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ISRAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN: Pro-government vigilantes attack women for standing up against forced hijab laws

22 Mar 2019
[International Secretariat]
Region: ISRAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN
Topic: Women's Rights

A series of videos shared on social media  in recent weeks have shed light on the daily harassment and violent attacks women in Iran face at the hands of morality police and pro-government vigilantes seeking to enforce the country’s forced hijab (veiling) laws, said Amnesty International.

The video footage that has emerged in recent weeks demonstrates the shocking levels of abuse women in Iran face on a daily basis from morality police or pro-government thugs simply for daring to defy the country’s abusive forced hijab laws.

In one of the videos posted online recently, a woman films a confrontation that she says began after a pro-state vigilante persistently ordered her to wear her hijab properly. In the video the man hurls abusive insults at her and, when she objects, he turns around and sprays her in the face with what appears to be pepper spray.

In another video, a plain-clothes man standing next to a morality police van is seen aiming a gun at unarmed men and women who have intervened to stop the violent arrest of a woman who is not wearing a headscarf.

The person who filmed the video explains in a comment that they and other members of the public had to rescue the woman from the morality police, who had confiscated her car keys and were attempting to push her into their van.

Iranian women’s rights defenders have courageously filmed these incidents as part of the My Camera My Weapon campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the constant harassment and assault.

The videos were posted online by prominent Iranian journalist and women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad, based in the USA, who has run a series of high-profile online campaigns against forced hijab.

The increased spotlight on the assaults on women defying laws on forced hijab has been met with a chilling smear campaign by state media against women’s rights defenders calling for the abolition of these abusive laws.

Iran’s forced hijab laws are a blatant breach of the rights to freedom of expression and religion, and the right to privacy. Women and girls in Iran are not allowed to set foot outside their homes unless they cover their hair with a headscarf and cover up their arms and legs with loose clothing.

Under Iranian law, women and girls as young as nine years old who are seen in public without a headscarf can be punished with a prison sentence of between 10 days and two months, or a cash fine. In practice, Iran’s authorities have imposed forced hijab on girls as young as seven years old.

Over the past year, Iran’s authorities have stepped up their crackdown on women’s rights defenders peacefully protesting against forced hijab laws. The most shocking example is the case of prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been detained, in part, for her opposition to forced hijab laws. She is currently awaiting a court verdict following a grossly unfair trial. If convicted, she could be sentenced up to 34 years in prison and 148 lashes.

12 March 2019
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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