Crackdown by the moral police on popular Teheran coffee shops

Coffee shops had always been a favorite among young people, including visiting tourists in Teheran.

Crackdown by the moral police on popular Teheran coffee shops

Coffee shops had always been a favorite among young people, including visiting tourists in Teheran.

Shoulder to shoulder, cheek to cheek, young women and men sit next to each other while a thick film of cigarette smoke fills the dimly-lit cafe in central Tehran. Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” blares from the speakers.

Young Iranians with slick smart phones and packs of American-made cigarettes who frequent the cafe come for the chance to hang out, away from the eyes of moralizing elders. They also form a bloc of strong support for moderate President Hassan Rouhani as he works to allow greater social freedom in the Islamic Republic.

It is a reflection of a boom in cafe culture that has led to a mushrooming of similar coffee shops over the past two years, providing an outlet for young middle-class Iranians who suffer from a lack of public places to meet.

A wave of crackdowns on cafés in Tehran comes as recently as last Wednesday when a commander of the so-called moral police in Tehran reported a 20-50 percent increase in the crackdown against producers of satellite receivers and dishes in the country.

Iranian State Security Forces (SSF) have shut down at least 26 cafés in Tehran during the past week for “failure to comply with certain regulations” which include “improper dressing by costumers and smoking cigarettes”.

The owner of one café that opened seven years ago in Tehran told a local daily: “Last Tuesday the agents came to our café and shut down our location. Although in the past we had received only notices regarding some regulations, this time they told us the premise must be shut down.”
“I personally have heard from colleagues that 26 Internet cafés have been shut down,” he said.

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Among many pretexts used by the police for the crackdown, one was “absence of adequate visibility for security checks’ that can be interpreted as anything by those raiding the cafes.

Café owners in Tehran have described the new wave of shut downs as unprecedented because it includes some of the most famous and most crowded cafés in Tehran.

In another development, the commander of police in the western city of Orumiya said last week that some 53 barbershops have been shut down in the city for reasons that included presenting “western hairstyles”.

In 2012 the Iranian police and cultural ministry introduced five haircut styles for men that the barbershops were obliged to obey, but it failed from the onset.

In the past Iran’s ministry of guidance had produced and previewed a catalogue of haircuts that meet the clerical regime’s approval.

The ‘journal of Iranian hairstyles approved by the ministry of guidance’ was previewed at a state-approved hairdressing show in Tehran. The list of banned styles includes mullets, ponytails, and elaborate spikes.
In 2010, a senior Iranian cleric claimed that women wearing immodest clothing causes natural disasters.

Kazem Sediqi, a prayer leader in Tehran, said: ‘Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes.’

Iranian police carry out regular morality checks, arresting women and youth on the pretext of improper clothing and non-Islamic hairstyles.
The politically motivated crackdowns on women and youth have intensified in recent weeks in cities across Iran along with public hangings to increase fear and intimidation in society to prevent public protests.

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