Thursday, April 18, 2019

For Immediate Release 

Iran: Release Anti-Compulsory Hijab Activists
Prison Sentences on Vague Morality Charges 

(Beirut, April 18, 2019) – Iranian authorities should release and quash the convictions of all activists who have been prosecuted for peacefully protesting the country’s compulsory hijab laws, Human Rights Watch said today. In the past week, the authorities arrested two activists – a mother and daughter – for protesting compulsory hijab laws.

Iranian officials have prosecuted at least half a dozen activists for their peaceful opposition to compulsory hijab laws. On March 2, 2019, a court in Tehran sentenced Vida Mohavedi – who sparked a movement when she took off her headscarf to protest compulsory hijab on December 27, 2017 – to a year in prison, her lawyer told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) on April 14. On April 10, police arrested Yasaman Ariyani, a 23-year-old activist, at her home in Karaj, a source told Human Rights Watch. On April 11, the source said, authorities also arrested Ariyani’s mother, Monireh Arabshahi, when she went to the prosecutor’s office in Tehran to ask about her daughter.

“It is ridiculous that the Iranian authorities are arresting and prosecuting women for protesting against discriminatory dress code laws,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should immediately release these women’s rights activists and reform these outmoded and discriminatory laws.”

In December 2017 and January 2018, several women took their headscarves off while standing on electric utility boxes across the country to protest the law that requires that all women cover their hair. They became known as “the Girls of Revolution Street” and since then women have continued to protest the law across the country. The authorities have responded with arrests and prosecutions.

Ariyani has been active in the White Wednesday Campaign, a social media initiative by Masih Alinejad, a Brooklyn-based activist who opposes compulsory hijab in Iran, and has been the target of state-sponsored smear campaigns. The source said that an official at the prosecutor’s office told Ariyani that her arrest stemmed from a protest on International Women’s Day, March 8, when she and her mother gave flowers to women wearing the chador, a full black robe, to encourage solidarity against compulsory hijab. She had earlier been arrested during a protest against Iran’s deteriorating economic situation on August 2, 2018 in Tehran and spent several months in prison.

Mohaved became the iconic woman of the “Girls of Revolution Street” after her first arrest over her December 27, 2017 protest. She was arrested again on October 29, 2018 after she stood without her headscarf holding balloons on Enghelab square in Tehran. Branch 1109 of Tehran’s [Islamic] Guidance Judicial Complex, which adjudicates crimes against public morals, sentenced Movahedi to a year in detention for encouraging corruption and prostitution during her October 2018 protest, her lawyer said on April 14.

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