Rampage Against Women: Prisoners of Conscience in Iran Face More Jail Time
Relentless Campaign of Repression Seeks to Quash “Woman, Life, Freedom” Movement
Jan 16, 2024 – Three women prisoners of conscience in Iran, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Narges Mohammadi and journalists Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, are confronting additional prison sentences on sham charges. The state persists in its attempts to coerce women into submission for the mere exercise of basic rights, said the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
“These prisoners of conscience face relentless abuse from the state for being women who refuse to bow to repression,” said Jasmin Ramsey, Deputy Director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The state’s recent rampage is a direct result of the government’s failure to quash the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement,” she said.
Ramsey urged widespread condemnation, adding “The Islamic Republic’s onslaught against women prisoners of conscience and all advocates for basic human rights should be vehemently denounced globally.”
“Now, more than ever, women in Iran require sustained international attention to remain focused on their struggle for liberty and basic human rights,” said Ramsey.
Nobel Laureate Slapped with Additional Prison Time in Absentia
On January 16, Narges Mohammadi, 51, was sentenced to 15 additional months in prison, and after she is released, to two years of exile, a two-year travel ban, a two-year ban on membership in social-political groups, and a two-year ban on using a smartphone, according to a post by her official Instagram page that is run by her supporters.
For advocating human and women’s rights from inside prison, Mohammadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2023, was charged with “spreading propaganda.” Her notable statements include support for the country’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, which was met with violent state repression after it sparked months of nationwide protests after the killing in state custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini in September 2022.
Due to the political nature of the charges and denial of due process, Mohammadi refused to attend the sham trial, which occurred on December 19, 2023, at Branch 26 of Iran’s Revolutionary Court in Tehran, presided over by Judge Iman Afshari. It was initiated through a complaint lodged by the Ministry of Intelligence.
Forced to spend most of the past 12 years in prison on manufactured political charges, Mohammadi was most recently re-imprisoned in May 2021. Her five convictions amount to 12 years and 3 months of imprisonment, 154 lashes, 4 months of travel ban, 2 years of exile, and various social and political prohibitions, according to her Instagram account.
“The international community must swiftly secure Narges Mohammadi’s release, prioritizing human rights over politics,” said a statement on her Instagram page. “Her continued imprisonment is a stark reminder of the persecution faced by political dissidents worldwide, emphasizing the need for human rights to be at the forefront of relations with Iran.”
Journalists Face New Charges Day After Release on Bail
The day after journalists Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi were released on bail pending the appeals court’s review of their unjust prison sentences, they were slapped with new charges, this time for appearing in public without hijabs.
The specific charges filed for showing their hair were not immediately announced. Jailed since September 2022 on a 10bn toman (over $160,000) bail after appealing their sentences of 13 and 12 years respectively, they will be returned to prison one week from the day of their release, reported state media. Their swift return to prison was a reprisal by the state for their decision not to wear a headscarf upon being released.
“My client, Elahe Mohammadi, will be free on bail until the ruling by the Appeals Court … and we’re hoping to get an acquittal for my client on all charges,” lawyer Shahaboddin Mirlowhi told the Hammihan newspaper on January 15, 2024.
The photographs were snapped as the women, both in their thirties, embraced their family members and friends as they celebrated their release.
Other women political prisoners who’ve been immediately re-arrested for showing their hair in public include rights activist Sepideh Qoliyan.
Hamedi and Mohammadi were initially arrested for performing basic functions as journalists pertaining to the case of Mahsa Jina Amini, 22, who was killed in state custody in September 2022 just three days after being arrested for her alleged inappropriate hijab.
Hundreds of protesters were killed in the streets, while dozens were charged with capital offenses, and tens of thousands arrested, between September 2022 and January 2023 in what came to be known as the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement.
For performing journalistic duties, Hamedi and Mohammadi were sentenced on the charges of “spreading propaganda,” “committing a crime against national security,” and “collaborating with a foreign state.”
The three women prisoners of conscience are among dozens of civil society members who’ve been thrown behind bars since September 2022 after criticizing the state’s repressive policies, or for highlighting women’s struggles.
Iranian authorities consistently trample human rights, especially freedom of expression, showing little tolerance, particularly when exercised by women.
Despite this, women across the nation bravely defy repressive measures, including by appearing in public without bowing to the state’s forced-hijab law.
Currently, women in Iran can face fines, arrests, or imprisonment for not wearing a hijab. Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code states that “Women who appear in public places and roads without wearing an Islamic hijab shall be sentenced to ten days to two months’ imprisonment or a fine of 50 thousand to five hundred rials.”
Furthermore, women can be charged with prostitution or “promoting prostitution” if they refuse to wear the veil or advocate for a woman’s right to dress as she wishes, as outlined in Article 639. This offense carries a punishment of one to ten years’ imprisonment.
The new “Chastity and Hijab Law” would intensify discrimination against women who choose not to wear the hijab in Iran, while also undermining fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, belief, religion, and association.
Multiple UN experts have expressed serious concerns about the incompatibility of the provisions of the law with the principles of gender equality and other fundamental freedoms.
Due to its anti-women laws and policies, an international campaign featuring major women’s rights activists from countries including Iran and Afghanistan seeks to officially recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran as a gender apartheid state.
Islamic Republic authorities have refused to comply with the UN’s independent Fact-Finding Mission on Iran, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council in November 2023 to investigate major rights violations and atrocities committed by the government since protests erupted in September 2022.
“We urge the Iranian Government to immediately halt the application of the death penalty and establish a moratorium on its use,” said UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Liz Throssell after a juvenile offender and a young man were hanged in Iran in November 2023.
“We also call on the Government to stop using criminal procedures to punish political activists and others for exercising their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly,” she added.
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