Iranian couple filmed dancing in Tehran jailed for 10.5 years


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

Astiaj Haghighi and Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, Instagram influencers believed to be in their early 20s, were arrested by security forces at their homes in November, the activist group said.

They were sentenced by a Tehran court to 10.5 years in prison each for “promoting impurity and indecency, mob 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.

Their imprisonment comes amid a wider crackdown by Iran’s theocratic regime. government in an effort to quell a months-long uprising calling for his ouster. Protests erupted in mid-September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody after allegedly violating the country’s conservative dress code for women. The protesters also include people who complain about mass poverty, corruption and state-sponsored violence.

Women and young people play a central role in the movement. In some cities, women took off their headscarves and set them on fire, in an act of defiance against the Islamists in power. (Haghighi was not wearing a headscarf in the video of the dancing couple that circulated.) Others 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 according to a “conservative” estimate, more than 300 people were killed. HRANA also estimates that Iran has handed down at least 22 death sentences and charged more than 100 people with capital offenses.

The crackdown has prompted international condemnation and scrutiny of Iran’s human rights record. In January, the United States imposed sanctions on an organization linked to the crackdown, the ninth such measure since the uprising began.

In the latter, video footage shows the couple twirling 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. Haghighi also did not wear a headscarf, the compulsory head covering for Iranian women.

At one point, Haghighi leaps into her dance partner’s arms, wrapping her arms around her neck. Her hair hangs down and flows as he spins her around – a gesture seen as symbolic by some supporters of the protest movement.

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

HRANA said the couple were denied access to a lawyer during the trial, citing an unidentified source with knowledge of the proceedings. The group said Haghighi was detained after her arrest at a facility east of Tehran that has been criticized by human rights groups for her poor health and poor sanitation.

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