Iran’s hijab protesters not cowed by crackdown

Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the crackdown was driven by women increasingly “pushing the limits.”
Friday 25/01/2019
Iranian women wearing hijab walk down a street in the capital Tehran on February 7, 2018. (AFP)
Iranian women wearing hijab walk down a street in the capital Tehran on February 7, 2018. (AFP)

Women’s rights defenders in Iran said they will continue their fight against the forced wearing of the hijab despite last year’s “sinister crackdown” by authorities in which dozens of demonstrators were arrested.

Iranian women took to the streets last year holding hijabs aloft to protest the strict dress code and the action quickly spread on social media leading to a “bitter backlash” by authorities, Amnesty International said in a statement.

“What the last year has shown is that people in Iran, especially women, are no longer afraid to go out and protest, whether in large numbers or through lone acts of protest,” said Mansoureh Mills, Amnesty International Iran researcher.

“As the authorities try to clamp down on these peaceful acts of resistance, we are likely to see more and more women and men being arrested, detained and prosecuted for demanding their rights.”

Tara Sepehri Far, Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the crackdown was driven by women increasingly “pushing the limits.”

“Women who are choosing to protest are aware of the risks and are choosing to do so because they want to see a change. I don’t think there is any turning back on these women’s issues — it will only grow,” she said.

The remarks came the same week two men were jailed for six years in Iran for supporting the campaign against the dress code, reports from two human rights groups stated.

One is married to prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was detained after representing women protesters in court and faces multiple charges.

Her husband, Reza Khandan, who had campaigned for his wife’s release, and Farhad Meysami, an activist, were each sentenced to six years in prison, the Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said.

“Iran wants to silence these men by jailing them for standing by women who want the hijab to be a choice, not a requirement,” CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi, said in a statement.

Under Iran’s Islamic law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes. Violators are publicly admonished, fined or arrested.

Amnesty International said nearly 100 female women’s rights activists were arrested or remained in detention in Iran during 2018.

(Thomson Reuters Foundation)