Authorities have arrested three men in Iran for allegedly attempting to sell newborn babies on the photo-sharing Instagram platform.
According to reporting by the semi-official ISNA news agency, the men first bought two babies from their mothers for approximately $500 USD and then resold them for $2,000 and $2,500.
The babies were 20 days old and two months old. A third baby has been identified but has yet to be located, ISNA reported.
Over 10 pages of ads for the babies were found on Instagram. Using the hashtag #خرید_فروش_نوزاد or #BuyandSellNewborns, individuals can access online posts regarding the infant-selling ring.
One of the men arrested told the police in Tehran that they had bought the babies from “poor families” and were attempting to give them to other families that “could provide a better future.”
The parents of these newborns have since been identified.
Although locating and returning the infants was a challenge, unfortunately selling babies is not that uncommon in Iran. Many children are abandoned at birth due to high poverty or because the child was born out of wedlock. In addition, abortion is illegal and the state rid the country of family planning programs years ago to prevent a declining population.
These factors have put expectant mothers in vulnerable positions where they have agreed to give their babies up in exchange for cash.
Selling babies has become so common practice that a model referred to as “birth-centered” has been seen in hospitals, where newborns are bought and sold from the inside.
According to police earlier this year, a gang was arrested for selling babies in Gorgan. Five of these gang members have been accused of seeking out poor women, paying their medical expenses and then taking babies away from the mothers after birth.
For those who want children, Islamic laws makes it near impossible to undergo in-vitro fertilization or to adopt, which is why many people resort to illegal, unregulated channels.
Due to the secretive nature of these crimes, it is difficult to determine how many children have been sold on the black market.