Iranian women are dancing in public without headscarves on in defiance of the country's modesty laws after a group of teen girls was reportedly detained by security forces and forced to apologize on video for doing the same.
In a video posted on International Women's Day, five Iranian girls in crop tops and baggy pants with their hair uncovered are seen re-creating a viral TikTok dance to the song "Calm Down" by Rema and Selena Gomez. According to Iran International, the video was posted by their dance instructor on Instagram, and it quickly went viral as a symbol of resistance against the country's hard-line Islamist regime and its crackdown on protesters.
Women in Iran are not allowed to dance in public and are required to wear headscarves and loose-fitting clothes.
Over the next few days, authorities reportedly went looking for the teenagers, who are in Ekbatan, a town west of Tehran, and their dance instructor's video was removed. The girls were detained for two days and forced to record a confession video expressing remorse for their actions, according to the Twitter account @Shahrak_Ekbatan, which tracks news in Ekbatan.
A screenshot purportedly from the confession video shows the girls wearing headscarves and long, loose clothing.
The incident led to another wave of anger and fueled more dissent against authorities in Iran, which had already seen massive protests against restrictions on women in recent months.
In response, women in Iran and abroad began posting videos of themselves and others doing the same dance in public with their hair uncovered as a show of support for the girls.
In September 2022, the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who died in police custody after she was detained by the morality police for wearing a hijab "improperly," sparked widespread protest around Iran. Authorities claimed Amini died of a heart attack while in custody, while her family said she was beaten. The demonstrations over her death quickly morphed into wider discontent with the regime.
In the six months since, Iranian security forces have routinely used draconian tactics to try to suppress protests, going so far as to arrest children. In a report released Thursday, Amnesty International found children arrested during and after protests had been subject to electric shocks on their body, had their heads held underwater, been sexually assaulted, and been threatened with rape. Many children were released only after they signed "repentance" letters and promised not to participate in further protests, according to the human rights organization. The Iranian government has not responded to the report and did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
A mysterious wave of suspected poisonings across the country has also landed more than 1,000 schoolgirls in the hospital. Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, whose department is spearheading investigations into the poisoning reports, said in early March that 90% of the hospitalizations came from "stress and worries caused by the news." Many Iranians have dismissed that explanation, calling Vahidi's claim "ridiculous" and criticizing the regime for not taking action on the reports despite widespread surveillance of residents.
In a Thursday press release, the United Nations called the poisonings "deliberate" and condemned the government for failing to protect the girls and swiftly investigate the cases.
"There is a stark contrast between the rapid deployment of force to arrest and jail peaceful protestors and an incapacity spanning months to identify and arrest perpetrators of large scale, coordinated attacks against young girls in Iran," UN experts said.