Iran Arrests Eight In Crackdown On Hijab-Free Instagram Pics

A sting operation was launched to suss out dress code offenders in modeling networks

An Iranian woman walks past mannequins locked to a gas pipe in Tehran. — AFP/Getty Images
May 16, 2016 at 10:49 AM ET

Iranian authorities arrested at least eight people in a clamp down on Instagram modeling networks. The head of Tehran’s cybercrimes court said they promote “immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity.”

If you live in Iran, your social media options may already be limited: Facebook and Twitter are officially blocked (although many find ways to use the sites anyway). Instagram, though, is allowed, and has been used by everyone from female fashion entrepreneurs to rich kids.

But users must adhere to Iran’s laws, and one of those laws is that women are required to wear headscarves—apparently even in online pictures.

It took a two-year-long sting operation, called Spider II, to find the people Iran says are responsible for posting photos of models without headscarves, the AFP reported on Monday, citing a state television broadcast. A total of 170 people were identified as being part of the hijab-free crime ring, including models, photographers, and makeup artists, the Associated Press reported.

More Americans Only Hate Two Countries More Than Iran

It’s certainly not unheard of for Iranian women to pose without their heads covered in social media posts. The Rich Kids of Tehran Instagram account, for example, boasts plenty of pictures showing women without their heads covered. And a Facebook page called My Stealthy Freedom, which describes itself as an online social movement, is dedicated specifically to photos of women without hijabs.

After reports emerged about the arrests, My Stealthy Freedom said in a Facebook post on Monday that a crackdown on social freedoms is continuing in Iran despite a historic nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers. “It’s actually like a cultural war, a daily war between these women and the government,” read the post. “The war is about lifestyle … The lifestyle they have… and the lifestyle the government wants them to follow.”

It’s also not unusual for women who break the dress code to get in trouble for it. Just two weeks ago, the Tehran Bureau said 7,000 undercover agents have reportedly been put assigned to crack down on Iranians who don’t follow the country’s clothing policies.