Jailed Iran teen 'confesses' to immoral Instagram dance videos

Jailed Iran teen 'confesses' to immoral Instagram dance videos
The Islamic Republic has threatened to shut down Instagram after the arrest of 18-year-old Maedeh Hojabri who used the site to post videos of her dancing.
2 min read
08 July, 2018
Maedeh had accounts with up to 66,000 followers [Twitter]

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, 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.

Often in these cases, such statements are made under duress in Iran.

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

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.

The news caused outrage across social media, notably among many of the Iranian diaspora. Iranian-American journalist Arash Sigarchi tweeted: "40 years ago, dance were taught in school in Iran but after the Islamic revolution 1979 it became a big crime!"

Reza Akbari, an Iranian-American researcher ridiculed the confession process, tweeting: "What is #Iran's judiciary or IRIB expecting? Forcing confessions from a teenage girl & televising it will be a lesson for others? Will reduce the individual's popularity? It will do the exact opposite."

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 behaviour they 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."