Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) photographer Arya Jafari was arrested by Revolutionary Guards at his home yesterday after selling photos of the acid attack protests in Isfahan to Associated French Press (AFP) on October 22. Agents searched his home and confiscated his personal belongings.
Jafari, 26, who lives in Isfahan, took photos of the demonstration for ISNA and AFP and posted the images on his Facebook page the day before his arrest. The photos quickly spread across social media and news sites.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Isfahan on October 22 to demand the government move to arrest those responsible for a spate of recent acid attacks on women in the city. In recent weeks unidentified assailants riding on motorbikes have attacked at least eight women, one of whom died. Many news outlets are attributing the attacks to the women not following “proper” Islamic dress codes.
According to Jafari’s colleague at the ISNA, who wish to remain anonymous for security reasons, the Supreme National Security Council recently sent the ISNA a letter warning them to not associate the acid attacks with “bad hejab.”
After receiving this letter ISNA changed direction and published an interview with a criminologist named Godratollah Khosroshahi under the heading “Isfahan acid attacks had nothing to do with hejab or chastity,” and concluded that the attacks were the work of Takfiris, a term often applied to Salafists or Wahhabis and extremist Sunnis such as ISIS.
Another news agency, Mehr, removed its pictorial report about Isfahan protests against the acid attacks from its site.
At the same time that news agencies where shifting their coverage at the state’s behest, the hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami, the provisional Friday Prayers Leader for Tehran, told Tasnim news agency the acid attacks looked “suspicious” and that certain news sites were using the attacks as an excuse to challenge the principle of morality policing.
“Sites and newspapers who have accused the Islamic regime and the faithful must be prosecuted,” he added. “Owners and directors of these media must be punished as well and be held accountable for their big lie.”
“The question is this,” he said, “how come now that after a 30-year delay the parliament has put forward the law for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice these crimes take place?”
Other authorities have also sought to disassociate the clampdown on improper dress with the acid attacks, and today, Hossein Zolfaghari, Iran’s deputy head of security forces, announced that only one man is responsible for the acid attacks. According to him, it had nothing to do with “bad hejab."
Hardliners have also suggested that extensive coverage of the protest will lead to security concerns in Isfahan and beyond. Some officials, including Mohammadreza Naghdi, the commander of the Basij, have argued that Iran's enemies were behind the protest, and that "anti-revolutionary" factions within Iran have used this to their advantage.
With additional reporting by Natasha Bowler