Iranian authorities have arrested eight models who post photos of themselves on Instagram and are deleting their accounts, which they say are “un-Islamic.”
Tehran’s cybercrime court announced the news about the arrest over the weekend but didn’t reveal the models’ identities. Investigators also said they identified at least 170 people who were involved in modeling, photography, and fashion on Instagram.
Iranian police has said it has compiled a database of hundreds of popular Iranian Instagram accounts.
The accounts — like other Instagram accounts around the world — have been used to share selfies and photographs of their owners wearing makeup and fashionable clothes. Some of the Iranian women’s accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers
The arrests were part of an operation, known as “Spider-2,” that targeted women using Instagram, especially those who chose to show their hair. Some of the models are believed to have fled the country.
One model, Elham Arab — who has a large following and is known for her blonde hair — has been charged with “promoting Western promiscuity.” On Monday she appeared in front of Iran’s revolutionary court.
She was later forced to give a public apology in court. In her apology, she said: “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.”
Melika Zamani, a model, actor, and fashion designer, has also been targeted by authorities for her online activity.
This is what her Instagram account – which has 360,000 followers – currently looks like:
The arrests are seen as one of the Iranian government’s latest attempts to control online expression in a country that has also routinely detained and imprisoned artists, bloggers, and activists.
In another bizarre move by Iranian authorities, a police agency that monitors culture and social media has accused Kim Kardashian of working for Instagram as part of a ploy to “target young people and women” in the country.