Iranian teen detained over Instagram dance videos

Iranian teen detained over Instagram dance videos
@NegarMortazavi/Twitter via CNN
Maedeh Hojabri of Iran

A teenager was arrested last week in Iran for posting videos of herself dancing on social media.

Maedeh Hojabri had posted several videos to her popular Instagram account of her dancing in her bedroom to Iranian and Western music.

Hojabri’s account has been blocked but her videos have spread to other accounts and been reposted by activists protesting her detention. Her arrest has also led to an outcry of support from ordinary Iranians who have posted videos of themselves dancing online in solidarity.

After her arrest, an interview with Hojabri was aired on Iranian state TV where she admitted to knowing such videos were forbidden, according to the government-run Islamic Republic News Agency. It remains unclear if her statement was forced.

Hojabri’s detention is the latest arrest of a woman violating Iran’s strict social codes. In February, dozens of Iranian women were arrested for their involvement in protests against the country’s compulsory headscarf law. Hojabri does not wear a headscarf in her dance videos.

Hojabri is also not the first person to be arrested for dancing. In 2014, six people were arrested for dancing in a YouTube video to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy.”

They were later freed after humanitarian groups launched an international campaign against their arrest. Williams himself voiced his support for the dancers.

“I felt very angry and sad about the arrest of Maedah, somebody who has done nothing to deserve arrest and punishment,” Reihane Taravati, one of the dancers arrested in 2014, told CNN’s Becky Anderson. “This has to stop.”

The judiciary’s enforcement of Iran’s conservative laws comes amid a growing economic crisis and continued political pressure from the international community. Just last month, a series of protests broke out in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar over the collapse of the country’s currency in recent months.

The economic stress has put an increasing amount of pressure on President Rouhani’s moderate government as the country continues to deal with the fallout from the United States’ withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.