A video of girls dancing on a stage, while a crowd cheers them on, has caused an uproar in Iran. This dance took place at an event organized by the Tehran municipality, with the mayor in attendance. So why the fuss? Hardliners have criticized the reformist mayor Ali Najafi for allowing an “immoral ceremony” where “women” danced in public.
In Iran, sharia law dictates that grown women – an age that is set at nine years old – are forbidden to dance in front of anyone but their husbands.
The video that shocked hardliners.
The video, which was filmed during a ceremony on March 6 to celebrate International Women’s Day (two days early), garnered backlash from various hardliners and prompted Tehran’s conservative general prosecutor to announce that he would open an investigation into the matter.
Translation of this tweet: “I have nothing to say about Najafi. But I just ask God for death and divine torment for those who are responsible for destroying the culture of our country.” –Professor Hojatollah Abdolmaleki, who teaches at the ultra-conservative Sadegh university.
Tehran’s mayor responded by posting a photo of the girls on social media, in which it is clear that they are very young. He told Iranian media that the girls were only 8 years old, so that nothing “un-Islamic” had occurred. He also said that the dance show was controversial and so maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea, but he didn’t see it as a major problem.
A photo of the young dancers shared by Tehran's mayor.
After the backlash…more backlash
Hardliners faced a severe backlash on social media, with users attacking them for criticizing the event.
Translation of the tweet:: “It’s not just shameful that you are against happiness in this country, it’s shameful that you have such a filthy mind when you look at these children – you should be ashamed to face your own kids.”
There is no love lost between Tehran’s m.ayor and hardliners. On January 14, on his 100th day in office, Najafi published a report on the financial situation of the Tehran municipality that revealed illegal actions by his conservative predecessor Bagher Ghalibaf, including abuse of power, falsified accounting, embezzlement, and fictitious transactions. Since then, Najafi has become a target of attacks by hardliners.
This is far from the first time a political figure has come under attack for “un-Islamic behaviour” by conservative groups. Back in 2008, a huge scandal erupted when former president Mohammad Khatami shook hands with women during a trip to Italy.