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Iranian Woman Arrested Over Dancing Video

12 July 2018

Getting arrested for flaunting your dance moves on Instagram may sound preposterous and downright medieval today, but it is the lived reality for Iranian women like Maedeh Hojrabi, the teenager who was arrested by the country's authorities last week.

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".

Iranian state TV aired a video in which she apologized for "breaking moral norms" but said any breach was not her intention. The teen's Instagram account, which authorities took down following her arrest, reportedly had over 600,000 followers. The Guardian reports that Hojabri wasn't the only one taken in by authorities, other women (who have not been identified) were also arrested for dancing in public.

Eighteen-year-old gymnast Maedeh Hojabri would have been just another Internet celebrity in most other parts of the world, but in Iran, she has unwittingly become the face of rising dissent.

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Hojabri's videos, one of which has close to one million views, show her dancing in her room to Iranian and Western music. " I dance in a public park in Tehran to support Maedeh the 19-year-old girl who got arrested", wrote another supporter. I did not have any intention to encourage others doing the same...

"I had some followers and these videos were for them. I did not work with a network", a crying Hojabri said. "I only do gymnastics". Now, the social media users are sharing their videos with strong messages in support for Ms Hojabri using the hashtag #DancingIsNotACrime.

"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.

A blogger, Hossein Ronaghi, told The Guardian, "People would laugh at you if you tell anyone in the world that [in Iran] they arrest 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds for dancing, being happy and being lovely, for spreading indecency, and instead paedophiles are free".

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But many Iranians evade the filtering through the use of VPN software, which provides encrypted links directly to private networks overseas, and can allow a computer to behave as if it is based in another country.

The Times quoted a hard-line analyst in Iran, Hamidreza Taraghi: "Instagram started out as an innocent tool, available on the internet, where people would upload photos and write some words".

Shabooneh, a local news website, said Hojabri and three other individuals were detained on similar charges in recent weeks before being released on bail.

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Iranian Woman Arrested Over Dancing Video