AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC STATEMENT
January 24, 2018
Iran: Compulsory veiling is abusive, discriminatory and humiliating; end the persecution of women for peacefully protesting against it
AI Index Number: MDE 13/7783/2018
The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release a woman who was arrested on 27 December 2017 in Tehran for engaging in a peaceful protest against compulsory veiling (hijab), Amnesty International said today. The organization renewed its calls on the Iranian authorities to end the persecution of women who speak out against compulsory veiling, and abolish this discriminatory and humiliating practice. This practice has violated women’s rights in Iran for decades, including their rights to non-discrimination, freedom of belief and religion, freedom of expression, and protection from arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
A video has gone viral on social media platforms since Wednesday 27 December 2017, which shows a woman standing alone on a concrete structure in a busy section of Tehran’s Enqelab (Revolution) Street, without wearing a headscarf and silently waving a white flag in an apparent protest against the country’s mandatory Islamic dress code which, among other things, forces women to cover their hair with a headscarf. The video was first obtained and released by White Wednesdays, a popular campaign which urges women to share pictures and videos of themselves on social media every Wednesday, wearing white headscarves or pieces of clothing in protest at compulsory veiling.
According to three eyewitnesses, law enforcement officials arrested the woman on the spot and transferred her to a nearby detention centre known as Kalantari 148. No information about her fate and whereabouts has since been made available publicly, sparking fears about her safety and well-being, and prompting thousands of people to take part in a social media campaign with the English hashtag #Where_is_She? and its equivalent in Persian.1 Amnesty International understands from two independent sources that the woman’s name has so far been withheld by her family due to perceived security concerns.
On 22 January 2018, prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh wrote on her Facebook page that she has found through her investigative efforts that the woman was initially released after her arrest but was subsequently detained again. She stated that a criminal case against her has been opened at the Office of the Prosecutor for Zone 6 of Tehran. According to information obtained and shared publically by Nasrin Sotoudeh, the woman is around 31 years old and has a 19-month-old infant.
Amnesty International has learned that on the same day, 27 December 2017, another woman, aged approximately 18, was also arrested in Tehran for peacefully protesting against compulsory veiling. Her name has also been withheld by her family and lawyer due to security concerns. The woman is held in pre-trial detention in Gharchak prison in Varamin near Tehran, where women convicted of violent criminal offences are detained in extremely poor conditions.