Eight Iranian women have been arrested over “promiscuous” photos they posted on Instagram. The photos showed the women fully clothed, but missing a very important piece of attire: a headscarf. All eight of the women’s Instagram and Facebook accounts and any connected business websites have been taken down alongside their arrests.
This may seem extreme to the millions of us who freely post selfie after selfie, but in Iran women, and even tourists visiting the country, have been forced to cover their hair since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, in order to uphold the traditional values of the region. The consequences for disobeying the law can be anything from a fine, to imprisonment, or even lashing. But headscarves have begun to fit more loosely, especially among the younger generations. This move towards “Western promiscuity” is blamed on the Internet and is terrifying to conservatives.
In recent years, Iran has focused major resources on fighting “threats to morality and the foundation of family,” as blatantly stated by prosecutor Javad Babaei. And the Iranian Centre for Surveying and Combating Organised Cyber Crimes has its hands full attempting to “sterilizing popular cyberspaces,” such as Instagram and Facebook.
Since only forty percent of the Iranian public has access to a very censored Internet, photos are mainly posted by modeling agencies. 170 individuals were identified as being involved with online modeling and of them, 29 were warned about their behaviors of not upholding the Iranian dress code. The government released a statement claiming that “persons who reformed their behavior after receiving a notice did not face any judicial action.”
Eight of those culprits apparently disregarded their warnings, including Insta-famous model Elham Arab.
Arab, who is known for her bleach blonde hair and gorgeous wedding gown shoots, was seen on state TV, her flowing locks dyed brown and covered by a black headscarf, making a public apology for her actions. It is clear that Arab’s arrest was intended to be a lesson for the youth of Tehran, Iran’s capital city and the most “Westernized” sector of people. "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...A model will certainly lose her hijab and her honor,” Arab less-than-convincingly relayed at her hearing.
Last month, Tehran put over 7,000 plainclothes police out on the streets to enforce the dress code, which almost exclusively restricts the clothing of women. In addition to actual police patroling the streets and the Internet, citizens are encouraged to report any actions that are deemed “un-Islamic” to the authorities.
Many women have begun to take a stand against the strict codes with Facebook groups like My Stealthy Freedom, where Iranian women are encouraged to post photos of themselves sans hijab. But as proved by the recent arrests, the government is keeping a close eye on its people and is sticking to its metaphorical (and sometimes literal) guns when it comes to the code of modesty.
Images via Flickr (Shahrokh Dabiri)/Instagram
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