Photos of Vahid, a 30-year-old man from the Tehran neighborhood of Sa'adat Abad, have quickly gained popularity online, particularly on Telegram in Iran. Whether kissing girls in different poses or draping his arms around their waists at parties in luxurious houses, his photos are become a central topic of discussion. In the images, the girls are sporting low-necked dresses with stylish hairdos and lots of make-up. Bottles of whisky and wine feature in the background.
All together, 24 photos of young women and several young men have been published online, quickly becoming the source of many a joke on social media networks in Iran. Most men were keen to know Vahid’s secret in attracting so many girls with many of them sharing the photos.
The speed at which the photos spread was surprising. Certain reports estimate Telegram to have 20 million users in Iran making it a powerful social media network, which explains why it only took a few days for millions of Iranians to see the pictures that Vahid had stored on his phone. According to him, he lost his mobile phone on November 8 and it was just several days later that it all came out.
During that time, many people hazarded at the identity of the young man. One rumor that went around was that he was Arab. However it was not long until the real proprietor revealed his identity by posting a video on Telegram and other social networks.
“My greetings to the people who seem to have no honor,” Vahid says in the video. “I lost my mobile three days ago and complained to the Cyber Police. Pictures of my sister, my sister-in-law and my cousins were stored on it and now they’re being published on virtual networks with comments. I’m seriously pursuing the matter and will find the culprit. I implore you not to share these photos. They are family pictures and now they’re being badly exploited. I will find the culprit with the help of the Cyber Police. The Cyber Police has its eyes wide open.”
Following this, however, the video itself also became popular and was shared numerous times on social media with the photos alongside it. The incident also sparked new jokes online focusing on the conversation between the young man and the Cyber Police. Then, just two days after the video was published, the Cyber Police arrested him.
Since then, yet another video has become popular - an interview with the same young man by the Young Journalists’ Club. In the shot, the camera is located behind him, which means his face is not visible but during the interview, you can repeatedly hear him telling a young woman in a chador that he is remorseful. “I’m really sorry,” he says. “I kept these pictures on my phone for three years. It was a real mistake. I can only say that I’m sorry. I didn’t publish those pictures. And I am sorrier still that I published the video. I’m not rich and I’m not after fame. I’m a humble worker. Even my home is a rental.”
The police have since confirmed that he does in fact rent out his property.
Then, later in an interview with Tasnim news agency, Vahid reiterated the fact that he was not rich. “It’s all lies,” he said. “I’m a worker, a simple one. I swear to god that I have neither a home nor a car, let alone a Maserati. I’m a tenant and my financial situation isn’t good.”
During the same interview, he also revealed how several of the people featured in the published photos had asked him to make a video claiming that they were his relatives as an attempt to stop people from re-publishing them. The video’s final scene shows Vahid covering his face with his hands handcuffed.
On Thursday November 19, Fars news agency reported his arrest. “The name of this young man is Vahid,” Colonel Mohammad Mehdi Kavan, commander of the Tehran Cyber Police branch was quoted as saying. “Through interrogating him, we’ve found out that he’s deceived and exploited individuals [in the pictures]. The relatives of these individuals have come to the police in Tehran. They say that their honor and reputation is ruined and that they demand appropriate legal action against the defendant.”
Colonel Kavan added, “In the video, the accused claimed that his phone was stolen and exploited. But an investigation by the Cyber Police of Greater Tehran showed that the defendant never informed any authority about the stolen phone.”
But Vahid is also facing other charges. According to the commander of the Cyber-Police in Tehran, “About three years ago, he began publishing pictures online and deceiving girls through promises of marriage. But after taking the pictures and exploiting the women, he abandoned them.”
But the saga is still not over. Most recently, the Young Journalists’ Club interviewed two of the girls who appear in the photos. Once again, the camera is located behind them, which means their faces are not visible, although it is evident that they are both wearing black headscarves. Both women accuse Vahid of deceiving them.
“He persisted until he took a picture of me and now my picture has appeared on social media networks,” says one woman. While the other woman says, “I’m in a really bad situation. I’m recognized by everybody in the street, by all my relatives, friends and colleagues. They all say: ‘what were you doing at that party?’”
Samira, another girl who appears in one of the photos, tells Tasnim news agency her own story. “Seven or eight months ago, Rozhin and I went to our bodybuilding trainer’s house to work out - he’s friends with Vahid. They invited us in and we accepted. We sat in the room and they served us refreshments. But suddenly one of them called my name when I wasn’t paying attention at the time and as soon as I turned my head, he took a selfie of us. I objected and he promised to erase it.”
According to Shargh newspaper, Vahid works for a real estate company during the day. “This young man has used agency keys to customer properties in order to use the homes and exploit and deceive women.”
Despite the seriousness of the charges facing Vahid, jokes about him and the Cyber-Police continue to circulate online. And what’s more, it seems that in the past few hours, a new young man has begun receiving much the same attention for photos of him also embracing and fondling young women.