A Brave Muslim Woman’s Subway Dance Is Going Viral for a Very Good Reason


A new viral video making the rounds this week is more proof of the courageous ways the youth of Iran are pushing for political reform, even if they have to dance in the streets — or, as in this video, a Tehran Metro subway car — to do it. 

Posted earlier this week on the Facebook page My Stealthy Freedom, the grainy video shows a young Iranian woman dancing like Taylor Swift at an awards show to a song by the British pop group Little Mix in the middle of a subway car.

In any other context, this energetic display would be of little note. But this dancing is political: It's an act of protest against Iran's strict laws prohibiting dancing in public. Not only does she dance in public, but she continues to do so even after her hijab slips from her head. The woman therefore ends up breaking two Iranian laws, one against dancing in public and the other against appearing in public without her head covering. 


My Stealthy Freedom is run by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who spoke to the Independent about the video as well as the growing cultural war in Iran. "Every day in Iran there is a cultural war between the Iranian government and young people. ... If you live as a free person in Iran you are living as a criminal every day."

"Facebook and social media is showing a hidden face of Iran that is never seen in the media," Alinejad, who lives in the United States, continued. "It allows Iranian people who have never had a voice or a chance to speak to form their own media."

Alinejad — a well-known activist — said she was initially reluctant to post the video in light of the recent punishment of the six Iranian youths who made a video dancing to Pharrell's "Happy" this past spring. In September they were each sentenced to six months in jail and 91 lashes. Alinejad told the Independent she published the video on Facebook because the young woman's face was blurred, making her unrecognizable in a court of law.

Thirty-five years after Iran's 1979 revolution overthrew the country's king and installed the conservative Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in his place, the youth of Iran are slowly but surely beginning to assert their rights. Khomeini's ultimately successful fight against the modernization, or what hardliners condemned as the Westernization, of Iran shook the world and set off a series of geopolitical shock waves.

There is no doubt that any cultural revolution in Iran would be led, at least in part, by activists like Alinejad. The feminist influence is particularly strong in these types of protests, where the goal is to allow both men and women to be able to move freely throughout Iran without laws dictating how they move or dress.

Until that time, the youth of Iran will continue to press for change covertly — anonymously, through social media channels — to send a message to the Iranian government and to the world that they will dance, they will jive, and they will have the time of their lives.