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Iran Women’s Defender Faces 24 Years in Prison For Not Wearing Compulsory Headscarf

20-year-old Iranian women’s rights defender Saba Kord Afshari was arrested on June 1, 2019 and sentenced to 24 years in prison for refusing to wear a regime-mandated headscarf in public.  

Afshari was sent to a prison under the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps where she was allegedly coerced into making false video confessions.  

According to reports, she was denied contact with her lawyer and the Corps even arrested Afshari’s mother who is now serving 31 months in prison, to pressure a confession. 

Authorities charged Afshari with 15 years for “promoting corruption and prostitution through appearing without a headscarf in public,” 1.5 years for “propaganda against the state,” and 7.5 years for “gathering and colluding against national security.” 

The court handed down a maximum sentence on every charge against Afshari and then increased it by half due to prior convictions.  

Afshari was first arrested in 2018 for engaging in anti-government protests. Afshari has also previously participated in White Wednesdays as part of the My Stealthy Freedom campaign which encouraged women to go out in public without a headscarf and then post pictures of themselves on social media to raise awareness.  

Afshari’s case is one in a series of dozens where women protesting Iran’s compulsory headscarf law have been arrested.  

Ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the law has included a mandatory dress code where women have been required to wear a headscarf. Breaking this law was once punishable by a whipping of 74 lashes.  

Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Law approved and ratified in 1991 states: “Women who appear in public without a proper hijab should be imprisoned from 10 days to two months or pay a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 Ryal.” Not wearing a headscarf is considered an offense against public moral.  

Afshari has expressed that “in Iran, there are no rights for humans, let alone respecting human rights in the prisons.” 

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