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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 07 Jailed for protesting forced veiling laws
UA 096/19
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We added additional background information on the movement against forced veiling laws.
We corrected typos in the name of Mojgan Keshavarz.

Jailed for protesting forced veiling laws

AI-Index: MDE 13/0656/2019

Iranian women’s rights defenders Monireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryani and Mojgan Keshavarz have been arbitrarily detained in Shahr-e Ray prison, outside Tehran, since April 2019. They have been charged with offences including «inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution» through promoting «unveiling», solely for campaigning against abusive forced veiling laws. All are prisoners of conscience.


On 8 March 2019, a video went viral showing Monireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryani and Mojgan Keshavarz without their headscarves, distributing flowers to female passengers on a metro train in Tehran and discussing their hopes for women’s rights in Iran. In the video, Yasaman Aryani hands a flower to a woman wearing a hijab and says she hopes that one day they can walk side by side in the street, «me without the hijab and you with the hijab».

Following the posting of the video, Yasaman Aryani was arrested on 10 April 2019 by security forces at her family home in Tehran. The next day, Monireh Arabshahi, her mother, was arrested after going to Vozara detention centre in Tehran to inquire about her. Mojgan Keshavarz was arrested by force on 25 April 2019 at her home in front of her nine-year-old daughter.

The women’s rights defenders were denied access to an independent lawyer of their own choosing after being told that the Note to Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure applies due to the «security» nature of their cases. This requires individuals facing charges related to «national security» and certain organized crimes to select their lawyer from a list of names approved by the head of the judiciary.

Their prosecution is part of a wider crackdown on women’s rights defenders campaigning against forced veiling laws. On 4 June 2019, Fereshteh Didani was arrested and is now held in Shahr-e Ray prison, which is used to incarcerate women who have been convicted of serious violent crimes. She had a hearing before branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran on 26 June 2019, but no information is available about what charges she faces. On 1 June 2019, Saba Kordafshari was arrested and held in solitary confinement in Vozara detention centre until 11 June 2019, when she was transferred to Shahr-e Ray prison.

In the last few years, a growing movement against forced veiling laws has emerged in Iran with women and girls standing in public places, silently waving their headscarves on the ends of sticks or sharing videos of themselves walking down the street with their hair showing. This movement includes White Wednesdays, a popular campaign which urges women to share pictures and videos of themselves on social media every Wednesday, wearing white headscarves or white pieces of clothing in protest at compulsory veiling; My Stealthy Freedom, which encourages women from Iran to post online pictures of themselves without headscarves by way of opposing forced veiling; and My Camera My Weapon, which aims to raise awareness of the constant harassment and assault that women and girls face in Iran’s streets as a result of forced veiling laws. The Iranian authorities have felt threatened by the strength and force of this movement and waged a crackdown in response. Since January 2018, they have arrested dozens of women’s rights defenders, including four men. Some have been tortured and sentenced to prison terms or flogging after grossly unfair trials. In an official statement on 23 February 2018, the police warned that women peacefully protesting the discriminatory and abusive practice of forced veiling would now be charged with «inciting and facilitation corruption and prostitution», which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. For more information, please see

Making criminals of women and girls who refuse to wear the hijab is an extreme form of discrimination. Forced veiling laws violate a whole host of rights, including the rights to equality, privacy and freedom of expression and belief. These laws degrade women and girls, stripping them of their dignity and self-worth.

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