Iran has arrested eight people in a crackdown against women who “promote immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity,” by appearing on Instagram without wearing the mandatory hijab head covering.
The Associated Press reports the arrests came after a two-year sting operation, which identified 170 participants in this conspiracy to defy Islamic law, including 58 models and 59 photographers. In addition to the eight arrests, 21 criminal cases have been opened. Iranian media said “those targeted saw their businesses shut down, as well as their pages on Instagram and Facebook removed.”
According to Channel NewsAsia, the eight people arrested were all models, and the arrests actually occurred in March, but the Iranian government is just now publicizing the crackdown. Some of them have been released on bail, while others face “heavy charges” such as “spreading prostitution.” Based on this account, some of the models are avoiding punishment by essentially claiming they were tricked into participation.
One of the prominent women caught in this dragnet was model Elham Arab, who was shown talking to a prosecutor on Iranian television, with “her blonde hair hidden under a black chador.” Her Instagram account has evidently been shut down, she could not be reached for comment, and the AP wasn’t certain what charges she faced, or if she had been given access to a lawyer.
Channel NewsAsia quotes Javad Babaei, head of Iran’s cybercrimes court, claiming that about 20 percent of Iran’s Instagram traffic is “run by the modeling circle.”
Babaei accused this organization of “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity,” and vowed the judiciary would “confront those who committed these crimes in an organized manner.”
“In recent years, Iranian women – especially in the capital, Tehran – have worn the mandatory scarf loosely on their head, drawing the ire of conservatives in the Islamic Republic,” the Associated Press writes. “Tehran police chief Gen. Hossein Sajedinia in April announced his department had deployed 7,000 male and female officers for a new plainclothes division – the largest such undercover assignment in memory – to enforce the government-mandated Islamic dress code.”