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Wednesday, 3 January, 2001, 12:36 GMT
Iran crackdown on New Year revellers
Iranian women in Islamic dress
Iran's conservatives deplore Western fashions
Police in the Iranian capital Tehran have dispersed crowds who gathered outside the police headquarters to demand the release of more than 250 people arrested for violating religious laws on New Year's Eve.

According to official reports, the arrests were made by religious police because guests at parties were inappropriately dressed or were consuming alcohol. This followed a warning of a drive by religious police against un-Islamic behaviour.

A police official said those arrested were mostly young Iranians from affluent areas of north Tehran.

The Doran-e-Emrouz newspaper put the number of those arrested at 262. It said they included two Arab diplomats, two UK citizens and two Indians.

About 40 people are still being held, the paper said on Wednesday.

Islamic law

Under Iranian law, Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol. Men and women not from the same family are forbidden to dance together and women are obliged to cover their heads, arms and legs.

Iranian women
Reform has made women and girls more assertive

There are severe punishments for Iranians who break these laws, although these are rarely applied.

An Iranian Interior Ministry official, Jahanbakhsh Khanjani, denied that any foreign envoys were among those arrested.

The UK embassy said it had no knowledge of any UK citizens being held in custody.

Relatives and some of those detained told Reuters news agency that the accused from two separate parties had either paid large fines or received lashes before their release.

Western-style parties are common in wealthy Tehran neighbourhoods despite Iran's strict interpretation of Islamic law, and in recent years they have rarely been raided by police or Islamic Basij militia.

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14 Dec 00 | Middle East
Iran's girl runaways
10 Oct 00 | Middle East
Women police on parade in Iran
01 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iranian women to lead prayers
23 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iranian women seek equality
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03 Mar 99 | Middle East
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20 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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