Iran sends two young people to prison for dancing?

An Iranian court has sentenced a young couple to more than 10 years in prison after they posted a video of themselves dancing in front of the Azadi (Freedom) Monument in Tehran.

According to the U.S.-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), Astiyazh Haghighi, 21, and her fiancé Amir Ahmadi, 22, were arrested at their home in Tehran on November 1, 2022, shortly after they uploaded the video to their joint Instagram account which has around 2 million followers.

HRANA reported that the court convicted the couple on charges such as “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” and “gathering with the intention of disrupting national security,” and they were each given a sentence of 10 years and six months. In addition, the couple has been forbidden from using the internet or leaving Iran for two years, which will presumably begin after they have served their prison terms. The BBC also confirmed the arrests, noting that the video posted by Haghighi and Ahmadi has been widely shared online.

The Mizan news website, associated with Iran’s judiciary, reported that Astiazh Haghighi and Amir Mohammad Ahmadi were arrested not for dancing, but for actions on their Instagram pages that included “urging people to riot and cause disruption to the country”.

The statement added that the two had called for a rally on November 4 and had advertised the event on their page.

Recently, Iranian security forces have been very strict on anyone participating in or showing support for the anti-government protests that started in September due to the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the ‘Morality’ Police.

Four people were executed after being convicted for their involvement in the protests, and hundreds were arrested. According to HRANA, at least 506 people have been killed in the authorities’ violent reaction to the protests, which have since decreased.

The video posted by Haghighi and Ahmadi depicted the two simply dancing, and did not explicitly refer to the protests or the hardline Islamic clerics. Nevertheless, dancing is illegal in the Islamic nation. BBC News recently interviewed Iranian DJs who said that dancing to modern or Western-style music had become a way to protest the regime.