Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Iranian women are being arrested for dancing on Instagram

Iranian women are being arrested for dancing on Instagram

Crying, the distraught teenager explains that she posted videos of herself dancing on her Instagram account for her followers and was not directed by anyone.

Hojabri's arrest bears similarities with a 2014 incident in which six young Iranians were arrested for producing a video based on the Pharrell Williams song "Happy".

Hojabri had been dancing in a public forum, which is frowned upon in conservative Iranian circles, and doing so without the headscarf prescribed by Iran's clerical rulers. Sounding tearful and shaken at times, she said she did it because "some people liked me". Her forced "confession" was aired on state TV on July 7, 2018. Hojabri's arrest led to an outcry of support from ordinary Iranians and other social media users, who posted videos of themselves dancing online, backing her.

The 18-year-old was arrested after posting videos of herself dancing to music in her room without wearing the obligatory Islamic headscarf. Only one of the girls, 17-year-old gymnast Maedeh Hojabri, has been identified.

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"Iranian television broadcast this video, in which the author Maedeh Hojabri, which, according to media reports, somewhere 18-19 years, calling that violates moral standards, insisting that it is not advised to follow her example", - is spoken in the message. Men and women are banned from dancing in public.

"It wasn't incitement, I didn't want to encourage anyone, I didn't have an objective", she said. Other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are heavily restricted, whereas Instagram is less so. The Times reports authorities have said they may soon ban Instagram, and announced that 51,000 Instagram pages are under surveillance for vulgar and inappropriate videos.

"I'm dancing so that they [the authorities] see and know that they can not take away our happiness and hope by arresting teenagers and (girls like) Maedeh", said one supporter in a tweet translated by BBC. Their identities are still unknown and all of them were reportedly released on bail.

It wasn't clear how many women had taken part in the protest, but reports in global media said dozens were risking arrest by uploading their own videos online. Meanwhile in Iran, the cyber-police are continuing to take action against accounts similar to Hojabri's, censoring any unwanted content. Just last month, a series of protests broke out in Tehran's Grand Bazaar over the collapse of the country's currency in recent months. Earlier in January this year, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with "cyberspace experts" to discuss challenges that the internet poses to the country's leadership.

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