Some of the employees of Digikala in one of their storage houses

Shutting Online Businesses Over Hijab Stirs Controversy In Iran

Wednesday, 08/02/2023

Days after several online shopping platforms were shut down by the Iranian government over lack of hijab, the Judiciary claimed it had no role in the decision.

Several online shopping platforms including online bookshop Taghcheh, online retailer Digikala, and marketing platform Azkey were shot down during the past few days not for their operations, but for the way their employees dressed in photographs posted on social media platforms.

The statement by the Judiciary Spokesman Massoud Setayeshi revealed the chaos surrounding the way the government enforces compulsory hijab and controls online businesses and social media platforms.

Setayeshi said that the Judiciary has never issued any order for the closure of online or other businesses. However, he confirmed that court cases have been launched for the online businesses about their employees’ hijab.

Meanwhile, adding to the confusion, Communications Minister Isa Zarepour also told the press on Tuesday that his ministry was not involved in the closure of online businesses. He said, “closure of a platform is not the right way to confront the employees.” Zarepour made it clear that “the right thing to do is confronting the employees," not punish the companies

Some of those platforms such as Digikala have tens of thousands of employees, subcontractors and businesses that supply the merchandise. Moderate website Rouiydad24 wrote in a report on Tuesday, “If we are involved in an economic war as the country’s officials say, why are you crippling people’s livelihood by shutting down online businesses?”

A group of employees of Taqcheh online bookstore

Donya-ye Eqtesad (Economic World) daily said: “The closure of online businesses affect thousands of their employees, providers, contractors and others involved in the business.” The daily further asked why platforms should be closed when the economy is the country’s biggest problem? Donya-ye Eqtesad also questioned the approach that widens the crisis of enforcing the compulsory hijab by extending it to online business, platforms and applications.

The daily went on to argue that “The people are the country’s most valuable asset. By making them unhappy, the expert workforce is likely to leave the country in a situation when we need them most.”

The daily also warned that the closures will do harm to the digital industry, which is the only growing sector in Iran’s economy.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri told reporters that the closure of online businesses threatens the private sector. He added that shutting down online businesses for hijab is like throwing a stone at a bunch of sparrows which also makes other sparrows flee.

He said this approach is worrying. While the production and services sectors are suffering from the current economic crisis, endangering their existence by shutting down online platform will make the private sector angry. He added: “The private sector needs security for its capital.”

Following the denials by various officials about their involvement in the closure of businesses, social media users noted the chaos in handling hijab and online activities in Iran and wrote that no one in the government is brave enough to accept responsibility for harsh measures. Some media outlets have quoted government spokesman Ali Bahadori as saying that President Ebrahim Raisi was unhappy about the decision to shut down those businesses, but he was not observed to say anything in public about the situation.

In the meantime, the identity of powerful state organs who had closed down online platforms remains a mystery.

More News