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Iran's Morality Police Crack Down On Cafes

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In this Saturday, March 17, 2012, photo, Iranian customers shop as a shopkeeper arranges chocolates in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) | AP

DUBAI, July 15 (Reuters) - Iranian police shut down dozens of restaurants and coffee shops over the weekend, Iranian media reported, in a renewed crackdown on what the state sees as immoral and un-Islamic behaviour.

Regular officers and members of the "morality police" raided 87 cafes and restaurants in a single district of the capital Tehran on Saturday and arrested women for flouting the Islamic dress code, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

"These places were shut for not following Islamic values, providing hookah to women, and lacking proper licenses," said Tehran police official Alireza Mehrabi, according to ISNA. Women are not allowed to smoke hookah, water pipes, in public.

Mehrabi said the raid came as part of a plan to provide "neighbourhood-oriented" security, and would continue in other parts of Tehran.

Coffee shop culture has flourished in Iran in recent years, offering wireless Internet, snacks, hot drinks, and a place to hang out for Iranian youth in a country where there are no bars or Western chain restaurants or cafes.

But that trend has been criticised by conservative Iranians who consider it a cultural imposition from the West and incompatible with Islamic values. The government periodically cracks down on behaviour it considers un-Islamic, including mingling between the sexes outside of marriage.

In 2007, Tehran police closed down 24 Internet cafes and other coffee shops in as many hours, detaining 23 people. (Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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