While Iranian women are arrested for protesting hijabs, some are making ‘forced confessions’, activist says

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LONDON — When Sepideh Rashno appeared on Iranian state television last month to apologize to another woman for refusing to wear a hijab in public, longtime Iranian government observers deemed her actions a “forced confession.”

A viral video posted days earlier appeared to show Rashno in public without a hijab, which is what Iranian women have been required to do by law since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Rashno appeared to be arguing with a woman wearing a hijab and said she saw the video of their altercation ‘would send into the world’.

Rashno was later arrested and her apologies to the other woman were broadcast on state television. The apology program was later continued in another special report that showed her “confession.”

That public apology came around the same time that women from across the country started a social media campaign to protest the government’s hijab law. Some shared photos and videos of themselves without a headscarf in public places. They used a hashtag #No2Hijab or #ImAgainstMandatoryHijab. Several have been arrested for the online messages, a lawyer said.

An Iranian woman takes off her hijab and takes a selfie in protest against the mandatory hijab law. Women post photos and videos of themselves in public places without hijab, in various cities of Iran.

Masih Alinejad, a Brooklyn-based Iranian and anti-hijab activist, described Rashno’s confession, as well as those of other women, as an “act of terror” in a tweet on Friday.

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“Dozens of women have been arrested since then” [the] July 12 day of action against forced hijab,” Alinejad continued Twitter. “But these acts of terror have not deterred women. Our campaign against forced hijab continues.”

While Rashno was arrested by security forces days after the video of her argument went viral, the woman she fought with was not arrested.

Iran’s hijab laws are enforced by the morality police, who often patrol busy parts of the cities and arrest women in the streets for not following traditional Islamic dress codes.

Last month’s campaign activity has been dealt with more harshly by the morality police and those arrested for their activism could face tougher sentences as the Iranian judiciary appeared ready to interpret the anti-hijab campaign as a collective action staged by the West. , with Iranian officials saying the protests amounted to a plot against the “chastity” of Iranian women.

Ahmad Vahidi, Iran’s interior minister, asked women “not to be influenced by these bad suggestions” from the West.

“Some of these cases are supported and managed from outside, and of course they have unwanted intentions,” he said.

PHOTO: Women in headscarves walk through the streets of Tehran near Tajrish Square in Iran on July 12, 2022.

Women in headscarves walk through the streets of Tehran near Tajrish Square in Iran on July 12, 2022.

Atta Kenare/TBEN via Getty Images

Melika Gharaguzlu, a journalism student, posted on Twitter on July 12 on social media and was arrested a few days later, said Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi, a lawyer. He said the security and judicial authorities in Iran have taken her into custody.

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In addition to any objection to the hijab, the Islamic Republic is also suppressing other forms of women’s activism in the country.

A group of women known as the “justice-seeking mothers” has increasingly spoken out about the regime’s alleged atrocities. Among that group’s list are several women whose children have been murdered in recent decades during government crackdown on protests across the country.

PHOTO: "Justice is looking for mothers" are Iranian mothers whose children have died in protests across the country, known for their symbolic act of holding framed photos of their children on several occasions.

“Justice Seeking Mothers” are Iranian mothers whose children were killed in several protests across the country, known for their symbolic act of holding framed photos of their children on several occasions.

@1500tasvir/Twitter

Saeid Dehghan, a lawyer and member of the International Bar Association, said the Iranian government attributes some of the recent arrests directly to the #No2Hijab campaign. Some families of the women arrested have publicly denied that they intended to join the campaign.

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“Mothers seeking justice are now a respectable circle whose voices can amplify any civil movement,” Mahyar Ostovar Ravari, assistant professor in the information systems division at the Paris School of Business, told TBEN News. “The regime seized the #No2Hijab campaign as an opportunity to crack down on the activism of these mothers. These mothers have nothing to lose after losing their children, and it would cost the regime a lot to arrest them just for seeking justice for their children, so they seize an opportunity like this to suppress the voices of these women. “

PHOTO:  "Justice is looking for mothers" are Iranian mothers whose children have died in protests across the country, known for their symbolic act of holding framed photos of their children on several occasions.

“Justice Seeking Mothers” are Iranian mothers whose children were killed in several protests across the country, known for their symbolic act of holding framed photos of their children on several occasions.

@1500tasvir/Twitter

Ravari stated the Islamic Republic’s determination to suppress any form of collective protests, especially those formed by women, and said such collective protests could rob individual protesters of their fears.

“It helps with the scary feeling of being alone in this… whether it’s in groups like the Justice Seeking Mothers, or in a campaign like the #No2Hijab,” Ravari said.

A few days after Alinejad posted about Rashno’s “forced confession,” a man with an assault rifle was arrested near her Brooklyn home.

PHOTO: A man was arrested with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle outside the Brooklyn home of Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad.  In his car, police found a briefcase containing a loaded Norinco AK-47 style assault rifle and a magazine.

A man was arrested with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle outside the home of Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad in Brooklyn. In his car, police found a briefcase containing a Norinco AK-47 style assault rifle loaded with a bullet in the chamber and a magazine attached to it.

US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York

According to an indictment, the suspect had spent hours in a car in front of Alinejad’s house. Alinejad posted a video online showing a man approaching her door. She said he had “a loaded gun to kill me.”

Police said the man, Khalid Mehdiyev, had a loaded Norinco AK-47 style assault rifle, according to one indictment. He was charged with possessing a firearm with an obliterated serial number, the indictment said. Police have not said what they believe may be Mehdiyev’s intention or motive.

“People, especially women, are way ahead of the government. Especially the younger generation,” Ravari said, adding: “Now the young women are pushing to choose what they want and risking the consequences.”

Aaron Katersky of TBEN News contributed to this report.