In an embarrassing episode for a country already blasted for its poor human rights record, Iran has begun arresting Instagram models who dare to pose for pictures without their headscarves. Authorities have begun railing against so-called “un-Islamic acts” and have arrested at least eight models, forcing them to beg for the public’s forgiveness.
The crackdown, codenamed Spider-2, centered on finding Instagram users who are “promoting Western promiscuity” by posting revealing pictures. Women are required by Iranian law to wear a hijab in public, a requirement which was determined to extend to women’s online presence.
Cyber-crimes prosecutor Javad Babaei announced on state television Sunday that a total of 170 people – including photographers, make-up artists, and designers – have been targeted by the sting. They will likely be found guilty of “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity.”
Many high profile Iranians within the modeling industry have had their businesses shuttered and their Instagram accounts deleted. Elham Arab, who rose to fame by modeling wedding dresses, had her account removed from the Internet before being hauled in front of the Iranian Revolutionary Court, where she was compelled to offer public “self-criticism.”
“All people love beauty and fame,” Arab said in her defense. “They would like to be seen, but it is important to know what price they will pay to be seen.”
The move marks the latest attempt by President Hassan Rouhani’s administration to control the flow of information on the internet. The previous Spider operation saw officials take down any sites deemed as “pornography and insulting Islamic sanctity.” Only 40 percent of Iranians have access to the Internet, and even then, users face heavy government censorship and monitoring.