Amir Maghsoudloo, known as Amir Tataloo, a pop singer, has a wide following on social media with young Iranians. His official Instagram page published several posts, in recent days, in which Tataloo was seen to be attempting to "groom" underage girls by inviting them to join his personal “harem.” It was not the first time his page shared such messages – but on this occasion his Instagram account was shut down. A group of journalists, lawyers and human rights activists published reports of Tataloo’s alleged online harassment in mainstream and social media. The media campaign against Tataloo continues even as he has made statements on other online channels. The messages were also reported to the British police — Tataloo is planning to migrate to the United Kingdom.
Tataloo deleted his Instagram stories inviting children to have sex a few hours after they were published. But before that, screenshots of the posts were taken and sent to women's rights organizations, journalists, and Iranian and Turkish lawyers. A spokesperson for Facebook, Instagram's parent company, told reporters: "The safety of members is our top priority, and we do not tolerate content that abuses or endangers children. We have blocked Amir Tataloo's account for violating our policies, and he will no longer be allowed to appear on Instagram."
Tataloo's Instagram page was shut down as a result of the social media campaign and after direct requests to Facebook by Mahsa Alimardani of ARTICLE 19, an international freedom of expression and digital rights organization with offices in London. Nima Fatemi, the founder of Kandoo Organization, a non-profit that provides digital security and privacy rights support to vulnerable communities, was in touch with other cybersecurity experts, who also urged Facebook to take action and provided evidence that Tataloo had threatened an activist who called for action to be taken against Tataloo.
"So far, more than 20 Instagram accounts have been blocked, and we will continue our efforts until we uproot this corruption and take it off all platforms of this network," said Nima Fatemi, referring to the closure of Tataloo's Instagram page. "Until this network stops destroying society by spreading the culture of child rape, we will continue our work. In the case of Amir Tataloo and others like him, we are facing a catastrophe that is the normalization of child rape and misogyny in society. Taking the platform away from such people and such networks is definitely the first step."
Fatemi believes that the duty of all citizens is to prevent the spread of this illness, the “culture of child rape,” to prevent harm to children. "We must give sociologists and child and women's rights activists a chance to raise awareness and educate the public and help improve the society's health," Fatemi said. “Fortunately, there are strict rules against the spread of child abuse, and social networks are taking it seriously."
Fatemi, along with others active in the campaign against Tataloo specifically and child rape more generally, emphasizes the importance of addressing the issue in its totality. "The issue is beyond a specific person. [Tataloo] may be only the tip of the iceberg that results from not being adequately educated in Iran's closed society, at the cost of destroying the lives and souls of the most vulnerable people."
Taking the Matter to the British Courts
Azadeh Akbari, a human rights activist — whose husband is popular singer and rapper Soroush Lashkari, known as Hichkas — was one of the first to protest against Tataloo's Instagram posts, and also played a key role in ensuring there was follow-up on the matter. Akbari reacted to Tataloo's stories on Instagram and Twitter, describing Tataloo's actions as child abuse; Tataloo responded by sexually harassing and insulting Akbari on social media.
According to research conducted in the UK, sexual harassment of children online is often most prevalent on Instagram. In an interview with IranWire, Akbari said: "We are facing child abuse, and I am constantly thinking of children who are being preyed upon by people like Tataloo. Our goal is to say that we should not be silent, and that by testifying in this regard, we can use legal and judicial tools to defend children's rights. In recent days, women from Iran called me to find a way to raise our voices and to protest."
Although due to the judicial and political structure of the Islamic Republic, complaints about child abuse and violence against women may not be registered and prosecuted. But outside of Iran's borders, these issues can be pursued in court. "This is no longer Iran, where the legal and judicial structure does not help victims," Akbari said. "According to international definitions of children's rights and online harassment, Tataloo's actions can be prosecuted and receive the right response. That's why I called the British police to report the actions of this person to the proper authorities."
When Akbari reported Tataloo’s Instagram posts to British police, she also reported his direct attacks against her. When the police asked how the incident came about, Akbari explained that she had been targeted by Tataloo after she had submitted an official complaint to Instagram because of his stories about 15-year-old girls. "Even the police asked what age it is considered legal to have sex in Iran.‘I said, 'I think nine years old but in Turkey, where he lives, it is 18.’ The police officer was shocked and said, 'I should not have asked.' I showed the police Tataloo’s Instagram stories about 15 year-old-girls and his direct online harassment of me. It may be hard for others to believe that children in Iran are being sexually abused at this age. But it was important for me to report this online harassment to the British police. I handed over Tataloo’s Instagram stories about the children to the police, and his full name and details are registered with the police for 'online harassment'."
Officials at the UK Home Office, the British interior ministry, are also pursuing the case.
Tataloo’s page on Instagram had more than four million viewers when it was closed. His Telegram page has more than a million followers and his live shows on YouTube typically attract around 10,000 viewers. He has posted videos on social media showing children under the legal age. Some women living in Iran who had been harassed online contacted the working group to protest against Tataloo, saying: "When we went to Iran’s cyber police, we were told that we would be blamed for having explicit photos on our social media accounts. So, we did not follow up."
In the messages received by this working group on social media, many introduced themselves as parents who were worried about their children. A number of school teachers also contacted them. And some, without revealing their identities, have called for further prosecution and legal action against Tataloo. Yet others have contacted the activists to insult and swear at them for their efforts.
Wide-Reaching Campaign to Stop Abuse
Nevsin Mengu, an influential Turkish journalist, protested on Twitter against Tataloo's Instagram stories. A left-wing feminist group in Turkey also reacted against the posts. And a group of Turkish journalists announced its readiness to publish Tataloo's posts so that they could be followed up by human rights organizations. Al-Hurra, an Arab media outlet, also published a report on the closure of Tataloo's Instagram account, calling his posts an invitation to child abuse.
Lawyers who have been following up on Tataloo's recent actions say the Turkish judiciary can take legal action against Tataloo's posts inviting children to join a “harem.” The lawyers include Iranians living in Turkey and Turkish lawyers. Others have agreed to work with the team of lawyers dealing with alleged harassment that took place several years ago. Additionally, lawyers outside Turkey and Iran have announced their readiness to cooperate on pursuing justice against Tataloo, and some have also offered financial support.
The lawyers say that Tataloo’s recent posts can be described as promoting pedophilia.
But others, who claimed to have photos of the women working on the campaign against Tataloo, said they supported Tataloo of their own free will and would continue to do so.
According to the campaign, actions against Amir Tataloo are ongoing, both in terms of legal action and the ongoing efforts to expel him from social media. The activists believe that companies that work with Tataloo, such as music companies, should take action to protect children's rights by breaking their connections with the singer. The activists have also invited human rights organizations and children's rights activists to join their campaign to take legal action, not only on the case against Amir Hossein Maghsoudlou, but also against anyone who attacks or harasses children on social media.
Translations of Tataloo’s Instagram post, followed by posts from his supporters in which they threaten Tataloo’s critics, appear below. Warning: the language is offensive and disturbing and concerns violence against children and adults.
"If you find me a vegetarian, sporty, shy, seventeen-year-old, fresh-faced [girl] I will come back to Instagram and shine with my attractive and energetic face… No restrictions on age!”
"Promise to God, we will find you and F*** you all together and cut you with a knife and throw the pieces to the dogs... There are 50 of us in different countries and we will find whores like you... We have your photos… If you have a child we will put fire to them in front of your eyes... to make you regret... if Tataloo's page is not back in a few days... we will make everyone mourn for you…"
"We will put fire to this kid... wait and see… I will make your life go dark… Then you will regret closing down Tataloo's page... If the page is not back in a few days, you are finished…"
"And this is your sister’s photo... so goodbye for a few days… will see you face to face… if I don't see you I will find other members of your family... you have a few days to put the page back online.”