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It’s Ridiculous, But Women in Iran Were Arrested for Dancing

Iranians across the country tuned in to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) TV channel on July 9th. On their television screens were crying, apologetic Iranian women in traditional clothing.

These women were not being broadcasted nationwide by choice. Earlier, they had been arrested by Iranian authorities and were apologizing publicly for their crimes.

The crime that they were arrested for? Dancing.

Photo by Instagram user @maedeh_hozhabri

Elnaz Ghasemi and Maedeh Hojabri were two of these women on television. Ghasemi was arrested while visiting Iran, as she was from Canada. Hojabri was only a teenager.

Iranian authorities arrested the women in May after they found videos of the two dancing on social media. While the women were not in required Islamic dress, they were doing traditional Iranian dances.

Pretty Litter

The television program that aired was called “Devious” and featured several women and men who have large numbers of followers on Instagram apologizing for the content that they posted online.

There has been backlash, both in Iran and worldwide, after the television program aired.

“Equal parts abusive and embarrassing, dragging a teenager before the camera to apologize for dancing is a new low for the Iranian authorities,” said Sarah Leah Whiston, the Middle East director at the Human Rights Watch. “Iran’s authorities should stop harassing all those arrested for exercising their right to free expression.”

Iranian women also expressed their distaste with their government.

“If you tell people anywhere in the world that 17- and 18-year-old girls are arrested for their dance, happiness and beauty on charges of spreading indecency, while child rapists and others are free, they will laugh! Because for them, it’s unbelievable!” commented Iranian blogger Hossein Ronaghi.

On the same day that the program was aired, Shaparak Shajarizadeh announced that she received a prison sentence of 20 years for removing her headscarf in public.

The Girls of Revolution Street” took off their headscarves in protest to the compulsory hijab law.

In response to the arrests, Iranian women have been posting videos of themselves dancing and using a hashtag that translates to #dancing_isn’t_a_crime.

Photo by Mohammad Gh on Unsplash

Iranian law has long restricted personal freedoms, as even dancing with the opposite sex in public is banned. Art and music have also been censored.

In response to the criticism after “Devious” aired, IRIB’s public relations director, Mohammadhossein Ranjbaran, attributed the program’s creation to the Iranian authorities.

“Judicial authorities had asked [us] to publicize this content,” Ranjbaran said.

This is not the first time that Iranian authorities have arrested those on social media. Since 2016, several Iranian women fashion bloggers had been arrested and interrogated by Iran’s revolutionary guards. Many were shown on social media without a headscarf and wearing makeup.

Earlier this year, a city official was arrested after footage was found showing a crowd of men and women dancing together at a mall. Six others were arrested for Zumba dancing last August.

It’s obvious that many Iranians strongly disagree with the dramatic legal reaction to self-expression, but what’s not clear is if Iran will loosen its tight hold and give women the freedoms they deserve as human beings.

Featured Image by Chris Yang on Unsplash

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