August 20, 2019
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Iranian teenagers dance their way to online revolution

By Artemis Razmipour

Tehran, May 13 (EFE).- Videos of Iranian teenage schoolchildren dancing to a Persian pop song have gone viral on social media, provoking a backlash from authorities that prohibit women from dancing and singing in public spaces.

The first video to go viral, which featured a group of girls sporting school uniforms singing the popular “Gentleman” song, has triggered a wave of copycat dance videos by Iranians expressing their support to the teenagers after the negative reaction of Iranian officials.

The backlash to the viral clip relates to two main concerns.

One the one hand, the dancing ,which takes place in a public space, is something that has been banned since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Secondly, the lyrics of the song by the United States-based Iranian singer known as Sasy Mankan.

“Hey, it's time to give me a kiss babe, move on, move on, take the waist, go on dance,” Mankan sings to a woman who replies “My mister's a gentleman, a gentleman.”

Deputy speaker of Iran's Parliament Ali Motahari demanded for the Minister of Education, Mohammad Bathaei, be held accountable and for the directors of the schools featured in the videos to be fired.

In a televised interview, Bathaei said the video was fake.

The minister added the place where the video was recorded was unrecognizable and called on the cyber police to carry out an investigation into the case.

"I am sure there is a political objective behind this. The enemy is seeking to inflict damage and tarnish the foundation of society, which is education," Bathaei stressed.

Iran’s clerics have also expressed their concerns. A member of the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom, Mahmoud Rajabi, said that the “roots of this movement must be found.”

"Perhaps hidden hands have permeated and these events are a manifestation of the influence of Western culture on our society,” Rajabi continued, adding that the dance was “anti-religious and counter-revolutionary."

The reactions towards the video have, rather than squash interest in it, made it even more popular particularly amongst young people who have started to emulate it as a type of social protest.

Teens have started to post videos of themselves dancing in parks or schools with their faces covered with a caption that says:

"Do not oppose the girls of the 80s decade (according to the Iranian calendar)."

The "Gentlemen" movement is not over.

Saghar, a 15-year-old student from Tehran, is planning to record a similar video this week with her classmates.

"We want to support our classmates and fun activities which are lacking in the country,” Saghar told Efe.

Many young Iranians complain about the lack of social freedom and entertainment.

Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, authorities have imposed a range of restrictive laws in the cultural field, banning clubs, public dancing, concerts and even prohibiting listening to music or owning video cassettes.

Although some regulations have been eased, women are still prohibited from dancing and singing in public.

“Those responsible should know that if we want to do it, we will do it and nobody can prevent it," said Saghar, who also suggested authorities should spend their time solving the real issues society faces and not "this nonsense."

Iran has been facing a serious economic crisis due to United States-imposed sanctions after President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement last year.

The Iranian pop singer featured in the viral videos was in the spotlight during the 2009 presidential elections when he openly supported reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi who later became one of the leaders of the Green Movement protests. EFE

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