In Iran, the law requires women to wear the hijab in public.
On International Women’s Day 2019, Monireh Arabshahi, her daughter Yasaman Aryani, and Mojgan Keshavarz took part in a protest against the forced veiling laws. Monireh, Yasaman and Mojgan removed their headscarves and offered flowers to other women, posting a video of their protest on social media. The video went viral.
They were later arrested and imprisoned in Qarchak prison. They were charged with assembly and collusion to act against national security, propaganda against the regime, and inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution. They were sentenced to incredibly long terms of imprisonment – 23 years for Mojgan, 16 years for Monireh and Yasaman.
On 6 February 2020, an appellate court in Tehran upheld their convictions, although their sentences have been reduced to 9 years and 7 months each. Amnesty International reports that the women were not represented by lawyers during the trial.
The long prison terms given to Monireh, Yasaman and Mojgan are part of a broader crackdown on protests against forced veiling laws. In August 2019, Iranian civil rights activist Saba Kord Afshari was sentenced to 24 years in prison by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, including 15 years for removing her hijab in public. Saba is only 20 years old.
Together with her mother, Saba was a member of the White Wednesday movement. Founded by Masih Alinejad, the incredible girls and women of #WhiteWednesdays protest the forced veiling laws by removing their head scarves in public.
The crackdown extends to those representing women involved in the protests. In March 2019, prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Nasrin campaigned against child executions, fought for freedom of speech and women’s rights, and was a defender of political prisoners and protestors. Her most recent case, before being arrested and imprisoned, was to defend members of the Girls of Revolution Street, who waved headscarves as flags of freedom. The charges against her included spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader.
Focusing public attention on these cases is important – these women need to know they are not forgotten. Those who imprison them need to know they are not forgotten. Amnesty International UK is calling for signatories to a petition for Monireh, Yasaman and Mojgan – join the 98,000-odd people who have already signed, here: https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/iran-women-jailed-viral-video-forced-veiling-hijab-law. Share this story so others can add their voices to the cause. Follow Masih Alinejad – Iranian journalist and activist, founder of #WhiteWednesdays – @AlinejadMasih, and help her shine a light on these and other cases.
Sources: Radio Farda; Iran Human Rights Monitor; The Globe and Mail; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch.