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In Iran, sharing photos on mobile apps can mean jail

Mobile Hijab

The tattooed young Iranian initially sparked wonder and some envy when pictures of him with scantily-clad, heavily made-up women, often more than one at a time, went viral.

In a morally conservative country, the obvious breach of a female dress code was one thing. The compromising poses the 14 women were captured in was another.

When the people who patrol Iran’s heavily filtered Internet found out, the man known only as Vahid landed in jail.

Images of the women — pouting at the camera and mostly wearing miniskirts and crop tops — spread via smartphones, triggering both ridicule and outrage in the Islamic republic.

Jokes about Vahid — the authorities have not released his surname — proliferated yet he remains in custody and could be prosecuted.

The scandal has also provoked a wider debate about smartphone use and the technology used to share content.

The pictures — and rumours about the main protagonist — spread rapidly on Telegram, the free-to-download instant messaging app.

Vahid, a 30-year-old real estate agent, was quickly — and wrongly — said to own a Maserati and expensive villa in northern Tehran.

As if the infamy was not bad enough, matters worsened when he took to Telegram again to say his phone had been stolen, claiming the women were his sisters and arguing that his privacy was invaded.

“Posting that video was the biggest mistake of my life,” he was later quoted as saying in an apologetic media appearance after being arrested by Iran’s Cyber Police. The force has wide powers to screen the Internet for content deemed un-Islamic.

In the past eight months, 609 men and 114 women have been arrested for cyber crimes because of alleged “economic, moral and social” transgressions, official figures show.