Hundreds Arrested in Tehran During Yalda Winter Solstice Celebration
Anti-vice police arrested more than 230 young men and women at two private parties in Tehran during the Iranian festival of Yalda on December 21, 2017.
Yalda is a winter solstice celebration observed on the longest night of the year. Traditionally families gather and celebrate at home but people living in large cities also host private parties where women often do not observe the mandatory hijab and where alcohol is commonly served.
Anti-Vice Police chief Colonel Zolfaghar Barfar told the semi-official news agency Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that the raids took place in the Farmanieh and Lavasan neighborhoods in the north of the capital after partygoers posted images on Instagram.
“When the police arrived, there were mixed groups of people dancing and stomping their feet while drinking alcohol,” said Barfar. “The singers hired for the parties were arrested and taken to the Morality Security Police station with their confiscated equipment.”
“I advise parents to take care of their kids and warn them of the consequences of going to these illegal gatherings,” added Barfar.
Iran’s notorious anti-vice or morality police, a branch of the security forces co-directed by the Revolutionary Guards and the Interior Ministry, routinely subject Iranian men and especially women to harassment and arrests for engaging in allegedly inappropriate public behavior.
Members of the opposite sex who are not close blood relatives are prohibited from mingling at private or public functions according to Iranian law. Consumption of alcohol is also banned in the Islamic Republic.
Police raids of private parties are not unusual in Iran, but the scale of the latest arrests is unprecedented. The arrests contradict President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at a conference in Tehran on citizens’ rights on December 19, 2017.
“We don’t want the kind of security climate where we always check on people’s private lives to see who sent messages to whom,” he said. “Of course, if someone breaks the law, he should be held accountable but we should not pry into people’s private lives.”
Rouhani signed a Charter on Citizens’ Rights in December 2016 but it lacks a path to implementation and is thus not legally binding.