An Iranian court has handed down prison sentences of more than 10 years each to a young couple who were dancing in front of a major landmark in Tehran in a video seen as a symbol of defiance of the regime, activists said.
Istiyaz Haji and her fiancé, Amir Mohammad Ahmadi, both in their early 20s, were arrested in early November after a video went viral showing them dancing romantically in front of Azadi Tower.
Haqiqi was not wearing a hijab in defiance of Iran’s strict rules. Women are also not allowed to dance in public, let alone men.
The US-based Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) said a revolutionary court in Tehran had sentenced them to 10 years and six months in prison, as well as a ban on using the internet and leaving Iran.
It added that the couple, who already had a following in Tehran as popular bloggers on Instagram, were convicted of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” as well as “assembly with the aim of disturbing national security”.
The Human Rights Agency quoted sources close to their families as saying that they were denied lawyers during the trial procedures, and attempts to secure their release on bail were rebuffed.
She added that Haghi is now in the Qarchak women’s prison outside Tehran, and activists regularly denounce their conditions.
Iranian authorities have severely cracked down on all forms of dissent since the death of Mohsa Amini in September. The death of Amini, who was arrested for allegedly violating veiling rules, sparked protests that turned into a movement against the regime.
At least 14,000 people have been arrested, according to the United Nations, from prominent figures, journalists and lawyers to ordinary people who have taken to the streets.
The couple’s video was hailed as a symbol of the freedoms demanded by the protest movement, with at one point Ahmadi lifting his partner into the air as her long hair flowed behind her.
One of the main symbols of the Iranian capital, the futuristic Azadi (Freedom) Tower is a very sensitive place. It was inaugurated during the reign of the last Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in the early 1970s, when it was known as Shahyad Tower (In Memory of the Shah).
It was renamed after the Shah was overthrown in 1979 with the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Its architect, a follower of the Baha’i faith, which is not recognized in Iran today, now lives in exile.
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