Iranian couple filmed dancing in Tehran gets 10 years in prison | Iran

An Iranian court has handed down sentences of more than 10 years in prison to a young couple who danced in front of one of Tehran’s main landmarks in a video seen as a symbol of defiance against the regime, activists said.

Astiyazh Hagigi and her fiance Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, both in their early 20s, were arrested in early November after a video showing them dancing romantically in front of Azadi Tower went viral online.

Haghighi did not wear a headscarf, in violation of Iran’s strict rules. Women are also not allowed to dance in public, let alone with a man.

A revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced them to 10 years and six months in prison each, and imposed bans on using the Internet and leaving Iran, the US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reported.

The couple, who already had a following in Tehran as popular Instagram bloggers, were convicted of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” as well as “gathering with intent to undermine national security,” the statement said.

HRANA cited sources close to their families as saying they were denied lawyers during the trial and attempts to get them released on bail were rejected.

It said Hagigi is now in the Karchak women’s prison outside Tehran, the conditions of which are regularly condemned by activists.

Following Mahsa Amini’s death in September, Iranian authorities have clamped down on all forms of dissent. The death of Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating the rules on wearing headscarves, sparked protests that turned into a movement against the regime.

At least 14,000 people have been arrested, according to the UN, ranging from prominent celebrities, journalists and lawyers to ordinary people on the streets.

The pair’s video was hailed as a symbol of the freedoms demanded by the protest movement, with Ahmadi at one point lifting his partner in the air as her long hair fluttered behind her.

One of the main icons of the Iranian capital, the futuristic Azadi (Freedom) Tower is a place of great sensitivity. It was opened during the reign of the last Shah, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, in the early 1970s, when it was known as the Shahyad Tower (In Memory of the Shah).

It was renamed after the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 with the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Its architect, a member of the Baha’i faith, which is not recognized in present-day Iran, now lives in exile.

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