Iranian women dance on social media in support of teenager arrested over Instagram video

Maedeh Hojabri detained by authorities over clips she filmed in her bedroom and shared with thousands of followers 

Tom Barnes
Monday 09 July 2018 11:25
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Iranian women dance on social media in support of teenager arrested over Instagram video

Iranian women are showing their support for a teenager detained by the authorities under the country’s strict modesty laws by sharing videos of themselves dancing on social media.

Maedeh Hojabri, an 18-year-old gymnast, was arrested for posting clips of herself performing dance routines to her thousands of Instagram followers.

State TV broadcast a video on Friday in which Ms Hojabri acknowledged breaking moral norms, although it is unclear whether the statement was made under duress.

Maedeh Hojabri, 18-year-old Iranian arrested for posting videos of her dancing in bedroom on Instagram

In response, women across Iran have taken to social media to post videos of themselves dancing, in protest against her detention.

Using hashtags that translate as “#dancing_isn’t_a_crime” and “#dance_to_freedom”, dozens of women risked arrest by sharing footage in support for Ms Hojabri.

Local newspapers have reported Ms Hojabri and three other individuals had been detained on similar charges in recent weeks before being released on bail.

She had posted around 300 videos on her account, many of which showed her dancing in both Iranian and Western styles.

She also appeared in videos without wearing the obligatory Islamic headscarf.

Her performances had thousands of followers on various accounts with her name on them, ranging from 12,000 to 66,000 followers. None of the accounts were verified.

Iranian police have said they plan to shut down similar accounts on Instagram, while the judiciary is considering blocking access to the site.

Iran has already barred access to many social media sites inside the country, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the Telegram messaging app.

However, millions of Iranians continue to use them through proxies and VPNs.

Iran's judiciary and security forces are dominated by hard-liners who launch periodic crackdowns on behaviour deemed un-Islamic.

The latest arrests came amid a series of protests against the government's handling of the economy.

In 2014, authorities sentenced six young men and women to suspended prison terms after they appeared in a video dancing to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy”.

The video, which amassed more than two million views, was intended by its creators to show the world Iran’s young people “have moments of joy and happiness even though they live with many difficulties.”

However, the group were sentenced to lashes for sharing the footage, which authorities at the time described as “a vulgar clip” which “hurt public chastity”.

Additional reporting by AP

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