Iran targets e-commerce giant over photos of female employees without headscarves in new crackdown

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian authorities have shut down one of the offices of the country’s largest e-commerce company and launched legal proceedings after photos showing employees not wearing the mandatory Islamic headscarf were posted online, semi-official media reported.

The move appears to be part of a new campaign launched last week to enforce the Islamic dress code nearly a year after the morality police largely crumbled in the face of widespread protests.

Digikala, informally known as the “Iranian Amazon”, appears to have broken the rules by posting photos of a company gathering where several female employees were not wearing hijabs.

The company has over 40 million monthly active users and hosts over 300,000 merchants. Iranians are largely cut off from international retailers like Amazon due to Western sanctions linked to the country’s disputed nuclear program.

The website of Iran’s Hamshahri daily, which is affiliated with the capital city of Tehran, reported on Sunday evening that one of Digikala’s offices had been sealed off. He said the website was working normally.

Iran’s justice website said lawsuits had been filed in relation to the photos, without further details.

Nationwide protests erupted last fall following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of vice police. She appears to have been detained for breaking the country’s dress code, which requires men and women to dress conservatively and women to cover their hair in public.

The protests, in which women played a prominent role, quickly turned 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 arrested. Protests largely died down earlier this year, but there are still widespread signs of discontent.

After the protests began, the morality police largely disappeared from the streets and many women – especially in Tehran and other cities – stopped wearing the hijab.

But officials have insisted throughout the crisis that the rules never changed. Iran’s ruling clerics view the hijab as an essential pillar of the Islamic Republic and view Western-style clothing as a sign of decadence.

Vice police returned to the streets last week as officials announced a new campaign to force women to wear the hijab.

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