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Iranian students threw a graduation dance party. It cost them 99 lashes each.


It happens behind closed doors in Iran all the time: Young people get together to play music, flirt and generally relax, hidden away from hard-liners who definitely would not approve. Mostly, the parties wrap up without incident: the guys cleaning up any incriminating clues, the girls putting their headscarves back on. Then they all go their separate ways.

This time, however, someone tipped off authorities that a group of students was throwing a bash to celebrate graduation. More than 30 were taken into custody. Their punishment: 99 lashes each.

The report by Iran’s Mizan News Agency gave no details about the students, their ages, their school, or when the arrests took place. But it noted that lashings were carried out with almost unprecedented swiftness: within less than 24 hours after officials raided the villa on the outskirts of Qazvin, a small city about 80 miles northwest of Tehran.

Such sentences have been an issue before — in October, two Iranian poets were sentenced to lashes and prison terms for shaking hands with the opposite sex at a literary event in Sweden — yet the speed of the students’ punishment suggests that authorities are being given even more leeway to enforce hard-line codes and send messages intended to put liberals on notice.

For decades, Iran has been engaged in a such seesaw political duels.

At times, the voices of reformists and others seeking better terms with the West seem to be on the rise — most recently with the election of moderate President Hassan Rouhani in 2013. The real power, however, has always rested with the ruling clerics and the guardians of the status quo. They include the powerful judiciary and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which controls citizen-militia forces known as the Basij that often double as a morality police.

Hard-liners now seem to be reasserting their stamp on affairs after last year’s landmark nuclear deal with world powers. It can come in big doses, as occurred Thursday when Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah


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