Iran arrests culture ministry official over public dance

Tehran (AFP) –


Iran on Thursday arrested a senior official after a video posted online showed young boys and girls dancing in public in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad, the judiciary said.

"The head of the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance in Mashhad was arrested for undermining public decency and disrespecting the laws," the judiciary's Mizan Online news agency said quoting a deputy prosecutor.

Islamic law in Iran prohibits public dancing.

The video shared on social networks showed young boys and girls dancing in a shopping mall, where a singer was performing for a huge crowd. The event took place on Tuesday.

Mohsen Afshar, a spokesman for the shopping centre, told the ISNA news agency that a monthly draw is organised and a car given away to the lucky winner to attract customers.

According to Afshar the singer had the necessary "official permits to perform".

The performance can attract 10,000-12,000 people, he said, including "some individuals whose behaviour is contrary to the norms of the Islamic republic".

But Heydari told Tasnim news agency that the mall was not authorised to organise such events.

Mashhad is a holy and conservative city where in 2016 concerts were banned by the Friday prayer leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Allamolhoda, who also told music-lovers to "Go somewhere else".

Thursday's arrest comes days after Tehran's reformist mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi, resigned after claims he was threatened with arrest.

Najafi had attracted criticism from hardliners last month after attending in March a show at City Hall for Iranian Women's Day in which schoolgirls performed a traditional dance.