Iran cracks down on models posing without headscarves online

Iranian police have arrested eight people in a new crackdown targeting "un-Islamic acts" online such as female models posting images of themselves without their hair covered, state media reported Monday, part of a larger cultural struggle in the Islamic Republic over the country's future.

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian police have arrested eight people in a new crackdown targeting “un-Islamic acts” online such as female models posting images of themselves without their hair covered, state media reported Monday, part of a larger cultural struggle in the Islamic Republic over the country’s future.

The arrests follow the detentions of artists, poets, journalists and activists as moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s administration secured a landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

The arrests and harsh sentences handed down signal that hard-liners in the police and judiciary, who were unable to stop the accord and fear looser social norms will weaken the Islamic Republic, still hold significant power in the country.

State television said this latest operation, called Spider II, particularly targeted users of the Instagram picture-sharing application. Instagram, owned by Facebook, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The television report included footage of model Elham Arab, known for her portraits in wedding dresses, speaking before Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi in a conference room, her blonde hair hidden under a black chador.

“All people love beauty and fame,” Arab said. “They would like to be seen, but it is important to know what price they will pay to be seen.”

Arab could not be immediately reached for comment. It wasn’t immediately known if she had a lawyer.

The TV report did not say what charges she faced, nor did it identify the other seven people arrested. It said police identified some 170 people in the operation through social media activity as being involved in modeling, including 58 models, 59 photographers and makeup artists.

It said those targeted saw their businesses shut down, as well as their pages on Instagram and Facebook removed. Arab’s Instagram account could not be accessed Monday.

“We must fight with enemy’s actions in this area,” Dowlatabadi was quoted by the state-owned IRAN newspaper as saying. “Of course our actions in this area will continue.”

The previous Spider operation targeted “pornography and insulting Islamic sanctity,” officials have said.

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. 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.

The model crackdown is just the latest move by authorities to control online expression in Iran. Nearly 40 per cent of Iran’s 80 million people can access the Internet, though the U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House describes web access as “not free” in the Islamic Republic due to censorship and filtering.

In May 2014, authorities arrested a group of young Iranian men and women for an online video of them dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” While the arrests drew widespread criticism, including from the musician himself, those involved each received suspended sentences of six months’ imprisonment and 91 lashes.

Meanwhile, journalists, filmmakers, writers and activists also have been detained, sentenced or imprisoned.

On Monday, Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency reported authorities arrested Mahdi Boutorabi, the manager of an Iranian blogging service called persianblog.ir. The ISNA report did not elaborate on the case of Boutorabi, who previously was arrested following Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whistle Stop Cafe east of Mirror is open for sit-down dining in defiance of health restrictions that owner Christopher Scott says are unfair to restaurants and other small businesses.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Whistle Stop Cafe owner’s legal battle continues

Government stopped closure order legal action but Public Health Act breach still a live issue

Parts of Three Mile Bend will be closed next week as crews work in the area. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
Three Mile Bend walking path closed temporarily

Parts of the Three Mile Bend walking trail will be closed next… Continue reading

RCMP seized a substantial amount of stolen property last week. (Photo courtesy of Innisfail RCMP)
RCMP charge six suspects after ‘substantial’ amount of stolen property seized

Innisfail RCMP recovered a large amount of stolen property after arresting six… Continue reading

Pharmacist Aamir Hussain, owner of Shoppers Drug Mart in Clearview Market Square, said he expects vaccine to be available to eligible seniors next week at his store. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Red Deer pharmacies prepare to be part of COVID-19 immunization plan

Seniors have already been calling to book appointments

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Butter and sourdough bread is shown at a house in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, February 24, 2021. A Quebec dairy farmers' group is calling on milk producers to stop feeding palm oil or its derivatives to livestock as controversy churns over how these supplements affect the consistency of butter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Johnston
Dairy farmers lobby asks members to stop using palm oil in feed after ‘buttergate’

A dairy producers’ lobbying group is asking farmers to consider alternatives to… Continue reading

A new report says Canada’s small businesses now collectively owe more than $135 billion as they struggle to survive the pandemic, a staggering amount experts say could hurt the country’s economic recovery. (Photo by The Canadian Press)
Canadian small businesses rack up $135 billion in debt to survive pandemic: Report

TORONTO — Canada’s small businesses have collectively taken on $135 billion in… Continue reading

A Loblaws store is seen in Montreal on March 9, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Loblaw ready to call on pharmacists, supply chain to help COVID-19 vaccine rollout

BRAMPTON, Ont. — Loblaw Companies Ltd. says its ready to play a… Continue reading

Imperial Oil logo as seen at the company's annual meeting in Calgary, Friday, April 29, 2016.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Imperial Oil reports one-billion-barrel drop in bitumen reserves at end of 2020

CALGARY — Imperial Oil Ltd. is cutting one billion barrels from its… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during a news conference about training for judges Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Justice Minister David Lametti proposes permanent justice reforms in wake of pandemic

OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic appears set to force a modernization of… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti during a news conference in Ottawa, Thursday Nov. 26, 2020. Lametti says he will seek parliamentary approval to remove a Quebec judge from the bench after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the judge’s appeal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Justice minister to seek judge’s removal after Supreme Court declines to hear appeal

OTTAWA — Justice Minister David Lametti says he will seek parliamentary approval… Continue reading

Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Military reeling as new defence chief steps aside amid allegations of misconduct

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces is reeling after news defence chief… Continue reading

William Sandeson arrives at provincial court in Halifax on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. Canada’s top court has declined to hear a Crown appeal of an overturned murder conviction in the case of a former Nova Scotia medical student. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Supreme Court declines to hear Crown appeal of overturned N.S. murder conviction

Canada’s top court has declined to hear an appeal from the Crown… Continue reading

Most Read