As many as eight people have been arrested in Iran in a crackdown on women posing for fashion photos online without a headscarf, Iranian media reported.
According to Iranian local news site Khabar Online, the series of arrests included seven female models allegedly involved in posting on the photo-sharing platform Instagram.
The state media’s 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, Al-Jazeera reported.
“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.”
The report did not say what charges Arab faced, nor did it identify the other seven people arrested. It said police identified about 170 people in the operation through social media activity as being involved in modeling, including 58 models, 59 photographers, and a number of make-up artists.
According to BBC, the arrested eight unnamed people were among 170 identified by investigators as being involved in modeling online.
The list includes 59 photographers and make-up artists, 58 models, and 51 fashion salon managers and designers, according to a statement from the court.
It said those targeted saw their businesses shut down and their pages on Instagram and Facebook removed.
“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.”
Al-Jazeera reported that the arrests were part of an undercover operation labeled as Spider II, which targets photos of women without the head covering that has been mandatory in Iran for more than three decades.
It is reported that the president has a soft spot for these strict rules involving head mandatory head covering for women, but the police and judiciary authorities are not quite as liberal as the nation head.
The arraignment comes in the aftermath of the changing trends on the use of hijab by women. Al-jazeera also reported that women had started to take the mandatory hijab lightly, and it was common for them to wear it loose on the head.
The Spider-II is an ambitious operation by Iranian police department. Tehran police chief General Hossein Sajedinia in April announced that his department had deployed 7,000 male and female officers for a new plain clothes division — the largest such undercover assignment in memory — to enforce the government-mandated Islamic dress code.
The conviction of the eight people was announced by Javad Babaei during a state television program broadcast late on Sunday. In a long speech, he focused on the “threats to morality and the foundation of family” that social media has brought to the country.
Mr Babaei accused modeling agencies of “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity” after claiming that modelling agencies accounted for about 20 percent of posts on Instagram from Iran.
The prosecutor went on to add that, out of 170 people on the radar of police department, 29 had already been warned that they were likely to face criminal investigation.
“The persons who reformed their behaviour after receiving a notice did not face any judicial action, and eight out of the 29 have been arrested,” he said.
Mostafa Alizadeh, a spokesman of the Iranian Centre for Surveying and Combating Organised Cyber Crime said that sterilizing popular cyberspaces is one of his main agenda.
“We carried out this plan in 2013 with Facebook, and now Instagram is the focus,” he added, saying fresh operations would begin in the coming days.
Instagram is yet to make any comment on this case. The giant photo sharing site is owned by Facebook.
[Photo Jordan Pix/Getty images]