Instagram models accused of ‘un-Islamic acts’ are being imprisoned in Iran
Iranian make-up artist Elnaz Golrokh was arrested in January for her Instagram photos. The identities of people arrested on Monday are not yet known. Image: Elnaz golrokh via instagram.
Twelve people have been sentenced to prison terms of up to six years for posting their photos to the social platform, France 24 reports. Their convictions are part of the Iranian government’s “Spider II” program, which hunts down Iranians seen as doing “un-Islamic acts” online.
So far at least 170 people, from make up artists to models, have been arrested through the operation that launched in March, according to the Associated Press. State-run television has said the new crackdown especially targets Instagram users.
Eight women and four men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five months to six years on Monday, according to France 24. They were convicted in the court of Shiraz, in southwest Iran, and their identities are not publicly known.
After they serve their prison terms, they can’t travel outside the country for another two years, their lawyer, Mahmoud Taravat, told Iranian news agency ILNA News. They will eventually be able to work in fashion and modeling again, he added.
For months, Iran’s Spider II program has been arresting and imprisoning people for what authorities consider immoral online activities.
In November, the government shut down seven modeling agencies found online for “endangering moral security and public order,” and arrested dozens of people, according to Iranian prosecutor Esmail Sadeghi Nyarki.
“All those active in this area, whether they were photographers, stylists, or models, were arrested after evidence was gathered,” Nyarki told Mizan, a state news agency. He said they were being investigated for “engaging in the commercial business of publishing vulgar content.”
Back in May, another eight people were arrested for posting photos online. “We found out that about 20 percent of the (Iranian) Instagram feed is run by the modeling circle,” prosecutor Javad Babaei said on state television at the time, adding that these Instagram users are “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity.”
One of those people was popular Iranian model Elham Arab, who was questioned in court and forced to publicly apologize, her previously long flowing blonde locks dyed back to brown and covered by a hijab, The Telegraph reports.
Iranian Model, Elham Arab, answering to Tehran attorney for posting her pictures without scarf on Instagram pic.twitter.com/y1CSM4FrYQ
— potkin azarmehr (@potkazar) May 16, 2016
“I think all humans are interested in admiring beauty and becoming famous,” she said in court. “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 honor.” These days, the model no longer posts pictures on Instagram without her hijab.
Even back in January, Instagram models were facing arrest, such as the glamorous Iranian celebrity couple Elnaz Golrokh and Hamid Fadaei, who both eventually decided to flee to Dubai.
Instagram is actually pretty popular in Iran since Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all remain blocked. And public opinion there doesn’t necessarily reflect the government’s position on hijab wearing and other rigid moral codes.
Some have actively resisted the enforcement of head covering and an online campaign called My Stealthy Freedom shares photos of women in Iran proudly not wearing the headscarf.