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Dozens of Iranian Students Given 99 Lashes Each for Dancing at Coed Graduation Party

More than 30 students were lashed 99 times each after they were arrested for dancing at a graduation celebration attended by members of the opposite gender in the Iranian city of Qazvin, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing Iranian media.

The arrests and punishments, which took place in a 24-hour span, were part of a wider crackdown on behavior that the regime deems to be inappropriate.

Qazvin prosecutor Esmail Sadeghi Niaraki charged that the participants were “dancing and jubilating,” while the women at the party were described as “half-naked,” a phrase that often describes merely not wearing regime-sanctioned head coverings, scarves, and long coats. Similar raids took place in two other Iranian cities, Iranian media reported. 97 people were arrested and several “polluted singles houses were cleaned” in Semnan, and 23 more were arrested in Kerman, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Col. Mojtaba Ashrafi of the Semnan police said that his department carried out raids on 58 homes occupied by singles. Although living alone is not forbidden in Iran, Ashrafi said that homes occupied by singles were more likely to be sites of illegal behavior. He said that drugs, alcoholic beverages, and satellite receivers were found in some of the homes raided.

The regime’s continued assaults on personal freedoms have worsened since the nuclear deal was reached last year. The Times reported in November that Iranians hoping that the nuclear deal would lead to a rapprochement with the West had been “jolted with a series of increasingly rude awakenings,” including increased anti-American activity and a further erosion of rights. The report was prompted by the arrests of several prominent Iranian journalists and businessmen with ties to the United States.

Eight Iranian women, including well-known model Elham Arab, were arrested two weeks for appearing on Instagram with improperly covered hair. State television showed Arab being questioned by a prosecutor. Over 170 people, including the models, photographers, and hair-stylists, were arrested as part of the crackdown, which is part of a broader move against “immodesty.”

Last October, two Iranian poets were sentenced to jail and 99 lashes each for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex. The following month, reports surfaced that Iranian actress Sadaf Taherian was forced to flee the country after she posted pictures of herself with her hair uncovered on social media.

National elections in February resulted in hardliners consolidating their control over Iran’s parliament and the influential Assembly of Experts.

Saudi journalist Abdulrahman al-Rashed predicted last year that the nuclear deal would embolden Iran’s hardliners because they would “feel more confident, aware that foreign threats will have been neutralized and that no one will be able to confront them.”

In the past few years, a prominent Iranian actress was forced to apologize to avoid a lashing sentence after she kissed a male official at the Cannes Film Festival. Shortly afterwards, a group of young Iranians were arrested and sentenced to jail and lashes for making a video dancing to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The sentences were suspended after Williams and other international observers protested.

[Photo: YouTube ]