Woman breakdances on Tehran subway
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Woman breakdances on Tehran subway

Video shows young Iranian flouting laws in conservative Islamic country

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Iranian woman dances on Tehran subway, flaunting country's laws (screen capture: My Stealthy Freedom)
Iranian woman dances on Tehran subway, flaunting country's laws (screen capture: My Stealthy Freedom)

A video was uploaded to Facebook showing an Iranian woman breakdancing on a Tehran subway, flouting bans on dancing and women in public without their heads covered.

The clip was posted Tuesday on the site My Stealthy Freedom, a page where Iranian women upload pictures of themselves without hijabs, defying laws in the conservative Islamic country.

The woman in the video is seen dancing to the song “Salute” by the British group Little Mix.

Other female passengers look on.

The song encourages women to stand up for themselves.

هنرنمایی یک دختر در متروی تهران

این فیلم رقص یک دختر ایرانی در متروی تهران است. اتفاقی که در متروهای خارج ایران روزانه بسیار رخ می دهد، جوان هایی که به شیوه های مختلف هنرنمایی می کنند. Dance in Tehran metroاين ويديو براى قضاوت در مورد مهارت رقصش نيست بلكه براى شجاعتش در حق انتخابِ یک سبک زندگی، شجاعت در شاد کردن مردم.فیلم ارسالی به صفحه آزادی یواشکی نیست.

Posted by ‎My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران‎ on otrdiena, 2014. gada 25. novembris

In September, an Iranian court sentenced seven people to suspended sentences of prison time and lashes for dancing to US singer Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy” in a video that went viral. Recorded on a smartphone and uploaded multiple times on YouTube, the clip shows three girls dancing and singing along to the song in a room, on rooftops and in secluded alleys with three young men.

For the youths, the homemade video now watched one million times was merely an “excuse to be happy,” but for the Iranian authorities it was “vulgar” breach of the Islamic Republic’s values.

Originally posted online in April, the clip gradually spread online before it led to the arrest of the dancers and their director on Tuesday for having “hurt” the country’s strict moral codes, according to Tehran police chief Hossein Sajedinia.

Following their arrests, the youths appeared on state television repenting for appearing in the clip, after the girls failed to properly observe hijab, a series of rules that oblige women in Iran to cover their hair and much of their body when outside.

Their arrest sparked international fury and criticism in the media and online, with many Iranians expressing shock and some observers questioning whether it was a “crime to be happy in Iran.”

Supporting the young Iranians, Williams himself chimed in and hit out at their treatment, saying on Twitter and Facebook: “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”

And in Iran, their arrests highlighted a rift between between conservatives and youths fascinated by the West, as shortly before the arrests, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani reiterated in a weekend speech his calls for a relaxation of Internet censorship.

He also appeared to send an apparent message of support to the dancers on Wednesday night, through a Twitter account associated with his office.

“Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviors caused by joy,” read a tweet quoting a June 2013 speech by Rouhani, who constitutionally has no power over Iran’s judiciary.

Rouhani also called for greater tolerance of the internet and other modern technology earlier this month.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are all banned in the country. That’s despite senior government leaders like Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif being active on Twitter. There are even Instagram accounts in the names of Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While top officials have unfettered access to social media, Iran’s youth and technological-savvy citizens use proxy servers or other workarounds to bypass the controls.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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