Young Iranians Astiyazh Haghighi and her fiancé Amir Mohammad Ahmadi were sentenced to ten years and six months in prison by a “revolutionary court” in Iran for the “crime” of dancing in public.

The government also banned the couple from using the Internet or leaving Iran.

Haghighi and Ahmadi, who are 21 and 22 years old respectively, were arrested in November and accused of “encouraging corruption and public prostitution” and “gathering with the intention of disrupting national security.” 

The couple used their popular Instagram account, which has about two million followers, to post a video of themselves dancing together in front of Azadi Tower, a cultural landmark in western Tehran:

SBS News noted on Wednesday the seemingly innocuous video was treated as a criminal offense because Haghighi did not wear the mandatory Islamic headscarf and “women are not allowed to dance in public in Iran, let alone with a man.”

The name of the Azadi Tower, which is famous enough to have appeared on Iranian currency, means “freedom.” The dance video was therefore taken as a defiant expression of support for the Amini uprising, a protest movement that swept Iran after its thuggish “morality police” killed a young Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini for not wearing her headscarf properly in September. Amini was 22 at the time of her death, roughly the same age as the couple Iran threw in prison for dancing.

A protester holds a portrait of Iranian Mahsa Amini during a demonstration by Iranians living in Greece in central Athens on September 24, 2022, following the death of an Iranian woman after her arrest by the country’s morality police in Tehran. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP)

Iranian human rights activists said the couple was arrested “violently” and Haghighi’s family house was raided before she was arrested. The couple was denied legal representation and bail during what passed for their “trial.” 

SBS News reported Haghighi has already been sent to the Qarchak women’s prison outside Tehran, an unsanitary dungeon that was once a livestock facility.

Human rights activists have denounced Qarchak for inhuman conditions, including shortages of food, medicine, safe drinking water, and even breathable air. Inmates are chronically malnourished and pumped full of tranquilizers by the staff. A former inmate held at the prison for political reasons described it as a “torture chamber.”

CBS News on Wednesday quoted Iranian regime media claiming Haghighi and Ahmadi were detained not for dancing, but for “encouraging people to riot against the country and subversion.”

“Astiazh Haghighi and Amir Mohammad Ahmadi had published a call for a rally on November 4 and called for riots on their Instagram pages. During the riots, they used their page to advertise calls, including the call for November 4,” a statement from the Iranian judiciary claimed.