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Iranian Soccer Player Jailed Over Photos With Unveiled Women

Sosha Makani is a goalkeeper who currently plays for Persepolis in the Iran Pro League
Sosha Makani is a goalkeeper who currently plays for Persepolis in the Iran Pro League

A professional Iranian soccer player has been jailed after photographs published on social media showed him together with several women not wearing the Islamic hijab, as required by Iranian law.

Sosha Makani, a 29-year-old goalkeeper who has competed with Iran's national team, was arrested on January 4 and jailed following a complaint by private plaintiffs, Iranian media reported.

The Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with Iran's judiciary, quoted a judiciary source as saying that one of the plaintiffs had withdrawn his complaint.

But the source added that Makani will remain in jail pending an investigation for "publishing pictures that lead to the spread of corruption and prostitution in society."

Makani's lawyer, Behnam Alimohammadi, has said that his client's account on the mobile messaging app Telegram was hacked and that two other individuals posted information from his account online.

Alimohammadi said that Makani had provided the authorities with documentation supporting his account and that Iranian cyberpolice are also looking into the case.

"If the result of the investigation is against Sosha, then he will remain under temporary arrest. Otherwise he will be released," the lawyer said.

In the images, Makani is seen sitting or standing next to two or three young women. In one photograph, he is seen holding hands with one of the women, while in another he appears to be dancing.

Makani, who plays professionally for the popular Tehran-based club Persepolis, reportedly said prior to his arrest that one of the women in the pictures is his fiancee.

Iran bans mingling between unrelated members of the opposite sex, and unmarried couple who are caught together in public can face legal action.

Police chief Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari was quoted earlier this week by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying that Makani's case was being reviewed by the court of cybercrimes and that the police will act based on a decision made by the judiciary.

Some reports suggested that Makani could be released on bail this week.

Meanwhile, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi on January 6 warned athletes and artists against sharing images deemed anti-Islamic on social media.

"In recent weeks, pictures that are inappropriate and against Islamic principles have been published on social media resulting in judicial cases," Dolatabadi was quoted by Iranian media as saying.

He also said that his office had taken action against those who had published online private images of others.

"In one case, after a case was filed, the accused was arrested," Dolatabadi said without elaborating.

In November, a 30-year-old man identified as Vahid was also jailed after images that showed him with unveiled women wearing revealing clothing were circulated on social media.

Iran's government, which aims to control the public and private lives of its citizens, has stepped up efforts in recent years to monitor Iranians' online activities.

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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