- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Who knew selfies could be weaponized?

The Iranian government is convinced that Kim Kardashian is an enemy of the state, with the photo-sharing social media app Instagram being her weapon of choice, according to IranWire.com — a news site which “seeks to empower Iranian citizen journalists by creating a forum in which young Iranians can discuss national and local news.”

“They are targeting young people and women,” said the government’s Organized Cyberspace Crimes Unit spokesman Mustafa Alizadeh, according to IranWire reporter Shima Shahrabi.

“Ms. Kim Kardashian is a popular fashion model so Instagram’s CEO tells her, ‘make this native,’” the government censor explained. “There is no doubt that financial support is involved as well. We are taking this very seriously.”

It seems the Iranian government is not so much concerned with Ms. Kardashian as it is with censoring the homegrown social media feeds of Persian women who take inspiration from Western celebrities and their photo shoots. 

“In March, Iran’s online authorities shut down the Instagram pages of several well-known models, as well as those of hair salons and photography workshops,” Ms. Shahrabi reported. “In their place, online visitors found a large blue frame with the caption, ‘These pages are blocked by the authority of Operation Spider 2 to open security cases by order of the judiciary.’”

Of course, the government’s policing of its citizens’ violation of social norms has broader implications than some models finding their Instagram feeds blacklisted.

As The New York Times reported Monday, “a female politician, Minoo Khaleghi, who had won election to Parliament as a moderate, was told she would not be allowed to take her seat after images of her emerged on social media showing her without the obligatory head scarf.”

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the last time Iranians went to the polls they selected nine women to the male-dominated national legislature. 

While relatively powerless against the clerics who ultimately dictate government policy, the Iranian parliament is an outlet for the people to express their political wishes through elected representation, however imperfect the election process may be.

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