A 17-year-old woman has been arrested in Iran after she posted videos of herself dancing on Instagram. While she has since been released on bail, women across Iran are taking to social media to share their own videos dancing in public to protest the teenagers arrest.
Maedeh Hojabri is a dancer, gymnast and parkour enthusiast who, before her account was closed down, had 53,000 followers on Instagram. Posting videos of herself dancing to both Iranian and Western music without wearing compulsory veiling (hijab), she was arrested in late May, one of a number of other young people with Instagram accounts who were also arrested.
Not only was she arrested, but according to local media and activists, she was forced to make a confession on State TV, where she was seen crying and shaking stating, ‘It wasn’t 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 didn’t work with a team, I received no training. I only do gymnastics.’
The Iranian government currently has strict rules banning women from dancing with members of the opposite sex in public, unless it is in front of immediate family members. They also govern women’s clothing, requiring them to wear hijabs in public. While Iran’s Cyber Police (FATA) already block access to Facebook and Twitter, they are now considering blocking Instagram also.
With women taking to social media to protest the arrest with their own dancing videos, Amnesty International is calling on more people to dance with them.
‘The shocking arrest of teenage girl Maedeh Hojabri for simply posting on Instagram videos of herself dancing is a flagrant violation of Iran’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression,’ they told Grazia, ‘it is outrageous that the Iranian authorities have treated a young girl this way, though it is not a surprise. They have a long track record of violating women’s human rights, including through the enforcement of compulsory veiling (hijab) and other discriminatory, abusive and degrading laws and practices.’
Scolding Maedeh’s broadcasted statements as a ‘propaganda video’, they continued ‘she was forced under duress to make a “confession” that she had posted videos to social media… Girls and women in Iran have the right to express themselves freely without the constant threat of harassment, arrest, and jail hanging over them.’
According to the charity, Maedeh has now been released on bail, although it’s unclear whether she will face any charges. However, the protest against this abhorrent arrest continues, with women using a hashtag that translate as #dancing_isn’t_a_crime.