FORTUNATELY, SOCIAL networking sites are causing leaders in Middle Eastern countries some sleepless nights. And if ever an authoritarian regime wanted to look ridiculous, it should follow Iran, whose humorless fundamentalist leaders carried out reprisals against Iranian young people who this summer started a Facebook page for “Water Wars in Tehran.’’
That page attracted 24,500 members with 22 local chapters in cities across the country. Calling on young men and young women to get out their squirt guns and gather for “water wars’’ at nearby swim parks, the social networking sites clearly riled up the powers that be.
Instead of recognizing an innocent, wholesome activity in a country in which 65 percent of its 75 million people are under 30, the Iranian government chose to show its iron fist. It shut down the water parks, shut off the water, arrested and interrogated the leaders, paraded some young people on television, and forced others to confess to wrongdoing.
Now, the government is getting what it asked for. What started out as a movement to cool off on hot days is taking on the air of protest. “Police will deal forcefully with park violators who are threatening the security and peace of our society,’’ declared Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia. At the same time, a toy store owner in Tehran reported that sales of squirt guns are on the rise, and other water wars are planned around the country.