Five teenage girls were arrested in Tehran on International Women’s Day. Their crime, according to Iran’s morality police, was dancing in public and they were not wearing headscarves. The Iranian regime bans dancing in public by anyone, but especially women, and women are required to cover their heads in public.
The teens were dancing to a Selena Gomez song and filming themselves on TikTok. They sound like teenage girls everywhere. They were wearing Western clothes – long-sleeved shirts and long pants with sneakers – and dancing outdoors in Ekbatan Town in western Tehran on March 8. The regime describes their dancing as an act of defiance.
Gomez posted their TikTok video on her Instagram account. She has 400 million followers on her Instagram account so she has a very long reach on social media. She posted the news of their arrests with the video, calling them “brave girls.”
She wrote: ‘To these young women and all the women of Iran who continue to be courageously demanding fundamental changes, please know your strength is inspiring.’
Journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahar posted online, ‘This is an ordinary scene in most cities around the world. But in Iran, it’s an act of defiance.’ The Twitter account Shahrak-e Ekbatan reported that the girls’ dance instructor was interrogated. The girls were issued a warning for making their video and the Iranian press later reported that the teens had been detained.
This is the same kind of story I’ve been writing about for six months. Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, was arrested last September for not wearing a headscarf in public. She was beaten and arrested by the morality police. She later died in jail. That is when the current wave of protests began. Women began organizing and leading protests against the regime after the death of Amini. The protests have continued ever since and spread across the country. Hundreds of Iranians have died as a result of violence aimed at protesters by the regime. Thousands of Iranians have been arrested.
The regime is growing increasingly impatient with the protests. The response to the protesters has escalated as time goes on. Reports of poisoning college students as an act of intimidation to tamp down support for protesters have surfaced. Executions have begun of those who have been imprisoned for protesting.
Amnesty International reports that children as young as 12 are subjected to rape, electrocution, and flogging as punishment for their involvement in protests. The organization has obtained testimonies from victims and their families that describe the torture endured by children.
The nongovernmental organisation reported today that ‘Iran’s intelligence and security forces have been committing horrific acts of torture, including beatings, flogging, electric shocks, rape and other sexual violence against child protestors as young as 12 to quell their involvement in nationwide protests.’
The investigation by Amnesty International revealed ‘the torture methods that the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij, the Public Security Police, and other security and intelligence forces’ had used against young people in custody to punish and humiliate them and to extract forced ‘confessions’.
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said Iran’s ‘violence against children exposes deliberate strategy to crush the vibrant spirit of the country’s youth and stop them from demanding freedom and human rights.’
The report by Amnesty International provides information about the horrific treatment of minors in custody.
The report read: ‘A former detainee told Amnesty that, in one province, Basij agents forced several boys to stand with their legs apart in a line alongside adult detainees and administered electric shocks to their genital area with stun guns.
‘Most of the children arrested in the past six months appear to have been released, sometimes on bail pending investigations or referral to trial. Many were only released after being forced to sign “repentance” letters and promising to refrain from “political activities” and to attend pro-government rallies.’
The organisation also reported that state agents had used rape and other sexual violence as a weapon against child detainees to break their spirit, humiliate and punish them, and to extract confessions.
A mother told of how state agents raped her son with a hosepipe when he was detained.
The protests continue in Iran against the brutal regime. Selena Gomez is right – teenage girls in Iran are brave. They are risking their lives to stand up for freedom.