Iranian couple practicing parkour arrested for romantic rooftop photos

The photos went viral on social media last week.

May 22, 2020, 5:43 PM

Iran police confirmed it has arrested two parkour athletes, Alireza Japalaghy and a woman whose name has not been released, after their romantic photos of a rooftop kiss and hugs went viral on social media last week.

"Images of a young boy and girl who exhibited improper and unreligious behavior were published on social media. These people were arrested by the police with the judiciary officials' command, because what they did was a sample of 'advocating vice,'" read the police statement, reported on Thursday by Tasnim News Agency.

Alireza Japalaghy, known among parkour athletes for his acrobatic stunts, was arrested first, on Monday. The stuntwoman with him on videos, reportedly his girlfriend, was detained Thursday.

Their custody provoked reactions on social media. People raised questions about how police can be so swift in seizing those who kiss, compared with those who commit crimes such as financial corruption, when the country suffers from international sanctions.

"The girl with the Parkour athlete is arrested ... I wish there was some intention to fight economic corruption, too," Daryoush, a Twitter user, posted.

The issue of women's bodies in the Islamic Republic's regulations was also among other topics raised in the reactions.

"The woman's body is a forbidden territory. I just wish someone tells me if those who committed acid attacks [on women] in Isfahan are also arrested," another Twitter user asked, referring to a series of acid attacks on women with loose hijabs, which happened a few years ago in Isfahan. No one was ever arrested for those attacks.

PHOTO: A general view shows Tehran's northern neighborhood on March 12, 2008.
A general view shows Tehran's northern neighborhood on March 12, 2008.
Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

It is not the first time that social media celebrities have been arrested for crossing the red lines of the Islamic Republic. Last October, the Iranian influencer Fatemeh Khishvand, known as Sahar Tabar, was arrested and sentenced to imprisonment for posting her photos with unusual makeup and poses on Instagram.

"There is no difference between crimes in the real world and those on cyberspace," said Social Deputy of Iran Cyber Police Col. Ramin Pashaei, Borna News reported on May 13. That was a day after Japalaghy's rooftop photos were posted on a Twitter account with his name and the caption saying "Tehran Dawn." The photos were also posted on Instagram.

The police statement on Japalaghy and the woman emphasizes their arrest "is not related to their sport activities." However, many believe it is another move by the system to control the already restricted Internet access in Iran, where many social media websites and applications, including Facebook and Twitter, are filtered; blocking Instagram may be in the works too.

"Unfortunately, monitoring Instagram lives is impossible... This platform does not respect the regulations and sovereignty of our country," said Col. Ali Mohammad Rajabi, head of the cybercrimes prevention desk of the Iran Cyber Police, to Iranian Students' News Agency on May 9.

"This platform is a long-term project. We have to follow the Supreme Leader's commands to be able to step properly on this path," he added.