Iranian parkour star arrested for racy kiss photos

One of the photos published by parkour star Alireza Japalaghi on his Instagram account.
One of the photos published by parkour star Alireza Japalaghi on his Instagram account.

Parkour athlete Alireza Japalaghy shot to fame on Instagram for his photos of daring stunts on the roofs of Tehran. His account now has more than 90,000 followers. But it wasn’t photos of his dangerous jumps that caught the attention of Iranian authorities – it was photos of him kissing a woman.

Over the last few years, parkour has become a popular sport in Iran. Alireza Japalaghy, known for his daring leaps from one roof to another without a scrap of safety equipment, has become the sport's social media star.

None of that seemed to bother Iranian authorities, however. It was only when he posted three photos on 12 May of him kissing a woman that they got involved. The photos, titled "Sunset in Tehran", show him kissing a woman who isn’t wearing a headscarf, which is obligatory in Iran, on the roof of a building in the affluent neighbourhood of Elahieh in Tehran.

On 17 May, Japalaghy published an Instagram story where he said that he had received a call from the authorities ordering him to explain himself, and that failing to do so would result in him being arrested. He refused, saying, “I’m not scared. If they want to arrest me they can come here and do what they want.”

The next day, his younger brother announced on his Instagram account that Japalaghy had been arrested at his home for “un-Islamic behaviour”. He said, “They didn’t show any arrest warrant, they came into our house and arrested my brother. He hasn’t done anything wrong apart from posting videos of sport, I don’t understand.” 

The Iranian authorities haven’t yet made an official statement on why Japalaghy was arrested. It’s also unknown whether it was the police or Iran’s Revolutionary Guards who carried out the arrest. 

This isn’t the first time Japalaghy has posted photos that could draw the ire of the authorities, but the three "Sunset in Tehran" photos were widely shared on Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app.

Iran often arrests social media influencers and people who perform online, mostly for the reason of “un-Islamic behaviour”, which can encompass a wide range of actions. In October 2019, three dancers were arrested for having posted “obscene creative content”. There has been no information about what happened to them since their arrest. In July 2018, three other dancers, including the popular Maedeh Hojabri, were also arrested and detained for a few days. 

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According to articles 638 and 639 of the Islamic Republic’s penal code, people posting photos like Japalaghy’s can be accused of “the online propagation of corruption and prostitution”, and can be punished with up to 10 years in prison. 

Article by Ershad Alijani.