Iranian Teen, Maedeh Hojabri, Arrested For Posting Dance Videos On Instagram

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An Iranian teen girl has been arrested and detained because she posted videos of herself dancing on Instagram. According to the Telegraph, 18-year-old Maedeh Hojabri was arrested because she broke the country’s “moral norms.” Iran’s state television station has broadcast footage of Hojabri apologizing for the videos in which she stated that she only did it to attract more followers on the social media platform.

She has since been released on bail, The Telegraph reports. Her Instagram account is still up and she currently has over 45,000 followers.

The Iranian government has cut off regular access to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube but citizens can still log in using VPN’s and proxies. Instagram isn’t officially blocked yet but there are reports that the judiciary is considering it.

Hojabri, a gymnast, had uploaded approximately 300 videos before her arrest. In many of them, you can see her dancing without the obligatory headscarf that women in Iran are expected to wear, the Independent writes. She dances in both Western and Iranian styles in the clips which accumulated thousands of views and followers.

Iran’s police force is also reportedly planning a crackdown on similar Instagram accounts. These types of crackdowns aren’t new. As the Independent reports, in 2014 seven young men and women were arrested in Iran for making a video where they danced to “Happy” by Pharell Williams in Tehran.

In the video, the women aren’t wearing headscarves either. The Iranian police chief, Hossein Sajedinia, called the video a “vulgar clip” which damaged “public chastity.”

They were all sentenced to prison time and punishment by lashing. But the sentences were suspended for three years which means that they weren’t carried out immediately but will be if the defendants commit another crime during that period. The sentence will become null and void after three years if they obey the law.

“It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness,” Williams wrote on Facebook about their arrests.

Iranians live under a Muslim theocracy which enforces a strict moral code for its citizens. As the BBC notes, Iran has had a “morality police” in place since the revolution in 1979. Their official name is Gasht-e Ershad which is Persian for Guidance Patrols. The name sounds benevolent but this police force is responsible for ensuring a strict adherence to rules about the hijab and other “moral norms.” They used to be able to arrest and punish citizens who violated these codes but reforms implemented in 2016 mean that they now work undercover and report “transgressions” to the Iranian police.