Iran detains teenager over Instagram dance videos

Iran detains 18-year-old teenage girl who posted dance videos on Instagram against "moral norms".

Elad Benari,

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Iran has detained a teenage girl who posted dance videos on Instagram and attracted tens of thousands of followers, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.

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. 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.

She had reportedly 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, noted AP.

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

Iran is notorious for the limitations it imposes on freedom of expression. The country blocks access to numerous websites, including Facebook and Twitter, in order to stop Iranians from browsing content it considers immoral, or as undermining the regime.

In April, Iran’s judiciary blocked voice calls on Telegram, the most popular messaging app in the country, following the arrest of 12 people who ran popular reformist channels on the app.

The ban on Telegram was criticized by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, but his powers are dwarfed by those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who is close to conservatives and hardliners.

The conservative-dominated judiciary at one time blocked the online navigation app Waze because it was designed in Israel, which Iran does not recognize. As of January, however, reports said the app was once again working in Iran.

In 2014, Iranian 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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