Two women arrested after being filmed riding motorbike in Iran

Footage shows women being followed and harassed by men, sparking backlash against police

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The Independent Online

Two women have been arrested for breaking “revolutionary norms and values” after being filmed riding a motorbike in Iran.

Officials in the city of Dezful said they had “exploited the opportunity” presented by a lack of police in a national park to commit an “obscene act” worsened by the spread of footage online.

Colonel Ali Elhami, a local police commander, told the state-controlled IRNA news agency the women “committed an action against revolutionary norms and values by riding a motorcycle”.

“This manifested the utmost denunciation of religious norms by the two girls and caused serious torment and anxiety among city officials,” he said on Wednesday.

Iranian women continue to defy cycling ban

“The state security forces carried out an extensive investigation and finally managed to find, arrest, and deliver them to judiciary officials.”

The video shows the women, wearing headscarves and loose clothing, being followed down a road by a large group of male motorcyclists, shouting and whistling.

It cuts before they are seen dismounting from the motorbike, surrounded by men taking photos and filming. 

Some attempt to block their way out of the crowd and one man grabs a woman as she passes, appearing to forcibly kiss her face as she pushes him away.

The footage has provoked a backlash against authorities, with critics saying the women had not committed a crime and should have been treated as victims of harassment.

Masih Alinejad, who founded the My Stealthy Freedom rights campaign for Iranian women, said the men in the video had undergone a “poor social education” in a system that “instils judgements and discrimination”.

“The reality in Iran is such that in the minds of many people, riding a motorcycle still remains a sport exclusively geared for men,” she added.

“The two girls on a motorcycle are being harassed for having attempted to venture into what seems to be a man’s domain in Iran. 

“It is mind-boggling that instead of arresting men who harass women, the police in Iran choose to go after these two girls.”​

It is not against the law for women to ride motorbikes in Iran but it can be punished as a violation of modesty laws, which have also sparked the arrest of women cyclists.

It is illegal for women to go out in public without wearing headscarf or “modest” clothing in the country, where thousands of undercover agents and morality police patrol the streets to check for violations.

There have also been frequent crackdowns on social media, with several women arrested last year for sharing “vulgar” photos on Instagram, including one who was made to issue a public apology on state television.

Human Rights Watch’s 2017 world report found that Iranian women face discrimination in almost all aspects of life, including marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody and freedom of movement.

Authorities also continue to prevent girls and women from attending certain sporting events, including men’s football and volleyball matches.