Iranian authorities have made a spate of arrests in an attempt to crack down on what they term the “immoral” use of Instagram.
The sting saw the police identify 170 users of the photo-sharing app, mainly comprised of models and other individuals involved in the fashion industry. In particular, law enforcement sought to target women who shared photos in which they were pictured without a headscarf, the BBC reported.
A prosecutor for Tehran’s cybercrimes court took to national television to announce the arrests of eight individuals on Sunday. In the televised address, the Instagram users were described as “posing threats to morality and the foundation of family.”
Having issued warnings of possible judicial action to 29 out of the 170 people targeted in the investigation, the list was whittled down to eight.
“The persons who reformed their behavior after receiving a notice did not face any judicial action, and eight out of the 29 have been arrested,” said the court’s prosecutor, Javad Babaei. He added that the Instagram modeling accounts being targeted were responsible for “spreading…un-Islamic culture and promiscuity”.
Among the women arrested was Elham Arab. One of the country’s leading models, known for adorning wedding dresses in her popular Instagram photos, Arab was questioned on camera during a hearing at the Iranian Revolutionary Court. In a clip circulated on social media, she can be seen in a traditional Iranian outfit with her head fully covered. Arab reportedly expressed to the court her regret for entering the fashion industry, claiming that it caused her to lose her “honor.”
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
The remaining models arrested as part of the sting have been identified as Melikaa Zamani, Niloofar Behboudi, Donya Moghadam, Dana Nik, Shabnam Molavi, Elnaz Golrokh and Hamid Fadaei, according to the BBC.
The undercover operation that led to the crackdown was dubbed “Spider II” and is described as part of the Iranian state’s continuing efforts to police social media. A similar initiative was carried out by the authorities in 2013 in an attempt to target users of Instagram’s parent company, Facebook.