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Iran: police increase crackdown on hijab protesters with ten-year jail threat

A still from a recent video showing a hijab protester in the process of being pushed off a steel utility box from where she had staged her protest

‘The Iranian authorities have violated women’s human rights in Iran for decades’ - Magdalena Mughrabi

A warning by Iranian police that women in the country could be jailed for up to ten years for joining protests against compulsory veiling has put dozens at immediate risk of unjust imprisonment and represents an alarming escalation in the authorities’ violent crackdown on women’s rights, said Amnesty International. 

In an official statement on Friday, police warned that women would now be charged with “inciting corruption and prostitution,” which carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. One of the protesters, Narges Hosseini, was today put on trial before an Ershad (Moral Guidance) court in Tehran on charges that include this new charge.

At least one other woman, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, has been informed that she also faces the charge of “inciting corruption and prostitution”. She is currently held in solitary confinement in Shahr-e Rey prison in Varamin, near Tehran. Her lawyer has said she was subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, including beatings, in Vozara detention centre in Tehran following her arrest, and was also forcibly injected with an unidentified substance several times.

Other women arrested for peacefully protesting against compulsory veiling in recent weeks include Vida Movahed and Azam Jangravi, who are currently out on bail, and Maryam Shariatmadari and Hamraz Sadeghi, who remain in detention. 

Friday’s police statement coincides with a recent upturn in police brutality against women’s solo protests - which has seen women taking off their headscarves in busy public places and silently waving them on a stick while standing on top of raised structures. Last Thursday, a video was widely circulated on Persian-language social media showing a police officer pushing Maryam Shariatmadari off a steel structure. Her friends have reported that the fall resulted in injuries requiring surgery. She is held in Shahr-e Rey prison, without access to adequate medical care. 

Amnesty has also learned that Ms Shariatmadari’s mother, Mitra Jamshidzadeh, was also detained on 23 February for about 30 hours in Vozara detention centre. Her lawyer said that she was subjected to beatings after she tried to obtain information about her daughter’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, on 24 February, Hamraz Sadeghi, who was standing on top of a utility box in Tehran while waving her headscarf, was beaten up and arrested by a plainclothes officer. An eyewitness reported that the woman’s elbow was fractured after she was violently pushed off the box and knocked down to the ground.

In recent weeks, the Iranian authorities, including the Chief Prosecutor of Iran and the Head of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, have insulted women protesters, calling them “morons,” “infantile,” “deceived,” “perverted” and “wicked”, while accusing them of association with “foreign enemies”. Iran’s judiciary spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'I, has said women protesting against the hijab are “acting under the influence of “synthetic drugs” or receiving instruction from “organised criminal groups”. 

More than 35 women have been attacked and arrested in Tehran alone since December for taking part in peaceful protests against compulsory veiling. 

Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“This is a deeply retrograde move by the Iranian authorities in their ongoing persecution of women who dare to speak out against compulsory veiling.

“It places many women at serious and immediate risk of unjust imprisonment while sending a chilling message to others to keep quiet while their rights are being violated.

“In compelling women and girls to cover their hair, the Iranian authorities have violated women’s human rights in Iran for decades.

“Rather than threatening women with jail terms for claiming their human rights, the authorities should immediately abolish the discriminatory, abusive and degrading laws and practices of compulsory veiling.

“The Iranian authorities must hold law-enforcement officials to account for human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment, and refrain from making any statements that incite further violence and abuse.” 

Compulsory veiling is violation of international law

Under international law, Iranian legislation on compulsory veiling is a clear violation of a number of key human rights. It is deeply discriminatory with relation to women and girls, who are its direct and sole target. Such compulsion in law also violates the rights of women and girls to freedom of expression, thought, conscience, religion and privacy, and the specific rights of children.


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