Iranian Students Prepare to Test Authority by Staging Another Water Fight

Iranian students, who've used protests, boycotts and sit-ins, have found a new and innovative way to express their disenchantment against the oppressive rule of the mullahs-- the water gun fight.

After last week’s large-scale water fight in Tehran resulted in the rounding-up and arrests of young participants, students are now preparing to once again take on the theocratic regime by organizing another water fight.

Some students planned to re-group this weekend, although sources tell that people went out to the park, but were outnumbered by plainclothes and uniformed officials. Students will continute to plan for a larger event in early September, once the Muslim holy week of Ramadan is over.

Almost 1,000 young Iranians gathered on a hot summer day at Abo Atash Park in Tehran last Friday, at an event organized on Facebook, called “Tehran’s Water Gun Fight,” which invited young Iranians to bring water guns, bottles, and any other water games to the park.

Student organizers declared, “Water fights are our undeniable rights!” paralleling President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim about nuclear arms.

The event called the attention of government hardliners who dispatched authorities to the park to crackdown on the fun and games. Several male and female participants were rounded up and arrested.

Despite regime threats and arrests, the “Tehran’s Water Gun Fight” Facebook page is calling for another gathering on Sept. 2, following the end of the month of Ramadan.

Students in Tehran have told that the regime has prepared for another water fight by fortifying security and police presence at the park a day in advance, this time possibly preparing for an event that can have more serious consequences.

“They don’t think that water fights will cause a revolution, but it’s a start,” said Bahar Milani, a United Kingdom based activist working for the Iran Solidarity movement. Milani helped to create an English version of the Water Gun Fight Facebook page to link and unite the rest of the world to Tehran.

“It’s been a while that we haven’t heard any news from the people of Iran, but the young people are showing they world that they want change, and they want to challenge the regime,” Milani said.

More than 15,000 people have “liked” the original Facebook page in Persian and many have actively used the page, connecting to other participants and posting comments, pictures, videos and links.

Pictures from last week’s event have been plastered across the Internet on Facebook, blogs and other sites, showing the young people happy, laughing and soaking wet.

The hype surrounding the Tehran event has made a wave across the country. There are now Facebook groups organizing similar water gun fights in Iranian cities such as Babol, Isfahan, Tabriz and Karaj.

Facebook has been pivotal in Iran’s youth movement since the post-election uprisings in 2009 when Iranians stormed the streets in protest of a fraudulent election.  Facebook, and similar social networking and organizing tools such as Twitter and YouTube have resolved the opposition’s long-standing challenge with organization.

“They are trying to tell the regime, ‘all we want is to be happy.’ They are just young people trying to live their lives. They just want to have fun. The government is against them having fun,” Milani said.

An important statistic in understanding the Iranian political climate, similar to that of many Middle East countries who experienced the Arab Spring, is the overwhelming number of young people. About seventy percent of Iran’s 70 million population is under 35.

It is common for young people in Iran to be questioned for their clothing, hairstyles, and even choice in music.

“This is a warning to young people that we will not accept these types of organized activities and unacceptable behavior anywhere in our country,” the head of Tehran's morality police, Ahmad Roozbehani said about the arrests.

Those who participated in last week’s water fight said hejabs, or the Islamic headscarves, on the females in attendance had either fallen off or moved back, revealing the hairline.

The comfort with which males and females interacted, in a country where gender segregation exists is all aspects of life, also irked authorities.

Confirming the arrests, city police chief Hossein Sajedinia placed fault on participants for acting "abnormally" and going against Islamic values.

Iran's state television aired a segment Wednesday interviewing some of the participants with their backs to the camera, confessing to having played with water guns and describing details about the event.

“The first goal was just to have fun. The second might have been a political agenda,” said one male participant who was not identified.

Another young woman warned viewers that she did not know that so many pictures would be taken, and that officials would have access to what she posted on her Facebook page.

“The people just want to be free and happy, but the regime won’t let them. Fortunately this generation has grown too strong and too big for the regime to keep up,” Milani said. “They are modern and savvy and know too much for the government to contain them.”

Should the students show up for this weekend’s scheduled water fight, the reactions are expected to be even more inflammatory as Monday began the Islamic month of Ramadan.

During the month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and do not partake in any bodily pleasures, such as swimming.  Traditionally, government crackdowns during this time are stricter and harsher.