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Iranian Teen Garners Support Worldwide After Police Arrested Her For Posting Dancing Videos

Women are taking their moves to the streets and on social media in solidarity with Maedeh Hojabri, who was recently arrested in Iran for dancing in her bedroom.

Image via Maedeh Hojabri/Instagram.

Women around the world are dancing like everyone is watching.

In fact, the more eyes on them, the better. They’re not performing because they’re exhibitionists. Instead, they’re making a bold statement: Dancing is not a crime.

These women are taking their moves to the streets and social media in solidarity with 18-year-old Maedeh Hojabri, who was recently arrested in Iran for posting a video of her dancing in her bedroom.

Dancing is not completely illegal in Iran, but it is forbidden for women do it publicly. According to the New York Times, with more than 600,000 followers on her Instagram, Hojabri uploaded her dancing videos on the social media platform. She was arrested two months ago.

While Hojabri’s Instagram account has not been restored, countless of Hojabri fan pages have sprouted up on the social media platform, where the young dancer is being hailed for her bravery.

“All my solidarity to women and girls in Iran, who risk jail simply for expressing themselves,” Lesley Lila of Amnesty International tweeted. “Protesting is a right and #DancingIsNotACrime.”

Reihane Taravati, another supporter tweeted: “You arrested me for being #Happy when I was 23. Now you arrest #MaedehHojabri and she is only 18! What will you do to the next generation?”

Speaking out

Hojabri broke her silence this week, a few months since her Instagram was shut down. She appeared on a talk show where she cried and spoke about what happened. According to the New York Times, Hojabri said that she understood that dancing publicly is a crime and that her family was unaware that she was posting videos on Instagram.

“It wasn’t for attracting attention,” Hojabri said on the television show, according to The Guardian. “I had some followers and these videos were for them. I did not have any intention to encourage others doing the same … I didn’t work with a team, I received no training. I only do gymnastics.”

Many of Hojabri’s videos show her dancing to modern music in front of the camera, or posing with friends and family. 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. Iranian authorities are also currently surveilling “Instagram celebrities” who may be facing arrest, according to the New York Times.

Many of the protesters and supporters of Hojabri are Iranian women, who’ve also been posting videos of themselves dancing in public.

Social media shutdown

Iran’s 2009 “Green Movement” was largely fueled by social media. And Iranian president Hassan Rouhani recently declared that the country should move toward a more free society. “Let people be. Let’s not infringe on their privacy, people’s private lives belong to them,” he told a crowd at a 2018 celebration of the country’s Islamic revolution.

But today, Instagram is one of the few social media platform allowed in Iran. The popular messaging app was shut down earlier this year. However, because of “unwanted content,” authorities may also shut down Instagram leaving their millions of local users in the dark.

“Instagram started out as an innocent tool, available on the internet, where people would upload photos and write some words,” said Hamidreza Taraghi, a conservative Iranian critic. “But the Westerners behind it gradually turned Instagram into a mischievous tool for dangerous subversive actions against the state or pornographic purposes. Naturally we must block it.”

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