Spreading #Dancingisnotacrime in support of arrested Iranian dancer

  • IranianDancer
People around the world are joining the social media campaign to support the young Iranian gymnast, Maedeh Hojabri, who was arrested for posting videos on Instagram of herself dancing.
by PETA KROST MAUNDER | Jul 12, 2018

While many other women in Iran are now defying Iran’s draconian laws by posting videos of themselves dancing to protest against Hojabri’s arrest, the #Dancingisnotacrime campaign has spread to Israelis and South African Jews as well.

Arthur Lenk, the former Israeli ambassador to South Africa, offered his support on Twitter, saying: “‘Dance like your life depends on it.’ G-dspeed to these brave Iranians who deserve freedom. Sending a message of friendship from Israel.”

Noa Kadman, an Israeli dance teacher, says she isn’t sure that international pressure will make a difference in Iran, but believes Hojabri should be supported. “Israel is a country that celebrates democracy, freedom of expression and dance. Iran’s arrest of a young female dancer speaks for itself,” says Kadman.

“Free expression of the body and soul through the art of dance is a right that should be afforded to any and every human being,” says Danya Amoils, an HR manager in Johannesburg. “I’m a dancer, and I know that to dance is a magical thing – a G-d-given right that should not be constrained by limitations of the conservative human mind.

“I believe this is a fight worth fighting and I take my hat off to the brave young girls who have posted their own dance expression in protest.”

After her arrest, Hojabri – and other still unidentified Instagram users who were arrested – was forced to apologise on national television last Friday.

She appeared on Iranian state television with her face blurred, crying and shaking while describing why she made and posted these videos, according to The Guardian newspaper.

“It wasn’t for attracting attention,” she reportedly said. “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.”

Little is known about this teenager or even where in Iran she lives, except that she had about 600 000 Instagram followers and had posted more than 300 videos before being arrested. Since her arrest, her videos have been shared by many more people, alerting the world to her plight. Women in Iran are prohibited from dancing in front of men, except if those male observers are close family members, according to The Washington Post.

Hojabri appears to have filmed herself dancing to both Western pop and Arabic music in her bedroom without wearing a hijab, which is legally required in public in Iran.

While nobody knows what the outcome of her incarceration will be, just this week an Iranian woman, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Her crime? She removed her hijab in public at the end of last year. On her own website, she posted that she had been jailed for “opposing the compulsory hijab” and “waving a white flag of peace in the street”, according to The Times of Israel.

Iranian blogger Hossein Ronaghi said it was laughable to people in other parts of the world that teenagers could be arrested for “dancing, being happy and being beautiful” in Iran, according to Newshub.

Facebook and Twitter have already been filtered by Iranian authorities, while Instagram remains one of the few unblocked apps.

Iranian-American journalist Negar Mortazavi posted one of Hojabri’s videos to Twitter. It was re-tweeted thousands of times after her arrest.

Hojabri’s arrest is reminiscent of an incident in 2014, when six Iranians were arrested for producing a video based on Pharrell William’s song, Happy, that went viral, according to The New York Times. The six detainees – who had apparently filmed themselves dancing on the streets and rooftops of Teheran to this song – appeared on Iranian state television admitting they were involved in the Happy production, even though they insisted they had been tricked into participating. Their faces were also not shown when they made their television confessions. They were sentenced to one year in prison, which was later suspended, and 91 lashes, according to The New York Times.

In 2017, four Iranian men and two women were detained for teaching a Zumba dance routine and posting it on social media. They were charged for trying to “change lifestyles and promote a lack of hijab”.

As Hojabri’s fate hangs in the balance, support for her is getting stronger and she is taking on heroic status. Wrote one supporter on Twitter: “#Iranianppl want freedom from the barbaric regime. They are the hostages of this regime and all fight for freedom but many of them are not brave like her [Hojabri]. Many men and women in Iran praise and admire her as a leader, we are proud of her.”

Another wrote: “…she is a brave great warrior against the barbaric regime who took a nation in hostage. We praise and admire her as a leader to let our voices for freedom to be heard (sic).”


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