How Iranians are turning a Selena Gomez song into a global protest anthem

Key points
  • Five young women in Iran have been detained and forced to apologize after they posted a video of them dancing to the popular song “Calm Down”.
  • Their act of defiance went global and people recreated the scenery in solidarity on social media under the hashtag #dance4iran.
  • Singers Selena Gomez and Rema reacted to the growing popularity of their song by applauding the courage of Iranian women.
The TikTok trend has become a new feature following global outrage over the arrest of five Iranian girls for posting a dance video.
In the video, young Iranian women dance to Selena Gomez and Rema’s latest hit “Calm Down” following the International Women’s Day viral TikTok trend.
They are dressed without hijabs, in cropped tops and baggy pants, demonstrating defiance of the Iranian regime.
Iranian law prohibits women from dancing in public. and loose clothing.
The TikTok video soon went viral as a symbol of resistance, with several people re-posting it to show their support.
Local news outlets reported that after posting the video, the girls were tracked down, arrested and detained for two days.

They were then forced to record an apology video in which they wore hijabs, expressing remorse for their actions.

The girls were forced to confess that they had made a “mistake” and signed a statement at the police station saying they would not do that again. Author @shahrak_ekbatan, who follows the news in Ekbatan, a town where girls live.
This is a common procedure used by the Iranian police regarding misdemeanors and “moral” offenses for newcomers.

After the news of the arrest broke on social media, people around the world, including Iran, started posting videos of themselves recreating dance moves under the hashtag #dance4iran.

A protester holds a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration in support of Ms. Amini, a young Iranian woman who died after being arrested in Tehran by the Islamic Republic's morality police on Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue September 20, 2022.

Iran has severely restricted independent media and arrested dozens of journalists and demonstrators since nationwide anti-government protests began last September following the death of Mahsa Amini. Source: Getty / (Photo by Ozan KOSE/AFP)

The videos, combined with messages of anger against Iran’s harsh regime and the treatment of women, express solidarity with the five girls.

“Dancing in public, showing off their hair and the way they are dressed…they are actively risking their lives,” wrote one TikTok user.
“Something other women (myself included) from other parts of the world can do without a second thought or fear of retribution. Please keep Iran in your thoughts.”

“Be the voice of the Iranian people so that dancing is no longer a political act of defiance,” wrote another.

Calm Down singers Selena Gomez and Rema also expressed their support on social media, praising the courage of Iranian women.
“Love for these young women and all the women of Iran who continue to be brave, demanding fundamental change,” Gomez wrote on her Instagram.
“Please know that your power is inspiring.”
Demonstrations swept across the country who died while in the custody of the country’s vice police.