Literal Fashion Police Arrest Hundreds Of WhatsApp And Instagram Users In Iran
from the seems-reasonable dept
I’ll admit I’ve had some fun in these pages with my friends over in the Iran over the years. In my defense, they have at times made the job quite easy for me, between trying to bolster their military reputation through video game footage, trying to suggest that the West carve out a non-free speech zone when it comes to criticizing Islam or members of its faith, and the country’s policy of futility in trying to block its citizens from using the wider internet. These are actions worth criticism and scorn.
But things got a just a bit more dangerous for some in Iran this past week, as the country has announced it is cracking down on its citizens for actions against Islam and for infractions of fashion on display on several social media services. It seems some portion of the Revolutionary Guard has quite literally become the Fashion Police.
Iran has arrested or summoned about 450 social media users, a website linked to the Revolutionary Guards has reported. Users of apps such as Instagram, Telegram and WhatsApp have been targeted.
“These people were carrying out immoral activities, insulted religious beliefs or had illegal activities in the field of fashion,” the Gherdab website said.
Details in the report or scant, but it’s likely that those that have partaken in criminal fashion activities are undoubtedly female, and the criminal activity almost certainly involves perceived infractions against modesty that are taken so seriously in Islamic theocracies. This should provide a wonderful example of the benefits of secularism over theocracy, certainly, but it should also serve as a beacon of hope for change in a country run in the most unfortunate of fashions. Although, that previous statement comes along with the caveat that even the founders of secularism can manage an insane over-correction, such as what’s currently going on along the beaches of Southern France, for example.
If we’ve learned anything over recent years, it’s that demand for internet access and the ability for expression on its mediums will only grow, not shrink. And, if citizens of countries less free than others are bucking the rules, routing around the censorship and barriers to internet access, and partaking in expression so yearned for but considered illegal, no amount of claimed providence will keep those young men and, more importantly women, from growing up and changing their society to match their values.
Facebook and Twitter are banned in the Islamic republic, though software that provides access is easily available. More than half of Iran’s 80 million population is online.
That’s a good thing.
Not so good is potentially the fate of those caught in the current crackdown. Still, there is a reason that Iran makes such an effort of blocking its citizens from joining the rest of the networked world, and seeing so many of them streaming around the borders of the barriers means there is hope.