At a press conference on Monday September 5, Iran’s Prosecutor was faced with the most controversial judicial news of the day. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei was pressed by the media for his stance on the organizers of public water fights as well as his views on the house arrest of the leaders of the Green Movement.
A reading of the Prosecutor General’s statements
It is not a crime, but we will confront it
Asked about the phenomenon of young people using Facebook to arrange water fights in public parks, Mohseni Ejei said: “These programs are guided from the outside.”
He did not clarify what he meant by “outside” but it is safe to assume he’s referring to Western countries.
Iranian authorities have consistently described social-networking sites as being guided by the West as part of a “soft war” against the Islamic Republic. They also cite the water fight phenomenon as evidence of this soft war.
Organized water fights were first held on July 30, when a group of young people with water guns gathered at Tehran’s Fire and Water Park. Pictures of this leisure activity in the media drew the ire of government officials. The pictures showed smiling young men and women spraying each other with water.
The Hijab (Islamic attire) that some of these women wore did not exactly correspond with the examples promoted by the government, although some women even wore chadors.
Government officials and some conservative members of the clergy told security forces they should not let such events ever be repeated.
The security forces announced that they have identified and arrested some of the young organizers of these water-fight parties. A television news report aired blurred images of young people admitting they were influenced by foreigners. Now Iran’s Prosecutor General has confirmed this, saying: “Some of the detained individuals say they were deceived and some also said that they were rallied by anti-Revolutionaries. So it is only natural that security forces should deal with these individuals.”
He also added: “Water fighting is not a crime and no one is pursued for merely engaging in water fights. However, if someone under the auspices of water fighting commits anti-religious actions and acts against public morality and order, then it is natural that the Islamic society and our laws and religion will not allow someone to do such things in public; that’s especially true when it becomes apparent that they have had external support and are being led by foreign guidance.”
Government officials have presented no evidence to back up their insistent claim that foreign powers were involved in planning the water fights. Their only proof is based on detainees’ confessions, which have no legal weight since they were taken under pressure.
In any case, water fights planned in various Iranian cities were cancelled by security forces, and reports indicate that young people trying to join water-fighting events in Amol, Bandar Abbas and Sari were confronted by security forces.
These actions typify the government’s security stance regarding any organized, spontaneous gathering. They use security-police language to describe a leisure activity and handcuff youths for holding water guns.
House arrest is for their own good
Defending the house arrest of the Iranian opposition leaders was another priority for the Prosecutor General during his news conference. Asked about the significance and the proper place of house arrest in the Islamic Republic’s judicial system, Mohseni Ejei said: “With regard to some people, it is in their own interest to create certain restrictions for them.”
The Prosecutor General uttered his statement on the 200th day of house arrest for Mehdi Karroubi, MirHosein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard. Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh Karroubi, has been allowed outside for a series of medical treatments in the past month but she soon will rejoin her husband.
Their house arrest began on the evening of February 14, when tens of thousands of election protesters responded to their call to march in solidarity with anti-government movements in Tunisia and Egypt. The February 14 protests were suppressed by the government, leaving two protesters dead and dozens arrested.
For weeks after the arrest, Iranian judicial and security officials refrained from publishing any news about the opposition leaders. Later they would make contradictory statements.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi gave an interview to Euronews in which he said that the two opposition leaders and their wives were free; Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of Iranian Parliament’s National Security Commission, said Mousavi and Karroubi were not under house arrest but were being “escorted.” The Prosecutor General’s statement represents the government’s first open confirmation that the leaders of the Green Movement are in fact under house arrest.
Yet Mohseni Ejei did not explain how the opposition leaders are benefiting from being detained. Some government supporters have claimed in recent months that if the opposition leaders were free, they might be subjected to the “Revolutionary rage” of forces loyal to the government.
And the Prosecutor General’s statement may be interpreted in the same light. In order to justify the house arrest, he has described it as a move to provide them with security. Some legal experts say that with no provisions for house arrest in Islamic Republic law, the government’s incarceration of the opposition leaders in their homes may be described as hostage taking.