On the night of December 5, the Revolutionary Guards raided a party in Chenaran, a town about 30 miles from Mashhad, the provincial capital of Razavi Khorasan province, and arrested nine women and 14 men for attending a “mixed party” in a garden.
Colonel Majid Azarkish, commander of the Revolutionary Guards for Chenaran, said that after receiving news about the party and complaints about “noise pollution,” the Basiji — paramilitary vigilantes affiliated with the Guards — kept the villa under surveillance. After they verified news that activities “violating public morality” were taking place, the Basijis and police raided the premises. Arresting officers described the party-goers as being in a “disgusting state.” The media published photographs of men in handcuffs.
According to Colonel Azarkish the agents also discovered "400 cubic centimers of alcoholic beverages, five empty bottles of alcoholic drinks and a satellite receiver,” all of which are illegal in Iran.
Authorities regularly raid parties, arresting those in attendance.
In February, they closed down a ski resort on grounds of immorality after photographs of a launch party for night ski sessions were circulated on social media.
In January, Guards arrested 84 people at a party in Mashhad, and although they did not publish photographs of people being taken away in handcuffs as they had done in previous years, they did publish news of the arrests on Khorasan Guards website.
And in May, 30 people were arrested after they attended a mixed-gender party to celebrate their graduation.
For authorities behind these arrests, the media angle is key. The overarching message is about immorality and adhering to Islamic guidelines set out by officials, and authorities want as many people to be reminded of this as possible. Arrests are an easy way of sending a message to anybody who flouts strict rules about dress or conduct, or is seen to show an interest in Western culture. It's a powerful reminder that there is no safe space for people who engage in unauthorized behavior — and that surveillance is a tool regularly used by the regime.
In addition, arresting partiers — or journalists, musicians and artists — is an effective way of reminding the public that the Islamic Republic’s extensive security apparatus is fully operational.
The cases of those caught up in the Chenaran raid have now been sent to court. “Chenaran county is no place for deviant, socially or morally corrupt acts,” said the colonel in charge of the arrests.