Iranian teen arrested for posting videos of herself dancing; women around the country post dancing videos in protest

by Sheza Naeem

Maedeh Hojabri, an Iranian teenager, has been detained after she posted Instagram videos of herself dancing in her bedroom, in western clothes and without a Hijab.

The Iranian government has strict rules regarding women’s clothing. Women cannot go out in public without a headscarf, and dancing with men – except for close family relatives – is banned.

She isn’t the only one arrested for sharing ‘objectionable’ content online. Authorities in Iran have arrested a number of people for sharing content, specifically on Instagram. Maedeh is one of them, and the only detainee identified so far. Her Instagram account, which contained videos of her dancing to western rap and pop music, had over 600k followers and has reportedly been suspended. However, fan accounts and other pages representing her have quickly popped up, complete with videos of her dancing.

Since her arrest, Maedeh has appeared on a state TV program along with the others detained. On the program, she made what looked like a forced confession – a tactic the Iranian government is known to have used in the past. Crying and shaking out of apparent terror, Maedeh was shown with her face blurred, as she described what she had done and the reasons behind it.

Crying, she said, “I had some followers and these videos were for them. I did not have any intention to encourage others doing the same. It wasn’t for attracting attention.” 

Not much is known about Maedeh, her family or where she is from. From her videos, she appears to be in her late teens and seems to be recording in her bedroom. Since her arrest and public ‘confession’, her videos have gone viral and her reach has expanded despite her original account having been suspended.

Many are now protesting against the detainment; Iranian women from around the country are posting videos of themselves dancing in support of the teenager. #Dancing_isnt_a_crime is now trending on Twitter.

Previously, the head of Tehran’s cyber-police, Touraj Kazemi, had said authorities were identifying and taking action against Instagram accounts breaching the country’s laws. It is now being predicted that the Iranian government might ban Instagram altogether in the country.

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