Boys and girls together, dressed in Western clothes: Teenage skaters spark scandal in Iran

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Like other teenagers around the world, boys and girls in Iran celebrated International Go Skateboarding Day with a gathering. The event caused widespread controversy in the Islamic Republic of Iran when a video was shared online showing teens wearing Western-style clothing, girls with uncovered hair and the genders mixing. Five people who helped organise the event were arrested.

The girls have their hair and arms uncovered while the boys wear shorts and loose, Western-style T-shirts. They’re all chatting together in the same place, something unheard of in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

A 45-second video shared widely on Instagram, Telegram and Twitter showed teenagers at a skatepark in Shiraz on June 21 for Go Skateboarding Day, an international day promoting the sport.

The prosecutor of the city of Shiraz, Mostafa Bahraini, announced that five people had been arrested, adding that they were the organisers of the demonstration. He did not provide any details about the reasons for the arrest or the identities of those arrested.

It was rumoured that several teenagers were arrested, which the prosecutor denied. Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the attorney general of the Islamic Republic, said: “People abroad are responsible for organising these events and are paid for it.”

The director of the local branch of the Iranian skateboarding federation was dismissed. Local authorities in Shiraz also closed down cafes and bookstores popular with young people. 

In Iran, any association between men and women outside of marriage is prohibited by law, including for minors. Schools are separated by gender. Girls are required to wear a headscarf from the age of nine. And any symbols of Western lifestyles are perceived negatively.

The case isn’t the first time that Iranian authorities have punished supposed signs of immoral or Western behaviour. In 2019, police beat teenage girls who were playing with water guns in a park. The same year, a woman was sentenced to prison after singing at a historical site. In 2018, the tourist attraction Margoon Falls was closed to visitors after women were seen dancing there, which is forbidden in public.

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