Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
According to the Amnesty International (AI), Iranian authorities are using incommunicado detention, prolonged solitary confinement and threats against family members, in order to extract forced video “confessions” from women’s rights defenders detained for campaigning against the country’s discriminatory, forced veiling (hijab) laws.
Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said, “Threatened by the momentum behind a growing women’s rights movement against Iran’s forced veiling laws, the Iranian authorities are employing crude tactics to discredit activists campaigning against forced veiling, dissuade others from joining the movement and instill fear in society”.
He further said, “These women should not even be detained in the first place. It is outrageous that they are now being tortured or otherwise ill-treated to compel their participation in state propaganda videos in which they ‘confess’ their ‘guilt’ and renounce the anti-forced veiling campaign. The authorities should release them immediately and unconditionally, drop all the charges against them and refrain from broadcasting their forced ‘confessions’ on state media outlets”.
Intelligence and security officials orchestrating the production of the propaganda videos are ordering the women’s rights defenders to retract their opposition to forced veiling, denounce the ‘White Wednesdays’ campaign against compulsory veiling laws and express “regret” for allowing themselves to be “incited” by “anti-revolutionary opposition agents” outside the country.
The most recent case documented is that of women’s rights defender Saba Kordafshari, aged 22, who was arrested on June 1, 2019. According to her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi, following her arrest, Saba Kordafshari was held in prolonged solitary confinement for 11 days in Vozara detention center in Tehran until June 11, 2019, when she was transferred to Shahr-e Ray prison.
During her time in solitary confinement, she was put under constant pressure to appear before a camera and denounce the ‘White Wednesday’ campaign.
The interrogators conditioned her release on giving forced “confessions” and threatened to arrest her mother if she did not “co-operate”. On 10 July, the authorities carried out their threat and arrested Raheleh Ahmadi.
On July 2, 2019, the authorities transferred Saba Kordafshari to another location and concealed her fate and whereabouts from her family until they returned her to Shahr-e Rey prison on July 13, 2019, so subjecting her to enforced disappearance for 12 days. She subsequently informed her family that she had been held in section 2-A of infamous Evin prison, which is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, and put under renewed pressure to give forced “confessions”.
In another case, women’s rights defender Yasaman Aryani, aged 24, was arrested by security forces on April 10, 2019, at her home in Tehran. Her mother, Monireh Arabshahi, was arrested the next day after enquiring about her daughter’s whereabouts at the Vozara detention center in Tehran.
While held in solitary confinement for nine days, members of the security forces threatened Yasaman Aryani with, among other things, the arrest of her younger sibling and father unless she appeared before a camera expressing “repentance” for sending videos to the White Wednesdays campaign. She was also taunted with claims that her case had been forgotten by the outside world.
On April 18, 2019, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi were shifted from the Vozara detention center, put into a van and driven to an unidentified location in Tehran, without being given an explanation. As soon as they were taken out of the van, they were confronted with camera crews from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) corporation, who filmed them without their consent. They were then taken to a room to be “interviewed” by the IRIB and, when they objected, were told that they had no choice but to answer the questions.
In March 2019, the authorities also summoned Zarrin Badpa, the elderly mother of Masih Alinejad, a US-based Iranian journalist and founder of the ‘White Wednesday’ campaign, for interrogation. She was questioned for two hours about her daughter’s activities while being filmed. Amnesty International is concerned that the authorities may feature statements she gave under duress in future propaganda videos, given their long-standing record of engaging in such abusive practices.
Amnesty International’s Philip Luther said, “The Iranian authorities should be under no illusion that the coercive and cruel nature of the video ‘confessions’ extracted from women’s rights defenders and their families will go unnoticed. Any state-controlled bodies involved in the production and broadcasting of these ‘confession’ videos share responsibility for the human rights violations committed against the women and their families”.
He added, “By resorting to crude propaganda tactics, the authorities cannot mask the truth that women in Iran are increasingly standing up for their right to choose whether or not to wear a headscarf in public. They must stop treating women’s rights defenders like criminals and abolish forced veiling laws”.
What is White Wednesday campaign?
The ‘White Wednesday’ campaign is a popular online platform on which women from inside Iran share videos of themselves walking in public without a headscarf and expressing opposition to forced veiling and discussing their hopes for women’s rights.
Amnesty International is aware of at least eight women currently in detention for their activism against forced veiling and the White Wednesdays campaign: Yasaman Aryani and her mother, Monireh Arabshahi; Saba Kordafshari and her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi; Mojgan Keshavarz; Fereshteh Didani; and two other women whose names are not yet known to Amnesty International. They are facing charges including “inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution”, “spreading propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”.
Under Iran’s compulsory veiling laws, the punishment for women seen in public without a headscarf includes arrest, a prison sentence, flogging or a fine. Forced veiling laws violate a whole host of rights, including the rights to equality, privacy, and freedom of expression and belief. The practice of compulsory veiling also degrades women and girls, stripping them of their dignity and self-worth.
Cruel repression tactics of the Iranian regime
For the past 17 years, I have written numerous articles based on my research on today’s Iran. While researching on the issue, I came to know the series of horrific facts about the treatment of prisoners and socio-political opponents of the Iranian regime. Particularly, the members of Iran’s notorious Revolutionary Guard as well as the prison guards commit heinous crimes on the detained or imprisoned females. In most cases, these unfortunate females are gang-raped by the members of the Revolutionary Guard and or the prison guards. While cruelty on the females and socio-political opponents are continuing in full swing in Iran and its rogue regime are committing crimes against humanity, unfortunately, most of the Western leaders are showing extreme and undue favor to those mullahs. The worst-ever culprits, in this case, are French President Emmanuel Macron, German chancellor Angela Markel, and Russian President Vladimir Putin. They not only are granting special favor to Iran but also are playing extreme foul in confronting every step that goes against the Iranian rogue regime. We are aware of such notoriety soon after President Doland Trump took the timely step against Iran centering Barack Obama’s nuclear deal.
Where is Yasaman Aryani?
Yasaman Aryani and her mother Monireh Arabshahi have been charged with offenses including “inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution” through promoting “unveiling”, solely for campaigning against abusive forced veiling laws.
Yasaman Aryani, 23, had been arrested along with some other activists, while attending a protest assembly on August 2, 2018, in front of Daneshjoo (Student) park in Tehran and taken to Qarchak prison.
Right after their arrest, the young detainees posted a message on their experience and calling for help via a cellphone from inside a State Security Force van as they were being taken to jail.
Thousands of enraged protesters poured into the streets of several Iranian cities for several days in early August 2018, protesting the country’s faltering economy, skyrocketing inflation, hardship, and hiking prices.
Aryani and four other women were sentenced to spend time in prison on the charge of “disrupting the public order” and were transferred to Evin Prison.
After being released from Evin Prison on February 13, 2019, she announced that “being pardoned” was just a show by the regime officials.
Yasaman Aryani had revealed regimes’ crimes against incarcerated women and the prison’s condition.
While a source claims Monireh Arabshahi was released from the prison and her daughter Yasaman Aryani was still untraceable, another source said, both are still missing and it is highly anticipated that the rogue Iranian regime is applying numerous forms of intimidation tactics on the mother and her daughter. Their house was repeatedly raided by the members of the notorious Revolutionary Guard and even Yasaman’s father was abused and assaulted.
Where is the global outcry?
Participants of the White Wednesday campaign deserve support from the international community, media, and rights groups. The Iranian regime will never stop such inhuman cruelty on the White Wednesday participants unless there is a huge international outcry. Unfortunately, there is not sufficient campaign in the social media in defense of the participants of the White Wednesday campaign.
In my opinion, participants of the White Wednesday campaign are real heroes and they well deserve our support. They must not be forgotten or abandoned by any of the conscious individuals around the world.
Islam needs to be reformed immediately. The rogue culture of forcing girls and women in wearing burqa or hijab should come to an end. Western policymakers and societies should come forward and voice against burqa and hijab. There should be a total ban on these notorious radical Islamic attires. In case of necessity, Western policymakers should adopt the appropriate law of deporting those who wear burqa and hijab.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the Editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter at Salah_Shoaib