Iran Detains Teen Over 'Immoral' Instagram Dance Videos

Maedeh Hojabri, an 18-year-old gymnast, acknowledged breaking moral norms while insisting that was not her intention, and that she was only trying to gain more followers

Maedeh Hojabri
Maedeh HojabriCredit: Instagram

Iran has detained a teenage girl who posted dance videos on Instagram and attracted tens of thousands of followers.

State TV broadcast a video on Friday in which Maedeh Hojabri, 18-year-old gymnast, acknowledged breaking moral norms while insisting that was not her intention, and that she was only trying to gain more followers. It was unclear whether her statement was made under duress.

Shabooneh, a local news website, said Hojabri and three other individuals were detained on similar charges in recent weeks before being released on bail.

“It wasn’t for attracting attention,” The Guardian reporter her as saying in court. “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.”

She had posted around 300 videos on her account, many of which showed her dancing in both Iranian and Western styles. She also appeared in videos without wearing the obligatory Islamic headscarf. Her performances had thousands of followers on various accounts with her name on them, ranging from 12,000 to 66,000 followers. None of the accounts were verified.

Iranian police have said they plan to shut down similar accounts on Instagram, and the judiciary is considering blocking access to the site.

Iran has already blocked access to many social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the Telegram messaging app. Millions of Iranians continue to use the sites through proxies and VPNs.

Iran’s judiciary and security forces are dominated by hard-liners who launch periodic crackdowns on behavior deemed un-Islamic. The latest arrests came amid a series of protests against the government’s handling of the economy.

In 2014 authorities sentenced six young men and women to suspended prison terms after they appeared in a video dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.”

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