What started as a fun, romantic gesture for one Iranian couple has resulted in jail time. According to reports on Thursday, 28-year-old Alireza Japalaghy and an unnamed woman, both parkour athletes, were arrested after a photo of them embracing and kissing on a rooftop became popular on social media.

“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,’” a statement from Iranian police explained.

Japalaghy was the first to be arrested on Monday. The woman in the photo, reported to be his girlfriend, was later arrested on Thursday. Japalaghy is well-known in the parkour community, with over 133,000 followers on Instagram.

Just as the initial photos went viral, the arrests sparked a backlash on social media, with users highlighting the many other crimes and corrupt actions done in Iran that do not warrant such a swift legal response.

“The woman's body is a forbidden territory,” one Twitter user posted. “I just wish someone tells me if those who committed acid attacks [on women] in Isfahan are also arrested.”

These attacks in question occurred several years ago and targeted women wearing looser hijab coverings. No arrests were ever made in the case.   

“Unfortunately, monitoring Instagram lives is impossible,” Col. Ali Mohammed Rajabi, head of the Iran Cyber Police’s cybercrimes prevention desk, said in a May 9 interview.

“This platform does not respect the regulations and sovereignty of our country… 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.”

Parkour, an extreme sport born in France in the 1990s blending acrobatics and gymnastics, has a following in neighbourhoods of west Tehran, where high-rise residential buildings are closely connected Parkour, an extreme sport born in France in the 1990s blending acrobatics and gymnastics, has a following in neighbourhoods of west Tehran, where high-rise residential buildings are closely connected Photo: AFP / ATTA KENARE