Regular officers and members of the ‘morality police’ raided 87 cafes and restaurants in a single district of the capital Tehran on Saturday and arrested women for flouting the Islamic dress code, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency.
al-Arabiya “These places were shut for not following Islamic values, providing hookah to women, and lacking proper licenses,” said Tehran police official Alireza Mehrabi, according to ISNA. Women are not allowed to smoke hookah, water pipes, in public.
Mehrabi said the raid came as part of a plan to provide “neighborhood-oriented” security, and would continue in other parts of Tehran.
Coffee shop culture has flourished in Iran in recent years, offering wireless Internet, snacks, hot drinks, and a place to hang out for Iranian youth in a country where there are no bars or Western chain restaurants or cafes. But that trend has been criticized by conservative Iranians who consider it a cultural imposition from the West and incompatible with Islamic values.
Tehran’s coffee shops numbered just a handful 10 years ago. But now hundreds dot the city, with a new one popping up every few days it seems, even in places such as car washes and movie theaters. They are among the very few semi-public places where young people meet and artists and intellectuals debate.
Last year, dozens of officers raided the Deja Vu cafe in Tehran, loading customers in vans and taking them to interrogation centers. Many received fines, said the shop’s former owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
“The police told me that women were smoking, but it’s all about boys and girls meeting,” he said. “There are just too many coffee shops for them to close.” (That’s what YOU think)
One shop owner said it would be impossible to turn back the clock. “The authorities have to tolerate us,” he said. “Young people need to be able to unwind from the everyday pressures at some place. Here, they can.” (Not for long)