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Iranian woman dancing on Tehran subway
The unidentified woman dances in a Tehran subway carriage

Iranian woman flouts the rules and dances on Tehran metro

Over a million people have now watched the unidentified girl pull some serious shapes to a Little Mix song

A video of a young Iranian woman exuberantly dancing to Little Mix on the Tehran metro has gone viral, and not just because of her moves. Dancing in public is illegal in the country, but the unidentified girl twirls around the subway carriage regardless – even when her hijab slips down her shoulders. Think of it as a one-woman protest with some great pirouettes. 

The video was uploaded to the Facebook page of the popular protest group Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women and has been watched about over a million times. Women in Iran are required by law to wear the hijab in public places, but dancing is even more strictly policed. Earlier this year, a group of young people who filmed themselves dancing to Pharrell Williams' "Happy" were arrested and forced to apologise on television. 

The short clip clocks in at barely over a minute, but you can still see the girl pulling some serious moves to the faint, tinny sound of Little Mix's "Salute" (sample lyrics: "Ladies all across the world / Listen up, we're looking for recruits / If you're with me, let me see your hands / Stand up and salute"). It's probably the most political thing you'll ever see soundtracked by a manufactured X Factor pop group.

Many of the people on the carriage try to ignore her, although BBC reports that one woman in the video says disparagingly, "Now this is a new fashion." But her comments are at odds with the hugely positive reaction that the film has received online, where over 30,000 people have given it the thumbs up.

Masih Alinejad, a US-based Iranian journalist who moderates the Facebook page of Stealthy Freedoms, was the first to upload the video. She says that she cannot provide any details about the woman for fear that she will come to harm – but argues that the video illustrates the widening gulf between the Iranian state and its people.

"This is the cultural war between the Iranian government and young people," she told us. "On Iranian TV it’s all women in black, but on social media, it's women without headscarfs, wearing colourful clothing, dancing and singing. The Iranian government wants to show an image of the Islamic Republic and they don’t want to show people coming to the streets and singing. (But) social media allows Iranian people who never had a voice or a chance to speak to form their own media."

Alinejad points to the outpouring of anger over a recent spate of acid attacks on women perceived to be wearing the veil improperly. She believes that younger people in Iran are getting fed up of the strict conservatism of their government and are taking to Facebook and Twitter to express their discontent any way they can – including dancing on the metro.

"Thanks to social media where you can see that women are breaking the wrong image of themselves and telling the world that we do not want to be free stealthily," she argues. "The new generation of Iran – especially women – do not want to stay behind the curtain."

Watch the video for Little Mix's "Salute" below: