The Iranian regime arrested eight people working in online modelling for posts on Instagram regarded as “un-Islamic” by the state.
Iran has imposed strict modesty laws since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and seeks to impose these online. The female models posed without wearing a hijab.
The prosecutor of the cybercrimes court Javad Babaei is leading an investigation against “threats to morality and the foundation of family” posed by social media. He said modelling agencies account for 20 percent of Instagram posts from Iran and are “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity.”
“Sterilising popular cyberspaces is on our agenda,” spokesman of the Iranian Centre for Surveying and Combating Organised Cyber Crimes Mostafa Alizadeh said. "We carried out this plan in 2013 with Facebook, and now Instagram is the focus.”
In the operation, called Spider 2, 170 people were identified as involved in online modelling, including 59 photographers and make-up artists, 58 models and 51 fashion salon managers and designers.
Of these, 29 were warned of the criminal investigation.
“The persons who reformed their behaviour after receiving a notice did not face any judicial action, and eight out of the 29 have been arrested,” Babaei said.
Elham Arab, one of those arrested, was forced to publicly criticize her actions.
"I think all humans are interested in admiring beauty and becoming famous,” she told a public court hearing. "But they must first consider at what cost and what they will lose in return. For an Iranian film star they may not lose much but for a model she will certainly lose her hijab and honour."
The crackdown reportedly began in January, when seven of Iran's top models were arrested.
The Telegraph named those arrested as Melikaa Zamani, Niloofar Behboudi, Donya Moghadam, Dana Nik, Shabnam Molavi, Elnaz Golrokh and Hamid Fadaei.
Hamid Fadaei and Elnaz Golrokh are married and reportedly fled the country.
Babaei warned that further operations were forthcoming.
For more information about modesty codes under the Iranian regime, see Clarion’s Special Report: Human Rights in Iran.