NEWS

Iranian Models Arrested For Posting Instagram Pictures Without Headscarves

17/05/2016 11:05 | Updated 17 May 2016

A top Iranian model has been charged with “promoting western promiscuity” after posting pictures of herself on Instagram without a headscarf.

Elham Arab, who achieved fame for her blonde hair and bridal shoots, appeared before a Tehran prosecutor with her platinum tresses dyed brown, wearing a black chador.

An apparently penitent Arab was shown on state television saying: “All people love beauty and fame. They would like to be seen, but it is important to know what price they will pay to be seen.”

Instagram
Elham Arab was known for her blonde hair and bridal shoots 

In comments reported by the Telegraph, Arab said that she regretted her “mistake” in entering the fashion business and added: “For an Iranian film star they may not lose much but for a model she will certainly lose her hijab and honour.”

Wearing the hijab has been compulsory since the 1979 Revolution and the lack of it is punishable by fines, imprisonment or lashes.

Arab is reportedly one of eight models targeted by operation Spider II, a new crackdown on “un-Islamic acts” online, the Associated Press reports.

Instagram, owned by Facebook, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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 and is part of a larger cultural struggle in the Islamic Republic over the country's future.

Arab, who was speaking before Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi, could not be immediately reached for comment. It wasn't immediately known if she had a lawyer.

Instagram
Arab's Instagram account could not be accessed on Monday 
Instagram
Arab's arrest was part of operation Spider II which is targeting 'un-Islamic acts'

The TV report did not 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 on 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."

Majid Saeedi via Getty Images
Wearing the hijab has been compulsory since the 1979 Revolution

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 percent 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.

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