Dec 11, 2023
Iranians Dance In Streets As Civil Disobedience To Clerical Rule
A British Iranian journalist and political analyst and a regular contributor to Iran International
Iranians are posting dance videos on social media in support of a man who is being prosecuted for singing and dancing in the street and posting the videos on Instagram.
The fishmonger, Sadegh Bagheri (aka Boughi) in his late sixties, became an Instagram celebrity in recent months after videos of his folk songs and dance at the bazaar in the city of Rasht, a Caspian coastal city in northern Iran, went viral on social media.
Bagheri’s dance attracted the attention of shoppers who often circled around him and his fishmonger friends, clapped to the music, and sometimes joined in the happy dance.
Last week, police reportedly detained not only Bagheri, but also a dozen other Instagram influencers in Rasht for posting Bagheri’s videos. Authorities also took over the accounts of these individuals, removed all content and posted a notice that said the activity of these accounts had been aborted for “criminal content”.
Immediately after authorities shut down the fishmonger’s Instagram page, social media users posted tens of videos that showed people dancing in parks and streets to the same tune to show their solidarity with Bagheri.
Spectators joining in Bagheri performance outside his shop
Dancing is considered as debauchery by religious fundamentalists and hence falls under the category of completely unacceptable behavior. The fundamentalist religious establishment that has very close ties to political hardliners in power also strongly objects to most music, particularly lively pop music usually associated with dance.
The deputy police commander of Gilan Province, Brigadier-General Hossein Hassanpour, told the media that police had acted because the distribution of the videos of Bagheri’s dance in the bazaar of Rasht in social media had “violated public morals” and “broke norms”.
Four shops involved in the singing and dancing were shut down, too, he added.
Many have pointed out on social media that authorities did not take legal action against officials in the same city who were involved in a same-sex scandal or object to the state broadcaster’s employment of celebrities whose lifestyles are completely against the establishment’s proclaimed morality. Instead, they arrest people like the “happy old man” for dancing outside his shop, claiming that the society’s morality was under attack.
Girls imitating Bagheri’s happy dance in a park
Boundaries of what music is acceptable in the Islamic Republic and what is not are very murky. Iran has a national orchestra and numerous concerts are held across the country every year but due to the objection of the religious establishment in over four decades the state broadcaster has never shown any actual musical instruments or orchestras in action.
Politically influential fundamentalist religious leaders such as the imam of the religious city of Mashhad often dictate the rules in their territories.
A concert held in Tehran and other cities without any problems, therefore, can easily be cancelled in a city such as Mashhad.
These fundamentalists are backed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and imams, such as the fiery Ahmad Alamolhoda in Mashhad have been appointed by the 84-year-old ruler.
The action taken against the singing and dancing fishmonger in Rasht is said to have been prompted by the city’s Friday imam.
Animation celebrating Bagheri’s happy dance
Pointing out that all institutions of power in the country are currently in the hands of like-minded officials, a commentary in the reformist Ham-Mihan newspaper argued that a “single entity” is responsible for everything that is happening in the country now such as the arrest of the “happy old [dancing] man”, the Mashhad subway CCTV scandal, and Tehran subway “horror tunnels”.
By suppressing people, the “single entity” that has control over all institutions of power, the commentary in Ham-Mihan said, is sending a message to all, clear and with no reservation, that it determines everything that people are allowed or forbidden to do. “You can dance when I tell you.