Those of us who live in free societies take many simple freedoms for granted. It’s not until we realize how some of these freedoms are viewed by authoritarian regimes as subversive and dangerous that we begin to appreciate them. In the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries during the heyday of Communism, blue jeans and rock music were regarded as decadent Western influences. When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, people weren’t allowed to fly kites or play chess.
The latest example of this comes from Iran where the authorities have begun a crackdown against the latest threat to their power (WSJ-sub req):
Authorities in authoritarian Iran have determined the latest threat to the Islamic Republic: squirt guns.
Agents of the regime fanned out across Tehran late last month to question toy store owners about whether the fake guns had been imported from America. Nope: made right in Iran or imported from China.
Why all this fuss? A water fight among playful youth at a water park.
After heeding a call on Facebook, a group of nearly 800 young men and women were among those who showed up at the park. They were surprised to find others there eager to drench anyone in sight.
They chased strangers around a giant water fountain, screaming and laughing as they splashed each other with water from toy guns, bottles and plastic bags.
"We had a blast. It was a rare chance for boys and girls to hang out in a public place and have fun," said Shaghayegh, a participant who did not want her last name to be used.
Fun? Clearly this radical notion must be stamped out immediately.
Sadly, as ridiculous as this effort to crush frivolity may sound to us, it is deadly serious business in Iran.
But that doesn't apply in Iran, where a seemingly innocent gathering, especially one that involves men and women interacting, can be cast as a decadent rebellion against the government.
"These events are a disgrace to our revolution. Our security forces and judiciary must stop the spreading of these morally corrupt actions," said conservative lawmaker Hossein Ibrahimi, according to official media.
And in Iran, the security forces aren’t playing around.
Earlier this month, police arrested the administrators of the Facebook page for Shiraz Water Wars, and 17 young men and women who were playing in a water park in the southern coastal city of Bandar Abbas were detained, according to media reports. Authorities also paraded young people on television, forcing them to confess—a move typically reserved for political detainees.
"Police will deal forcefully with park violators who are threatening the security and peace of our society," Tehran police chief Hussein Sajedina said.
Farzan, a 22-year-old university student who was one of the organizers of the Tehran water war, says police tracked him down through Facebook and raided his house in the middle of the night. He was arrested, held for three days and beaten up, he says. He has a court case pending.
The good news is that the Iranian youth don’t seem to backing down and are prepared to fight for their right to get soaked.
Young Iranians say although the event started out as innocent fun, it has now turned political. They are vowing to challenge them with more events.
A nationwide water war is scheduled for Friday, after the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Some toy stores have suspended selling toy guns, which go for between $25 and $35, until the scandal subsides despite an increase in demand.
"Every day I have dozens of young people coming in to the shop asking for water guns," said one shopkeeper at a toy store in downtown Tehran. "Our youth won't give up this easily."
Clearly the time has come for America to quit sitting on the sidelines and take action. We should arm these would-be rebels immediately with the latest and greatest weaponry from America’s high tech water gun arsenal. We can employ covert smuggling operations through overland routes, but should not rule out something more dramatic such as a coordinated squirt gun air drop to supply the key pockets of resistance within Iran. Targeted strikes against the Iranian leadership should also be on the table. The next time Ahmadinejad shows up in New York to sweet talk the United Nations, he should be welcomed with an icy cold blast of good ol’ fashioned American H2O.
This also provides a reminder of what happens when the people lose their right to keep and bear water arms. We should heed this lesson and personally vow that "I'll give you my Super Soaker when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!"