A famous Iranian model was arrested and forced to apologize publicly for posting pictures of herself without a headscarf. Elham Arab posted pictures of herself from a photo shoot wearing a white wedding dress and was subsequently arrested by Tehran police, charged with “promotion of western promiscuity.”
Elham Arab was one of eight people arrested by Tehran police on grounds of participating in un-Islamic acts. For the women, this meant simply uploading photos on social media without their heads covered. This was part of an ongoing sting operation, code-named “Spider II.” The sting operation is aimed at models and other members of the fashion industry who have advertised themselves or appeared on Instagram or other social media sites in un-Islamic ways. It has been compulsory for women in Iran to cover their heads in public ever since the Islamic revolution in 1979.
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
The television report that broke the news of Elham’s arrest included footage of her and Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi in a conference room. Her trademark blonde hair was covered with a black chador, and she seemed very despondent. In a speech that appeared curiously orchestrated, she said that she regretted entering the fashion business, calling it “a mistake.”
“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. 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.”
Below is a video of Elham Arab apologizing.
The report did not reveal the names of other seven people that were arrested along with Elham and failed to elaborate on the extent of punishment that Elham herself would receive. The Telegraph has, however, reported that the other seven models that were arrested are Melika Zamani, Niloofar Behboudi, Donya Moghadam, Dana Nik, Shabnam Molavi, Elnaz Golrokh, and Hamid Fadaei. It has been speculated that the Tehran police have identified some 170 culprits as part of the ongoing operation based on their social media activity. These include 58 models, 59 photographers, and 53 makeup artists.
This latest crackdown on members of the fashion industry is part of a broader series of prosecution of artists, poets, journalists, and activists in Iran on grounds of maintaining Islamic values. President Hassan Rouhani, considered by many to be somewhat tolerant compared to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been trying to reassert his revolutionary credentials ever since he made the nuclear deal with the United States.
Tehran police chief General Hossein Sajedinia announced in April that his department had installed a total of 7,000 male and female officers as part of a new plainclothes division to enforce the government-mandated Islamic dress code in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Now they have expanded their campaign onto social media.
“The purpose of Operation Spider 2, which was launched two years ago, is to monitor the use of social media by the Western imperialist powers to change the Iranian-Islamic life-style of our nation.”
This isn’t the first time that online expression has been punished in Iran. Although 40 percent of Iranians have access to the internet, web access is limited due to heavy filtering and censorship. This definitely isn’t the first time that women have been threatened for not wearing their headscarves. Many have had their drivers licences annulled in the past simply for driving with their heads uncovered. Interestingly, before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranians practiced a more western style of living, with a level of freedom and equality that was much different than the conservative cultural practices of Iran today.
[Photo by Nicola Messana/Shutterstock]