The Islamic Republic last month handed out prison sentences totaling 109 years to six White Wednesdays campaigners to break our movement against compulsory hijab. In this fight, both the hard-liners and reformists are united against the women.
Saba Kordafshari, an energetic and optimistic 20-year-old was sentenced to 24 years in prison. She received 15 years for removing her hijab in public and another nine years for “spreading propaganda against the state,” and “assembly and collusion.”
“It is inhumane and extraordinarily cruel to sentence women who only removed their hijab as part of peaceful civil disobedience to these long prison terms,” said Masih Alinejad, founder of White Wednesdays campaign against compulsory hijab. “For Islamic Republic, it seems unveiled women are more dangerous than armed criminals and drug dealers. But the regime has failed to break the spirit and tenacity of Iranian women who continue to resist these oppressive laws.”
Saba was repeatedly pressured to make video confessions, and to denounce the White Wednesdays campaign against compulsory hijab, something that she strongly resisted and refused to do. The Intelligence Ministry even arrested her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi, to bring further pressure and force her to force her make false confessions.
The month of August began with news that three White Wednesdays women’s rights activists, Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi, and Mojgan Keshavarz, have been sentenced to a total of 55 years in prison. The Revolutionary Court of Tehran gave the women 5 years for “association and collusion against national security,” one year each for “disseminating propaganda against the state,” and 10 years for “encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution.” Mojgan Keshavarz was sentenced an additional 7.5 years for “insulting the sanctities.”
Twin sisters, Maryam and Matin Amiri, were promised their freedoms if they made video confessions but received 15 years each despite appearing in a video made by Fars News, which is closely associated with the Revolutionary Guards.
This has been the pattern of recent months in which the Islamic Republic authorities have continue to harass, interrogate, detain, and imprison women’s rights activists, even accusing them of national-security crimes like espionage, propaganda against the regime and collaboration with foreign powers.
At least another ten White Wednesdays activists are in prison.
In late July, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, the conservative head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, announced publicly that the Iranian regime had identified a new “hostile government” with whom interaction was henceforth banned, punishable by up to a decade in prison. That entity wasn’t the Trump administration, which has launched an escalating campaign of economic pressure against the Islamic Republic over the past year. That entity wasn’t Israel, but rather the target of the blacklisting was Masih Alinejad and her campaigns of My Stealthy Freedom and White Wednesdays.
But despite the threats, the protests are continuing unabated. Raheleh Ahmadi made a video condemning the lengthy jail sentence on her daughter, Saba and vowed to continue her struggle.
The practice of compulsory hijab is exceedingly unpopular; an official study conducted in 2014 but only published last year by the Iranian Center for Strategic Studies, the dedicated think tank of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, found that approximately half of all Iranians oppose compulsory veiling.
Even though, the percentage of those opposed to compulsory hijab has increased significantly in the past five years that My Stealthy Freedom and White Wednesdays campaigns have been launched, the Islamic Republic will find it difficult to make changes, says Masih Alinejad.
“Compulsory hijab is in the DNA of the Islamic Republic,” Alinejad says. “The veiling of women represents a fundamental component of the Iranian regime’s claim to power and religious authority, so rejection of the hijab is a logical part of any resistance to it.”