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Iranian Folk Dancer Forbidden from Leaving Iran - 2002-07-08


An Iranian court has banned U.S.-based Iranian folkloric dancer Mohammad Khordadian from leaving Iran, after accusing him of moral corruption. At the same time, the courts are also continuing a crackdown on reformist media.

Mr. Khordadian had returned to Iran several months ago on his first visit home since the Islamic Revolution toppled Shah Reza Pahlevi 23 years ago. He was arrested in May, when he tried to board a flight home to Los Angeles, where he runs a dance troupe and school.

The popular folkloric performer has been accused of moral corruption and given a 10-year suspended sentence. He has already served two months in jail. The court also banned the dancer from leaving Iran for 10 years. The government-run newspaper Iran reports he also has been banned from performing or attending public celebrations or weddings of anyone outside his own family.

During his trial, Mr. Khordadian defended his career, insisting that dancing does not incite youngsters to moral corruption. He also told the court he had not realized that teaching dance outside of Iran would be considered offensive.

Videos of Mr. Khordadian's performances, which are available on the black market in Iran, show men and women dancing together. Islamic law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, forbids men and women from dancing together.

Mr. Khordadian has 20 days to appeal the sentence. The verdict comes at a time when social restrictions have eased somewhat under the reformist administration of President Mohammad Khatami. But conservative factions in the judiciary try to keep a tight rein on freedom of expression.

In another court case, reformist journalist Hashem Ahgajari also has been banned from leaving the country. The journalist angered religious officials last month when he called for a renewal of Shiite Islam, the predominant Muslim sect in Iran.

And the Interior Ministry now has banned any rallies to mark the anniversary this week of a police raid on Tehran University. The clashes between police and students erupted in 1999, during protests over the government shutdown of a pro-reform newspaper.