The Iranian police arrested eight female fashion models in Tehran for posting pictures on Instagram without hijabs, the head of Tehran’s cybercrimes court said on state television.
The arrests were made under a two-year-old sting operation named “Spider II”, which targets, among others, models who post photos online without covering their hair with a hijab, which has been compulsory for women in public in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
It identified 170 people running online Instagram pages: 59 photographers and makeup artists, 58 models, 51 fashion salon managers and designers, and two active institutions, according to a statement from the special court.
“We found out that about 20 per cent of the (Iranian) Instagram feed is run by the modelling circle,” Javad Babaei said on state television late Sunday.
They have been “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity”, he said.
Babaei said it was the judiciary’s duty to “confront those who committed these crimes in an organised manner.”
His comments followed a live “educational court session” on Sunday in which a former model said she had been earning money through the popular photosharing mobile application Instagram.
The average monthly income for a successful model is 100 million rials ($3,330), the woman, named Elham Arab, told Tehran’s prosecutor.
Instagram is extremely popular in Iran. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and YouTube which remain blocked, Instagram is accessible to Iranians.
In addition to the eight arrests, criminal cases have been opened against 21 other people, he said.
The sting operation has circled in on a database of over 300 popular Iranian Instagram accounts, Babaei said.
The crackdown seems to refer to the eight arrests announced by judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie in early March.
He reported the “arrest of eight models, some of whom were released on bail and some informed (of the law and freed).”
“Some of them had heavy charges like spreading prostitution and promoting corruption,” he said.