Maedeh Hojabri is an 18-year-old resident of Iran who gained hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram for her striking dance videos that are set to Western and Persian pop songs.
Hojabri and at least three other people who also had popular Instagram accounts were detained by the Iranian government in recent weeks, according to the Associated Press. The other three people's identities were not confirmed, but they were all released on bail.
On Friday, Hojabri gave a bizarre statement on a state TV broadcast saying she was aware she was breaking moral norms, but that it was not her intention and that she had only wanted to gain more followers.
"It wasn’t for attracting attention," she said, according to a translation published by the Guardian. "I had some followers and these videos were for them. I did not have any intention to encourage others doing the same … I didn’t work with a team, I received no training. I only do gymnastics."
It was not clear if the confession was coerced.
The Guardian reported that Hojabri's Instagram account had had more than 600,000 followers and has now been removed, but videos of her remained on Instagram and other social media sites Sunday night.
The videos show Hojabri dancing, lip-synching, and hanging with friends, and she is often seen without a headscarf.
Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979, at which time women were barred from showing flesh and required to wear headscarves. Women were also prohibited from dancing in front of men outside of their immediate family.
Iranian officials said they planned to shut down accounts similar to Hojabri's and were considering banning access to Instagram altogether, the AP reported. The country has already blocked Facebook, YouTube, and the messaging app Telegram, although millions of Iranians still use these sites through proxies.
In 2014, Iran sentenced six young men and women to prison for dancing in a video to the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Just last year, six people were arrested in Iran for teaching Zumba and for not wearing the hijab.
To show support for Hojabri, some women started sharing videos of themselves dancing to music.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Honolulu.
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