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Women

Iranian Authorities Take the Fight Against Bad Hijab to Instagram

November 30, 2023
Maryam Dehkordi
3 min read
Several women who have lost access to their Instagram pages tell IranWire that the authorities monitor and control the online activities of women, particularly those with large followers, to make sure they don’t "promote non-hijab"
Several women who have lost access to their Instagram pages tell IranWire that the authorities monitor and control the online activities of women, particularly those with large followers, to make sure they don’t "promote non-hijab"
On November 27, media outlets reported that the Instagram pages of actress Maryam Masoumi and Setareh Masoumi, the wife of footballer Mehdi Qaidi, after they published photos without hijab
On November 27, media outlets reported that the Instagram pages of actress Maryam Masoumi and Setareh Masoumi, the wife of footballer Mehdi Qaidi, after they published photos without hijab
Rabia recounts having received numerous text messages from local police since September, warning that her salon's Instagram page would be banned if it continued to show photos of women without the mandatory headscarf
Rabia recounts having received numerous text messages from local police since September, warning that her salon's Instagram page would be banned if it continued to show photos of women without the mandatory headscarf
Roya, a dance instructor in the central city of Isfahan, was summoned by security police earlier this month over sports videos she had posted on her Instagram account
Roya, a dance instructor in the central city of Isfahan, was summoned by security police earlier this month over sports videos she had posted on her Instagram account

Rabia is a young Iranian woman who owns a renowned makeup salon in the southern Iranian city of Bandar Abbas.

For years, she has used Instagram to showcase her portfolio and attract new clients.

"Bandar's culture is such that women visit hair salons for every occasion, from newborn baby celebrations to weddings and parties," she tells IranWire. 

"Every street in this city boasts several hair salons, each vying to provide exceptional services and retain their customers. I've gained recognition for my expertise in Indian henna and facial makeup," she adds.

This year, however, Rabia's livelihood was severely impacted when she lost access to her Instagram page.

Rabia recounts having received numerous text messages from local police since September, warning that her salon's Instagram page would be banned if it continued to show photos of women without the mandatory headscarf.

"The first instance wasn't a threat but an invitation to discuss the matter. I visited them in person, and they explained the prohibition on posting content without the hijab," she says. "While similar restrictions existed previously, we could still post facial makeup with a cape and a covered face, concealing the hair. Hairstyles could be shown from the back, and henna designs were limited to hands and feet. Now, even this is deemed unacceptable." 

Rabia explains that she recently photographed her models wearing traditional Bandari attire, adorned with thin, colorful silk shawls, but her efforts proved futile.

"They sent four text messages, stating that the content on this page violates Islamic principles. We complied with their demands, but this page is our livelihood," she says.

"Our business revolves around bridal makeup, how can we attract customers without showcasing makeup and hairstyles? Ultimately, the page I meticulously built, with over 500,00 followers, was taken away from me," she added.

Women and girls in Iran are required to wear a headscarf and are forbidden to dance in public.

However, a growing number of women have appeared in public since monthslong demonstrations erupted in September last year following the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody. Amini had been arrested for allegedly wearing a headscarf improperly.

Prominent public figures who appeared in public or shared their photos on social media without a head covering have seen their pages blocked. Some of them have been detained.

On November 27, media outlets reported that the Instagram pages of actress Maryam Masoumi and Setareh Masoumi, the wife of footballer Mehdi Qaidi, after they published photos without hijab.

Maryam Masoumi's Instagram account had over 1.3 million followers, while Setareh Masoumi's had 578,000.

Fars, a news agency close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), reported that the reason for blocking Maryam Masoumi's page was that the actress “used images with unconventional clothing."

Several women who have lost access to their Instagram pages tell IranWire that the authorities monitor and control the online activities of women, particularly those with large followers, to make sure they don’t "promote non-hijab." 

Roya, a dance instructor in the central city of Isfahan, was summoned by security police earlier this month over sports videos she had posted on her Instagram account.

"I was sent to the prosecutor's office on charges of publishing illegal content on the internet. They opened a court case against me, and I was not alone," she says.

"On the day of the trial, I believe I saw five other women who were brought to court over their Instagram activity, and two of them didn't even have lots of followers – perhaps 13,000 or 14,000 people," she says.

Roya says she was ordered to close her Instagram page and pay a fine. 

She was also warned in court that she could face imprisonment in case of repeated offense.

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