Five young Iranian women have allegedly been arrested after a video of them dancing to Nigerian Afrobeat singer and rapper Rema’s hit song “Calm Down” went viral. The video showed the women dancing without headscarves and showing their stomachs near high-rise buildings in Tehran’s residential district of Ekbatan. In Iran, it is illegal for women to dance in public without wearing the Islamic headscarf. Activists from the Ekbatan area first posted the video on Telegram and Twitter, and on Tuesday, they alleged that the Iranian women had been detained and forced into making a video in which they expressed regret.
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There are anxieties about the well-being of the women, as they were allegedly forced to confess by Iran’s authorities. The Islamic Republic has been experiencing civil unrest, with the abolition of the obligatory headscarf rule being one of the chief demands. This unrest erupted in September after the death of Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the dress code.
Another video emerged on social media of four women, their heads fully covered, stepping forward one by one to express regret. It appeared to have been filmed in a similar Ekbatan area, but neither the video nor the circumstances in which it was made could be verified. It is not immediately clear whether the women have been released.
Ekbatan is a middle-income area popular with young professionals and families and has seen repeated anti-regime actions in the past few months. Rema retweeted the video of the women dancing with their long hair uncovered and commented, “To all the beautiful women who are fighting for a better world, I’m inspired by you, I sing for you and I dream with you.” The song “Calm Down” became a global hit after Rema issued a remix with superstar Selena Gomez.
This incident highlights the ongoing struggles of women’s rights in Iran and the risks they face for simply expressing themselves. It also showcases the power of music and social media in bringing people together and inspiring change. We hope for the safe release of the five women and for the continued progress of women’s rights in Iran and around the world.