An Iranian couple, Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiancé, Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, both in their early 20s, received prison sentences of more than 10 years on Tuesday after appearing in a video where they danced in front of an iconic Tehran landmark, activists said.
The young couple was arrested in November after footage of their romantic tango at the Azadi Tower went viral, with Ahmadi at one point elevating his partner in the air.
In defiance of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code and in the wake of monthslong anti-hijab protests, Haghighi went without a headscarf. Women are additionally precluded from public dancing and singing in Iran, especially in the company of a man.
The couple was already popular on social networking sites in Iran at the time of the incident, and the video had been heralded as symbolic of the country’s protest movement against the hijab and wider rights.
What repercussions did the couple face for their video?
The pair was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison. They also face a ban on using the internet and leaving the country, the US-based rights group the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported.
A court in Iran sentenced a couple to 10.5 years in prison for dancing in the street, the Al Arabiya newspaper reported.
They were accused of conspiring to undermine national security and engaging in anti-regime propaganda. Twitter / EWrsSgohQs
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) January 31, 2023
HRANA cited people who knew the families of the couple in reporting that the trials had gone forward without the pair having a right to legal representation. Efforts to secure a release on bail were also frustrated by the so-called revolutionary court.
Haghighi is now in Qarchak prison, a notorious women’s prison outside Tehran. Conditions at Qarchak are routinely condemned by activists.
What is the larger context of their arrests?
A strict crackdown has come in the aftermath of months of protests following the death of a young woman, Jina Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for violating the country’s Islamic dress code for women. The protests turned into a larger movement against oppression and the government in Tehran.