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How women in Iran are dancing their way to an online revolution

12 July 2018

She had posted around 300 videos on her Instagram account to her some 43,000 followers, many of which showed her dancing.

The Washington Post reported several Iranians have also been arrested for teaching Zumba, a Colombian fitness routine, and in 2014 a group of at least six Iranians was arrested for making a version of the Pharrell Williams song "Happy", in which they were dancing on rooftops in Tehran.

After her arrest, an interview with Hojabri was aired on Iranian state TV where she admitted to knowing such videos were forbidden, according to the government-run Islamic Republic News Agency. Her performances attracted thousands of followers.

She was arrested and was made to cry and show remorse in a broadcast on Iranian state television.

On Tuesday, an Iranian court sentenced a prominent human rights activist to 20 years in prison for participating in the protest.

Teenage dancer Maedeh Hojabri, who was arrested for posting on Instagram videos of herself dancing in her room. " I dance in a public park in Tehran to support Maedeh the 19-year-old girl who got arrested", wrote another supporter.

Under Iran's Islamic Sharia law, women are required to wear headscarves and modest clothing in public and are banned from dancing in public. Meanwhile in Iran, the cyber-police are continuing to take action against accounts similar to Hojabri's, censoring any unwanted content.

"It wasn't incitement, I didn't want to encourage anyone, I didn't have an objective", she said. "I did not work with a network", a crying Hojabri said.

A Twitter user wrote, "I'm dancing so that they [the authorities] see and know that they can not take away our happiness and hope by arresting teenagers and (girls like) Maedeh". "I only do gymnastics". The government, which already filters the use of other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, is soon feared to follow suit with the world's leading image and video sharing platform.

"You will be laughed at if you tell people anywhere in the world that 17 and 18-year-old girls are arrested for their dance, happiness, and beauty on charges of spreading indecency, while child rapists and others are free", Iranian blogger and political dissident Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki wrote.

The secretary of the influential Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, has relayed Khamenei's stand in the past, having reportedly said in a joint session of the Assembly of Experts on 25 January that "cyberspace is a curse threatening our lives".

It wasn't clear how many women had taken part in the protest, but reports in worldwide media said dozens were risking arrest by uploading their own videos online. Iranian authorities are also now surveilling "Instagram celebrities" who may be facing arrest, according to the New York Times.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman lashed out at European countries for criticizing Israel while ignoring Iran's repression of Instagram celebrity and dancer Maedeh Hojabri.

How women in Iran are dancing their way to an online revolution