Mar 17, 2023
The girls were forced to “confess that they’d made a mistake” after sharing a video of themselves dancing to “Calm Down” with their hair uncovered to mark International Women's Day.
Five teenage girls have reportedly been arrested by Iranian police after they danced to a viral TikTok song with their heads uncovered in front of a tower block last week, according to Farsi-language media.
The girls shared a video of themselves dancing to “Calm Down” by Rema and Selena Gomez on TikTok to mark International Women’s Day last Wednesday. Security forces reportedly visited the apartment block, believed to be in Ekbatan in Tehran, and detained the teenagers.
The teenagers were arrested on Friday last week, according to @shahrak_ekbatan, a Twitter account reporting on the Ekbatan neighbourhood. Because of the Iranian government’s tight control of the media, VICE World News has been unable to independently verify the report. Police in Iran are known to swiftly respond to reports of rule-breaking, however minor.
Their reported arrests came after months of intense protests against Iranian police brutality towards women, following the death of Mahsa Amini last September after the so-called “morality police” detained her for allegedly wearing an improper hijab.
In Iran, women are obliged to wear a head covering by the law, and any kind of public dance by women is forbidden and punishable by the restrictive rules of the Islamic Republic.
The news of the girls’ arrest was met with a backlash from young Iranians, and more people posted their own dance videos to the song in defiance of the regime.
The tweet by @shahrak_ekbatan said the girls were forced to confess that they had made a “mistake” and sign a statement at a police station that they wouldn’t do it again – a procedure used by Iranian police for misdemeanours and “moral” crimes for first-timers.
The Iranian government needs help imposing harsh rules as people find ways to circumvent the laws. To revive the laws held high by the ruling clergymen last summer, President Ebrahim Raisi launched a campaign and funded the morality police patrols with their distinctive vans to warn and arrest women breaking the hijab law.
The Iranian government has repeatedly blamed foreign countries, including the US and Israel for the unrest in the country since the start of women-led protests last September.
Despite the fear of long prison sentences and even the death penalty for any political movement or protest outside the state approval, Iranians took to the streets across the country. A moment of defiance that has seriously challenged the current government.
According to the US-based rights group Human Rights Activists News Agency, 500 people were killed and over 19,000 were arrested during the large-scale protests, which fizzled out after a few months. So far, Iran has hanged four people on charges of “waging war against God,” after being arrested for participating in the protests.
The vague charges are used against people that the regime deems as an enemy of the Islamic Revolution. The speedy trials were held behind closed doors by a single judge of the revolutionary courts, designed to tackle any political opposition to the Shia clergymen’s rule in the country since 1979.