By Prarthana Mitra
Getting arrested for flaunting your dance moves on Instagram may sound preposterous and downright medieval today, but it is the lived reality for Iranian women like Maedeh Hojrabi, the teenager who was arrested by the country’s authorities last week. Her 800,000 followers-strong gram account was also suspended after she filmed and posted a video of her dancing to western pop and rap music in her bedroom.
Her name is Maeade Mahi. Recently she got arrested just because of uploading her dancing videos on her Instagram. If you are a woman in Iran and you dance or sing or show your hair then you are a criminal. If you want to enjoy your true self, you have to brake the laws every day. pic.twitter.com/0eIq5ld5x6
— Masih Alinejad ð³ï¸ (@AlinejadMasih) July 7, 2018
This severe crackdown is a part of month-long efforts by the Iranian cyber police to target popular Instagrammers who post “outrageous” content. The government, which already filters the use of other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, is soon feared to follow suit with the world’s leading image and video sharing platform.
We hit the #London pavement today, dancing in solidarity with #MaedehHojabri who has been sentenced to prison for dancing. Maedeh is one of so many brave Iranians fighting for their human rights. #DancingIsNotACrime, #Ø¨Ø±ÙØµ_ØªØ§_Ø¨Ø±ÙØµÛÙ . Dance with us!ðºð½ðð½ pic.twitter.com/DR2EyaOOt1
— Yasamin Alttahir (@YasaminAlttahir) July 9, 2018
Popping and lock-in
Nineteen-year-old Hojrabi isn’t the only one who was arrested and sentenced to prison; many other users of the app who have been pushing potentially ‘seditious’ and ‘blasphemous’ content, were called in for questioning. The identities of the other detainees are, however, not confirmed.
Hojrabi’s massive fan following made sure that this gross violation did not go unnoticed. According to activists, Hojrabi who appeared on a state television programme shortly after her arrest did so under duress. They claim that her admission of guilt and regret on TV was forced, adding that this was a popular tactic used by the repressive regime to discipline civilians along Sharia lines.
Arresting a 19-year-old girl for dancing & uploading her videos on Instagram and then forcing her to confess her "crime" on TV. Yet another disgraceful act by #Iran's judiciary & every single individual involved. A horrendous display of intolerance. For shame. #MaedehHojabri pic.twitter.com/XhJArMBCUc
— Reza H. Akbari (@rezahakbari) July 7, 2018
The video allegedly carried Hojrabi’s face, blurred and in tears, choking on the following words, It wasnt for attracting attention… I had some followers and these videos were for them. I did not have any intention to encourage others doing the same I didnt work with a team, I received no training. I only do gymnastics.
Dancing in public is forbidden for women in Iran, as is making public appearances without a hijab covering your hair.
This extremist Neanderthal threatens to shove a mace spray down a young womans throat for not wearing hijab.
Iranian women have been protesting compulsory hijab for 40 years. https://t.co/9Hl7gVsxaz
— Saman Arbabi (@SamanArbabi) July 11, 2018
This is the same country which arrested and imprisoned a group of Pharrell Williams fans for filming themselves dancing to the song Happy on the rooftops of Tehran, even sentencing them to lashes. But women in the country are not taking this move lightly, as more of them are coming up and posting videos of them dancing on social media.
A blogger, Hossein Ronaghi, told The Guardian, People would laugh at you if you tell anyone in the world that [in Iran] they arrest 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds for dancing, being happy and being beautiful, for spreading indecency, and instead paedophiles are free.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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