Authorities in Iran arrested four women last week for posting videos of themselves dancing on Instagram. Only one of the women, 17-year-old gymnast Maedeh Hojabri, has been identified. State TV in Iran aired her “confession” on Friday.
Instagram is one of the few Western social media sites not heavily blocked in Iran, and Hojabri posted about 300 photos and videos before her account was temporarily shut down. Her account appears to be back up as of this morning. Hojabri posted a new video just hours ago addressing her critics.
Hojabri, who reportedly has often spoken about gymnastics and parkour in her videos, was not wearing a hijab in the videos that got her into trouble, which is required by law for women in the authoritarian country.
As The Guardian reports, not much is known about Hojabri, but she’s become the face of a resistance movement against modesty laws for women in the Islamic country. A hashtag of her name,
#مائده_هژیری, has emerged. Another, which roughly translates to #dancing_isn’t_a_crime, has also become popular. Logically, most people reportedly suspect her “confession” on Friday was made under pressure from Iranian authorities.
“It wasn’t for attracting attention,” one of the arrested women said through tears in a broadcast on Friday, according to The Guardian. “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.”
Women in Iran have posted protest videos of themselves dancing on Instagram, and other protests against the country’s hijab laws have erupted in recent months. The hijab has been mandatory in Iran ever since the revolution in 1979.
As the BBC notes, six Iranian girls were given sentences of a year in prison and 91 lashes after they were convicted in 2014 of posting videos of themselves dancing to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy.”
It’s not clear what sentence Hojabri might face for her dancing videos but she has been reportedly released on bail along with the other three women. According to the Associated Press, Iranian authorities are considering blocking access to Instagram, but no final decision has been made. People in Iran typically get around government blocks of sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by using VPNs. [Associated Press, BBC, The Guardian]