Iran targets e-commerce giants over photos of female employees without headscarves

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Iranian authorities have closed one of the offices of the country’s largest e-commerce company and launched a court case after it published pictures online showing female employees not wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf, semi-official media reported.

The move seems to be part of that a new campaign It was launched last week to enforce the Islamic dress code, almost a year after the morality police largely disappeared amid widespread protests.

Digikala, unofficially known as “Iran’s Amazon,” appears to have broken the rules by posting images of a company meeting where several female employees were not wearing a hijab.

The company has more than 40 million active monthly users and is home to over 300,000 merchants. Due to Western sanctions related to the country’s controversial nuclear program, Iranians are largely cut off from international retailers like Amazon.

The website of Iran’s daily Hamshahri, which is linked to the capital Tehran’s municipal government, reported late Sunday that one of Digikala’s offices had been sealed. It said the website was working normally.

Iran's police forces stand on a street during the revival of morale police in Tehran, Iran, July 16, 2023.
Iran’s police forces stand on a street during the revival of morale police in Tehran, Iran, July 16, 2023.


The Iranian judiciary’s website said that legal proceedings had been initiated in connection with the photos, without elaborating on it.

Nationwide protests erupted last fall after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in vice custody. She was apparently arrested for violating the country’s dress code, which dictates that both men and women dress conservatively and that women must cover their hair in public.

The protests, in which women played a leading role, quickly escalated into calls to overthrow the Iranian theocracy that took power after the 1979 revolution. Authorities responded with a crackdown that killed more than 500 protesters and arrested nearly 20,000. The protests have largely subsided earlier this year, but there are still widespread signs of discontent.

After the protests began, the vice squad largely disappeared from the streets and many women – particularly in Tehran and other cities – stopped wearing the hijab.

But officials have insisted throughout the crisis that the rules have never changed. Iran’s ruling clergy see the hijab as a mainstay of the Islamic Republic and see western dress as a sign of decadence.

Last week, the morality police returned to the streets as officials announced a new campaign to force women to wear the hijab.

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