Concern over Iranian women in viral Calm Down video

A video that went viral on social media shows five young Iranian women dancing without headscarves to the song Calm Down by Nigerian Afrobeats singer and rapper Rema. SCREENSHOT: TWITTER

PARIS – Concern grew on Tuesday over the well-being of five young Iranian women who filmed themselves dancing without headscarves in a video that went viral, after allegations that they had been arrested and forced into confessing to breaking the dress code.

The footage showed the women dancing with bare midriffs in front of high-rise buildings in the Teheran residential district of Ekbatan to the song Calm Down by Nigerian Afrobeats singer and rapper Rema.

The video was widely shared on TikTok and other social media channels last week around International Women’s Day on March 8.

Activists, apparently from the Ekbatan area, posted the video on Telegram and Twitter, saying that the authorities had been asking residents in the area if they knew the women, based on the footage.

On Tuesday, the activists alleged that the women had been detained and forced into making a video in which they expressed regret for their actions.

In the Islamic Republic, it is illegal for women to dance in public, and it is also illegal for them not to wear the hijab (headscarf).

Abolition of the obligatory headscarf rule has been one of the chief demands of the protest movement that erupted last September after the death while in police custody of Ms Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for allegedly violating the dress code.

After the initial viral footage of the five women dancing, 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.

Whether the women had been released was also not immediately clear.

Ekbatan, a middle-income area popular with young professionals and families, has seen repeated anti-regime actions in the past few months.

Rema retweeted a 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.

The video also caught the attention of German Member of the European Parliament Hannah Neumann.

“On Women’s Day, they published this video,” Ms Neumann tweeted, adding that such a video normally would not have been newsworthy, except that they were dancing in Iran.

“The regime investigated, put them in prison, forced them into confessions and to wear hijab,” Ms Neumann alleged.

Hundreds of people – including dozens of security force personnel – have been killed in protests in Iran after Ms Amini’s death.

Thousands of others were arrested for participating in what Iranian officials described as “riots”, blamed on hostile forces linked to the United States, Israel and their allies. AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.