Eight models have been arrested by Iranian authorities for posting ‘un-Islamic’ photos of themselves on Instagram.
The arrests are part of an operation that has seen women targeted through the social media platform for posting photos showing them not wearing headscarves.
Tehran’s cybercrime court announced the arrests over the weekend but didn’t reveal the models’ identities, the BBC reports. Investigators also claimed they identified at least 170 models, photographers and those involved in fashion through Instagram.
The arrests were announced during a state television programme broadcast on Sunday that focused on the ‘threats to morality and the foundation of family’ posed by social media, and claimed posts on Instagram from Iran were ‘making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity’.
The accounts — like any other — have been used to share photos and selfies of them wearing makeup and fashionable clothes, with some of them gaining hundreds of thousands of followers. But despite the eight arrests, many Iranian Instagrammers still remain active.
Some of the models, though, are believed to have fled the country, Buzzfeed reports.
The arrests, known as operation ‘Spider-2’, targeted women using Instagram – especially those who showed their hair. Women in Iran have been required to cover their hair in public since 1979.
One of the models, Elham Arab, has been 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.”
Another model, Melika Zamani, who is also an actor and fashion designer, has also been targeted by authorities.
Her Instagram account – which has 360,000 followers – currently looks like this:
It’s not known whether or not Iranian authorities have taken control over her account.
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 who have expressed their views, including bloggers, artists, and activists.
This comes after the Iranian authorities pulled another bizarre move, accusing Kim Kardashian of working for Instagram as part of a ploy to ‘target young people and women’ in the country.