Iranian couple filmed dancing in Tehran for 10½ years in prison


According to activist news agency HRANA, an Iranian couple have been jailed for more than 10 years each after a video of them dancing romantically near a monument in Tehran was posted on social media.

Astiaj Haghighi and Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, popular Instagram influencers who are reportedly in their early 20s, were arrested by security forces at their home in November, the activist group said.

They were sentenced by a court in Tehran to 10½ years in prison each for “promoting impurity and indecency, assembly and collusion against national security and propaganda against the regime”.

The court also banned them from using social media and banned them from leaving the country for two years.

Her detention comes amid a broader crackdown by Iran’s theocracy government to quell a months-long insurgency demanding his downfall. The protests erupted in mid-September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody after she allegedly flouted the country’s conservative dress code for women. The protesters also include people with complaints of mass poverty, corruption and state-sponsored violence.

Women and youth play a central role in the movement. In some cities, women have taken off their headscarves and set them on fire in an act of defiance against the ruling Islamists. (In the circulating video of the dancing couple, Haghighi wasn’t wearing a headscarf.) Others have cut their hair in public.

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At least 14,000 people, including children, were arrested during the protests, the United Nations said in November, adding that more than 300 people were killed, according to a “conservative” estimate. HRANA also estimates that Iran has imposed at least 22 death sentences and charged more than 100 people with capital crimes.

The crackdown has drawn international condemnation and increased scrutiny of Iran’s human rights record. The United States in January sanctioned an organization linked to the suppression, in what was the ninth such move since the insurgency began.

In the most recent case, video footage shows the couple in front of the Azadi Tower, which became a symbol of freedom during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. There are bans on women dancing in public, especially with a man. Nor did Haghighi wear a headscarf, the obligatory hair covering for Iranian women.

At one point, Haghighi jumps into her dance partner’s arms and wraps her arms around his neck. Her hair is loose and flowing as he twirls her around – a gesture considered symbolic by some supporters of the protest movement.

Roham Alvandi, Iran expert at the London School of Economics, said the incident shows the Islamic Republic is under pressure. “Only a weak regime afraid of its own people would jail a young couple for dancing,” he wrote on Twitter.

HRANA said the couple were denied legal access during the trial, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the trial. The group said Haghighi was being held after her arrest at a facility east of Tehran, which has been criticized by human rights groups for its poor health and hygiene conditions.

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