On Monday, November 14, Esmail Sadeghi Nyarki, the Revolutionary Prosecutor of the provincial capital of Qazvin, reported that authorities had shut down seven modeling establishments and arrested dozens of people involved with them.
Sadeghi told the Iranian judiciary’s news agency, Mizan, that the photography studios had been shut down until further notice for “endangering moral security and public order.” The move was based on Article 114 of Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure.
“In addition to studios,” he reported, “itinerant photographers who lured girls in Qazvin for modeling and posted pictures of a large number of them on their social web pages, and especially on Instagram, have been identified and arrested.”
He said that he had personally ordered an extensive intelligence and surveillance operation, especially on Instagram. Hard disks seized from detainees, he said, had been viewed and analyzed.
“This way, we were able to identify a number of individuals who were active in luring and disseminating modeling pictures,” Sadeghi said. “We have gathered the necessary evidence and identified girls…who published their pictures on social networks.”
He added that taking action against modeling establishments had been on the agenda for some time and that he had received cooperation from the Public Intelligence and Security Police, the Moral Security Police, the Cyber Police, and the Public Places police.
“All those active in this area, whether they were photographers, stylists, or models, were arrested after evidence was gathered,” he said. “The investigation into their charges for engaging in the commercial business of publishing vulgar content is now taking place.”
In late January, security forces arrested seven models. All had been active on social networks, including Instagram. Several of them had posted photographs of themselves not wearing the compulsory Islamic hijab.
Then, in March, the Center for Organized Crime in Cyberspace launched Operation Spider 2, and blocked the Instagram pages of models, including some of those arrested in January. Authorities stated that they had opened "security cases" against some of the models, and arrested other people for “promoting a culture of promiscuity, weakening and rejecting the institution of family, ridiculing religious values and beliefs, promoting relationships outside moral rules, and publishing the private pictures of young women” in response to hundreds of Facebook posts.
Sadeghi said that, in addition to those arrested this week, a large number of individuals had been summoned for interrogation. Authorities, he said, had seized computers, cameras, laptops, flash memory storage devices, lighting equipment, and other related equipment.
“We will take action against any illegal advertisement on social networks,” he said, adding that the question of the Islamic hijab is now more important than ever in the Islamic Republic’s efforts to fend off the danger of “cultural infiltration.”
He said that the actions authorities took were meant to safeguard what he described as the sanctity and the foundations of Iranian families. “Under the name of modeling, they do things that are not common even in the West,” he said. “[There are] some women’s salons where men are the stylists.”
Sadeghi said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s views on the “soft war” being waged by the West were prescient. “Soft war does not target only lower [class] families,” he warned. “Even higher echelons are targeted.”