Human rights experts condemn Iran's imprisonment of women protesting against the mandatory hijab
A group of United Nations human rights experts has condemned the lengthy prison sentences against three Iranian women who are arbitrarily detained for publicly protesting against the mandatory wearing of hijab.
According to a press release issued on Friday, experts have expressed concern as the detention and lengthy sentences imposed on these women are directly associated to the peaceful practices to support the struggle of Iranian women for basic human rights, freedom of expression and equality in Iran.
Human rights experts have called on the Iranian authorities to reverse these convictions and to immediately release all human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained for their activities in defence of women's rights, and to ensure full respect for women's rights of freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly.
According to the statement, Mojan Keshavarz has been sentenced to 23 years and six months, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi have been sentenced to 16 years in prison. The three women have been convicted on charges of assembling, joining acts against national security, propagating against the state and promoting moral corruption and prostitution. Keshavarz has also been convicted of “insulting religious sensitivities”.
Experts said the charges were filed after an online video showing the three women distributing flowers to Tehran's metro commuters on International Women's Day on 8 March, 2019. The human rights activists, not wearing the hijab, have peacefully protested against the law of the mandatory hijab in Iran and called for women’s right to choose whether to wear the hijab or not.
After posting the video footage, the women were detained and forcibly disappeared for a period of 9 to 14 days last April. They were also deprived of contacting lawyers during the preliminary investigation phase. Their legal representatives were reportedly denied representation in their trial.
Experts expressed particular concern about this apparent violation of women's right to a fair trial. “We remind the Iranian authorities that the human rights activists, who object to the imposition of the mandatory dress code on women, have acted in the defence of universally guaranteed human rights,” experts stated.
Experts noted that the use of repressive legislation to criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly runs counter to Iran's obligations under international human rights law.
The experts also drew attention to the fact that the three women were among a number of other Iranian human rights activists who had been arrested and convicted on national security charges for encouraging the realization of women's rights. According to reports, at least 32 people have been arrested since January 2018 and at least 10 people have been imprisoned for protesting against the mandatory wearing of hijab.
Arrests of women's rights activists have reportedly increased in recent weeks, and one official has warned that other people protesting against the wearing of the hijab could be charged with crimes related to national security.
United Nations experts are: Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran.
Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its causes and consequences.
Michelle Forrest, Special Rapporteur for human rights activists.
Meskerem Geset Techane, Chairperson of the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls.
David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
The Special Rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental body responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The rapporteurs and experts are mandated to study the human rights situation and report to the Human Rights Council. It should be noted that this is an honorary position , as these experts are not staff members of the United Nations and are not remunerated for their work.