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Eight Women Arrested in Iran for Instagram Photos Considered to Be “un-Islamic”


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Eight women who work for online modeling agencies in Iran have been arrested for the “un-Islamic” photos they had posted to Instagram. Their actions were considered to be contributing to the “threats to morality and the foundation of family” within social media. As well, the Iranian court believes that they were “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity.” Of the over 170 women identified as taking part in this act, 29 were warned by the government to stop what they were doing lest they find themselves subject to criminal investigation.

Court prosecutor Javad Babaei said, “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.” It gets a bit more chilling than that: Mostafa Alizadeh, spokesman for the Iranian Centre for Surveying and Combating Organised Cyber Crimes spoke about their aim with these arrests, saying that “sterilising popular cyberspaces is on [their] agenda.” He touched on their previous plans, saying, “We carried out this plan in 2013 with Facebook, and now Instagram is the focus.” Going forward, Alizadeh promised that there would be more operations like these carried out in the future.

As you may or may not know, women are forbidden from showing their hair in public since Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979. The law states that women’s hair must be covered if they are out in public. In posting photos on social media that feature them without hair coverings, these women were found to be in breach of that law. It seems that the court views social media as an extension of being out in public.

As Alizadeh said, this isn’t the first case of the Iranian government cracking down on what Iranian teens and young adults have posted to social media. Back in 2014, six young men and women found themselves sentenced to six months in prison and 91 lashes for posting a video of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy.” One more young adult in their group received one year in prison and 91 lashes. All of these sentences were classified as “suspended sentences” where they would be considered null and void provided no similar incident occur within a given amount of time. As of today, they are all still serving this sentence, as they were each given a three year suspension period.

According to the New York Times, one of the eight models arrested for Instagram modelling, 26-year-old Elham Arab, was questioned on live television. In the course of question, Arab warned young women away from her life, saying, “You can be certain that no man would want to marry a model whose fame has come by losing her honor.”

Sentences for the women have not been handed down just yet.

(via BBC)

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (, and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters ( She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.