Third Woman Sentenced to Prison in Iran For Removing Hijab Slapped With More Charges
Shima Babaei, who is awaiting an Appeals Court decision on her conviction for peacefully protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab rules, is facing more charges along with her husband Dariush Zand, she told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on June 6, 2018.
“During 21 days of detention in solitary confinement in Ward 2-A of Evin Prison [in early February 2018], I was interrogated 13 or 14 times but only two or three sessions were about inappropriate hijab charges,” she told CHRI. “That’s when I realized my husband and I were facing many charges; having no hijab was just one of them.”
The 24-year-old civil rights activist said she and Zand are also being prosecuted for their participation in demonstrations in Tehran on December 30, 2017, and rallying in support of political prisoners on December 21, 2017.
They have been charged with “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “publishing falsehoods on social media” and “contact with foreign media.”
On June 4, 2018, Babaei posted a video on social media stating that Branch 1090 of the Guidance Court in Tehran had sentenced her to two months in prison and fined her 10 million rials (approximately $236.50 USD) for the charges of “removing the hijab in public” and “publishing indecent material on social media.”
The so-called “indecent material” was a reference to her photos and writings against Iran compulsory hijab law, said Babaei, the daughter of former political prisoner Ebrahim Babaei.
“The interrogators said I was instigated by Masih Alinejad and that I’m working for her,” Babaei said. “But I said that’s not true. I said Masih actually works for us. We have no medium in Iran to spread our thoughts and views. Masih does that for us.”
The “White Wednesdays” protest movement was launched in May 2017 on Facebook by US-based women’s rights activist and journalist Masih Alinejad. Participants wear white on Wednesdays in Iran with some removing their hijabs in public and posting a photo of their free-flowing hair on social media.
Prior to her conviction, Babaei was summoned to a morality police office in Tehran for allegedly participating in White Wednesdays and made an appearance with her father on August 19, 2017.
“They kept asking me who was instigating me to oppose the forced hijab,” she told CHRI. “They said the hijab is the law and I must respect it. I told them it’s a bad law and I’m protesting against it in the most peaceful way possible; I’ve been instigated by no one.”
Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code states, “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.”
Babaei continued: “They began to get rude and my father got upset and told them they had no right to mistreat his daughter. Then they insulted my father and violently threw him out of the room. My father, who’s a [Iran-Iraq] war veteran, got sick. We were there for two hours and then they opened a case against me.”
The activist said her father was going to post bail for her release but was told he could not do so because he had been charged with assaulting an agent. The bail was posted by a family friend instead, she said.
“On April 9, 2018, an agent called our home and spoke to my mother,” Babaei said. “I was shocked that she was told a ruling had been issued against me even though there had been no trial with the presence of me and my lawyer.”
“A few days later, I went to Branch 1090 of the Guidance Court and they gave me a verdict of two months in prison and a 10 million rial (approximately $236.50 USD) fine,” she added. “But I complained and asked how I could be convicted without a trial?”
“Finally, after 20 days I went back to the court office with my lawyer to get the answer to my complaint and they agreed to hold a trial on May 26,” Babaei said.
“At that trial, I was accused of appearing in public without a hijab and I said yes, I did that, and I’m against the forced hijab,” she added.
Babaei also told CHRI that on June 2nd she was issued a verdict identical to the previous one: two months in prison and a 10 million rial (approximately $236.50 USD) fine.
Babaei is the third woman convicted of publicly protesting against mandatory hijab.
On March 7, 2018, Narges Hosseini, a 32-year-old sociology student, was sentenced to 24 months in prison—21 months suspended for five years—for the charges of “encouraging people to engage in corruption by removing the hijab in public” and “committing a forbidden act in a public space.”
Maryam Shariatmadari, a 32-year-old computer science student, was sentenced to a year in prison for “encouraging corruption by removing her hijab” on March 25, 2018.
Known as the Girls of Revolution Street, dozens of women have been arrested in Iran since January 2018 for removing their hijabs in public and waving them on a stick or with their hands.