To most people, posting a photo to Instagram hardly even requires thought – but for the men and women of Iran, it comes with a heavy price.
Twelve people have been sentenced to prison terms of up to six years for posting their photos to the social platform as part of the Iranian government’s ‘Spider II’ program, which hunts down citizens seen as doing ‘un-Islamic acts’ online, France 24 reports.
So far at least 170 makeup artists, models, and other creative professionals have been arrested through the operation launched in March, according to the Associated Press.
Eight women and four men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five months to six years on Monday.
While their identities are unknown, their lawyer, Mahmoud Taravat, told Iranian news agency ILNA News that they cannot travel outside the country for another two years once their prison terms are served.
In May, model Elham Arab was charged with ‘promoting western promiscuity’. She appeared in front of Iran’s revolutionary court on Monday and was later forced to give a public apology.
She said in court:
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.
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
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.
The mandatory head scarf covering has gradually been worn more loosely in recent years, provoking Iran officials to carry out undercover morality operations to take action against this conduct. And women are mindful of the outcomes.
The arrests are seen as on of the latest attempts by the Iranian government to control personal and online expression. In the past, they have routinely detained and imprisoned those – including bloggers, artists and activists – who have expressed their views.