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Iranian teenage dancer's arrest unleashes online video campaign

  • Ladane Nasseri

    Bloomberg

Dubai | Mon, July 9, 2018 | 09:03 pm
Iranian teenage dancer's arrest unleashes online video campaign Maedeh Hojabri, an Iranian late teen, is arrested following her post on her Instagram account showing her dancing happily. (The Jakarta Post/Twitter)

Iranians are posting videos of themselves dancing on social media to protest the arrest of a teenager whose seductive dance moves on Instagram landed her in police custody.

Maedeh Hojabri’s Instagram account has since been shut down, and she was made to appear on state television after her arrest, where she expressed remorse. But before her detention, Hojabri, who is in her late teens, reportedly posted dozens of clips of herself dancing to Iranian pop music and Western tunes like DJ Snake’s “Let me love you” and Sia’s “Cheap Thrills.”

Hojabri had been dancing in a public forum, which is frowned upon in conservative Iranian circles, and doing so without the headscarf prescribed by Iran’s clerical rulers. Such departures from their mores feed into the agenda of hardline politicians battling the more moderate President Hassan Rouhani to limit access to social media platforms, which they see as corrupting society’s morals and endangering national security.

After her detention Hojabri was featured in a TV program about social media, where she appeared with her face in shadow and was accused by her interviewer of posting images “that disrupt society.” Sounding tearful and shaken at times, she said she did it because “some people liked me.”

“It wasn’t incitement, I didn’t want to encourage anyone, I didn’t have an objective,” she said.

Hojabri’s apparently coerced TV appearance unleashed online reaction at home and abroad.

“For centuries people have uncovered themselves and danced and this religion wasn’t harmed,” Iranian cleric Mohammad-Reza Zaeri wrote on his Instagram page. “What disintegrates religion and faith and destroys a regime isn’t a teenager’s hip-shaking.”

The Twitter hashtag #dance_so_we_dance has taken off to express support for Hojabri. “I’m dancing for liberty and joy, which are your right,” said one middle-aged woman who posted a video of herself dancing in her living room. Another post showed a man holding a birthday cake and dancing, with the comment, “dancing isn’t a crime.”

One man filmed his eyebrows dancing. Another filmed his naked foot boogeying.

Three other women who, like Hojabri, built a following on Instagram with their dance videos, have been taken into custody, according to the Asr-Iran news website.

“Free them up,” wrote another man dancing at work in tall plastic boots, “Let people live with this little bit of happiness.”

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