DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian authorities have shut down one of the offices of the country’s biggest e-commerce company and launched judicial procedures after it published pictures online showing female employees not wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf, semi-official media reported.
The move appears to be part of a new campaign launched last week to impose the Islamic dress code nearly a year after the morality police largely melted away in the face of widespread protests.
Digikala, informally known as “Iran’s Amazon,” appears to have run afoul of the rules by posting pictures of a corporate gathering in which several female employees were not wearing the hijab.
The company boasts more than 40 million active monthly users and hosts over 300,000 merchants. Iranians are largely cut off from international retailers like Amazon because of Western sanctions linked to the country’s disputed nuclear program.
The website of Iran’s Hamshahri daily, which is affiliated with the municipality of the capital, Tehran, reported late Sunday that one of Digikala’s offices had been sealed. It said the website was operating normally.
The website of Iran’s judiciary said court cases had been filed in connection with the photos, without elaborating.
Nationwide protests erupted last fall after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police. She appears to have been detained for violating the country’s dress code, which requires that both men and women dress conservatively and that women cover their hair in public.
The protests, in which women played a leading role, quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s theocracy, which took power after the 1979 revolution. Authorities responded with a heavy crackdown in which more than 500 protesters were killed and nearly 20,000 were detained. The protests largely faded at the start of this year but there are still widespread signs of discontent.
After the protests began, the morality police largely vanished from the streets and many women — particularly in Tehran and other cities — stopped wearing the hijab.
But officials insisted throughout the crisis that the rules had never changed. Iran’s ruling clerics view the hijab as a key pillar of the Islamic Republic and consider Western-style dress to be 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.