Iran’s clerical regime issued an edict this month effectively banning Zumba – a popular Latin-inspired dance class that includes music from Latin America – from the country for contravening “Islamic ideology.”
But that is not stopping some dance instructors from continuing to teach it.
“Zumba will not be stopped,” Sunny Nafisi, 33, a Zumba instructor who works in an upscale Tehran gym, told the New York Times.
“It is as if they have legalized alcohol — everyone is talking about it,” Nafisi reportedly told the Times. Alcohol is banned in Iran, but the big “open secret” is that wealthy Iranian youth in Tehran host some of the largest, wildest parties in the privacy of their homes, which are often lavishly designed.
In a letter addressed to the ministry of youth affairs this month, Ali Majdara, the head of Iran’s government-issued General Sports Federation, wrote, “In light of activities such as Zumba, performing rhythmic movements or dancing in any form is not legal in any shape or title and the prohibition of movements such as this is requested.”
However, Nafisi, who has been teaching Zumba for years, explained to the Times that she will change the name of the class from Zumba to something else to conceal the classes and continue teaching them. In the past, she reportedly called it, “exercise to music.” Other names used to mask the classes have reportedly included “body rhythm,” “advanced aerobics,” and “Mumba.”
The Times points out that “Iran has undergone a health revolution in recent years, with gyms and fitness clubs opening in many neighborhoods. Men lift weights to become buff; women sweat in aerobic classes to stay lean.”
Sajad Gharibi, nicknamed “the Iranian Hulk” and “Persian Hercules,” became an Iranian social media star a few years ago.
Zumba also provides a feeling of freedom for some Iranian women, who do not enjoy the same rights as women living in the United States.
Zohre Safavizadeh, a Zumba goer in Tehran, told the Los Angeles Times that the Zumba ban is just one example of how the women of Iran “are deprived small happiness.”
She reportedly said she thinks the Iranian government’s ban on Zumba is also a backlash by the hardliners. She told the Times, “The hard-liners want to undo what was promised by President Rouhani.”
Last year, women were banned from participating in the first-ever “I Run Iran” marathon, which was meant to “unite humanity.”
Despite the ban by Iran’s clerical hardliners, two women decided to unofficially run on the sidelines of the first-of-its-kind race in the Islamic Republic.
Two women run unofficially on the sideline of the marathon "I run Iran" pic.twitter.com/MoDcXDCQdG
— Bahar Shoghi (@baharshoghi) April 9, 2016