Iran's Revolutionary Guards raid modelling agencies for 'promoting vulgarity'

Adam Forrest

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards force has raided three modelling agencies, accusing the companies and their aspiring models of breaking strict Islamic dress codes for women.

General Mohsen Karimi, a commander in the city of Arak, said staff at the underground agencies had been arrested for “promoting vulgarity”, according to the semi-official Iranian news service Fars.

The report said part of the alleged offences had been the sharing of models’ portfolio pictures on social media.

Iranian authorities have repeatedly raided fashion events and targeted modelling agencies that post photographs online of models wearing Western-style clothes that do not adhere to Iran’s rules on the hijab.

“Those who disregard norms and think they can do whatever they want in cyberspace should know that, sooner or later, the hands of the law will catch up with them,” Mr Karimi was quoted as saying, without revealing how many people had been arrested.

Iranian officials have long warned that the influence of Western and particularly US culture through the internet – and social media in particular – poses a threat to Islamic values.

Last week Iranian authorities launched an investigation into “disturbing” social media videos of schoolgirls dancing to a pop song.

The country’s education minister Mohammad Bathaei said specialists would trace the source of the videos, featuring the music of US-Iranian rapper Sasy.

“The enemy is trying different ways to create anxiety among the people including by spreading these disturbing videos,” he said. “I’m certain there’s some kind of political plot behind the publication of these devious clips in schools.”

According to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran, the videos show children – and some teachers – taking part in an online dance challenge to the song Gentleman.

The human rights body described a 2016 crackdown on the modelling industry as an attempt to “deprive Iranians of the cultural and artistic vitality that is rightfully theirs and further alienate the country’s youth”.

The organisation claimed some of those interrogated by officials had posted photos and videos on their Facebook and Instagram pages showing themselves without the hijab or wearing what the authorities have described as “un-Islamic” dresses.

“The Revolutionary Guards’ assault on Iran’s fashion industry testifies to the fear of hardliners who try to control every aspect of people’s lives and squash any visible challenge to their narrow world view,” said the Centre for Human Rights in Iran’s executive director Hadi Ghaemi.

Additional reporting by Reuters