Iranian women have been arrested for dancing on Instagram

Blanche Robertson
July 11, 2018

On Tuesday, an Iranian court sentenced a prominent human rights activist to 20 years in prison for participating in the protest. Her forced "confession" was aired on state TV on July 7, 2018. In February, dozens of Iranian women were arrested for their involvement in protests against the country's compulsory headscarf law.

Instagram is the only widely used social media app that hasn't been banned in Iran.

But Hojabri's videos are now suddenly at the centre of the latest conflict between religious hard-liners and Iranian liberals seeking more liberties.

Iranian Instagram celebrity and dancer Maedeh Hojabri would have been just another teenager in most parts of the world: operating multiple social media accounts and uploading videos of herself dancing.

Officials arrested the 17- or 18-year-old Hojabri after she shared videos of herself dancing to Western and Iranian music at home with her tens of thousands of followers.

Women in Iran are defying authorities and posting videos on Instagram in violation of the strict social codes.

Forced "confessions" in politically motivated cases in Iran are often extracted under the threat of or actual torture and then broadcast by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) to justify politically motivated prosecutions. 'In this land corruption, rape or being a big thief, animal or child abuser, not having any dignity, is not a crime, ' Roya Mirelmi, an actress, wrote under a picture she posted of Ms. Hojabri that got 14,133 likes.

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"The government's intolerance and disrespect of Iranians' choice of lifestyle is indicative of a lack of freedom in the country that has reached a new low in the past few months with the attack on social media personalities", said Ghaemi.

Reihane Taravati, a Tehran-based fashion photographer, who was a member of the group detained in 2014, spoke out against this pattern of injustice. Now you arrest #MaedehHojabri and she is only 18! 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.

"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", the BBC translated the tweet of one supporter.

The police said the campaign was being pushed by Persian-language satellite TV networks based overseas, purportedly encouraging women participants to take their white headscarves off in protest of the country's strict Islamic modesty laws.

The internet age, however, has added a new dimension of dissent.

The police have stated that they have plans to shut down similar accounts on Instagram, and the judiciary is now formulating regulations that may severely limit, or completely block the website altogether.

The government has already blocked some messaging applications like Telegram. 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. Their identities are still unknown and all of them were reportedly released on bail.

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