against the law, although many have been pressured by the state and forced to leave the country.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 while in police custody for an alleged hijab violation released a wave of anger that has presented the Islamic regime with its biggest challenge since the revolution.

The Women, Life, Freedom protests and civil disobedience against the compulsory hijab sparked by Amini’s death have swept the country, involving tens of thousands of Iranians, many of whom were already upset over the country’s deteriorating living standards.

The protests have also been buffeted by the participation of celebrities, sports stars, and well-known rights activists, prompting a special mention of such luminaries in the legislation.

More recently, the country has been put back on edge by the death of 17-year-old Armita Garavand in a Tehran subway in October.

Garavand was pronounced dead after slipping into a coma following an alleged confrontation with Tehran’s enforcers of strict dress-code laws.

In the face of the unrest, some religious and government figures have repeatedly advocated for a tougher stance by the government against offenders, even going as far as encouraging a “fire-at-will” approach against noncompliant women.

While protests against the crackdown and curbs on freedoms appear to be waning, resistance to the hijab is likely to remain a flashpoint, analysts say, as it is seen now as a symbol of the state’s repression of women and the deadly crackdown on society.