Human Rights

Iran Arrests Dozens for “Damaging Public Virtue” on Instagram

At least 44 Iranians have been arrested in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas for “damaging public virtue” by publicizing their businesses on Instagram, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

Citing an account in Iran’s official IRNA news agency, the AP reported that eight women and 36 others in photography, beauty, and wedding businesses were arrested for posting what were considered indecent images and videos on Instagram.

According to the police, those arrested were “damaging public virtue through the organized spreading of anti-cultural” activities.

Iranian authorities regularly crack down on “un-Islamic” behavior, especially by models and others who work in the fashion industry.

In August of last year, six Zumba instructors were arrested after the regime had outlawed the popular Brazilian exercise dance in June.

In December 2016, Iran jailed 12 people working in the fashion industry for “spreading prostitution” by publishing images that authorities deemed to be obscene.

In May 2016, authorities arrested eight models who posted pictures of themselves on Instagram without head coverings. In July, police prevented a fashion show at the opening of a Levi’s store at a Tehran mall.

The crackdown has extended to people who work in other sectors. Over 30 Iranian students were given lashes also in May 2016 for dancing at a co-ed graduation party in the city of Qazvin. And a Tehran soccer player was arrested in June 2016 and suspended from playing soccer for six months for wearing SpongeBob SquarePants-themed pants. In October 2015, two Iranian poets were sentenced to jail and 99 lashes each for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex, and reports surfaced the following month that Iranian actress Sadaf Taherian was forced to flee the country after she posted pictures of herself with her hair uncovered on social media.

Despite promises to liberalize society when he ran for president in 2013, there has been no increase in freedoms under Hassan Rouhani. The New York Times reported in November 2015 that Iranians hoping that the nuclear deal would lead to a rapprochement with the West had been “jolted with a series of increasingly rude awakenings,” including increased anti-American activity and a further erosion of rights. The report was prompted by the arrests of several prominent Iranian journalists and businessmen with ties to the United States.

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