Crackdown

Woman who protests compulsory hijab arrested in Iran again, hit with 20-year sentence

Activist and forced hijab protester Shaparak Shajarizadeh. (Twitter / Masih Alinejad)

An Iranian woman who was arrested earlier this year for protesting the country’s compulsory hijab policy for women was arrested and slapped with a two-year prison sentence and 18 years of probation. Meanwhile, a young woman with a huge following on social media was arrested and released on bail over videos posted on Instagram showing her dancing. The arrests have human rights advocates denouncing the Iranian government for it’s latest morality crackdown.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh, who spent time in Shahr-e Rey prison and was kept in solitary confinement there earlier this year, was arrested again on May 8 for not wearing a headscarf in public. Women in Iran have been mandated to wear a hijab while in public since 1979, but in recent years a growing movement has sought to fight back against the compulsory head scarf.

One of the leading proponents of the compulsory hijab protest effort is Iranian exile Masih Alinejad, the founder of My Stealthy Freedom. She launched a movement known as #WhiteWednesdays, in which men and women post photos on social media wearing or carrying white headscarves in protest of the mandatory hijab rule. Shajarizadeh was an active #WhiteWednesdays participant. She was reportedly taken into custody along with her 9-year-old son in the city of Kashan, about 150 miles south of the capital, Tehran. Authorities reportedly released the boy after a few hours, but she has been sentenced to two years in prison, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran and given an 18-year suspended sentence, or essentially probation.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, Shajarizadeh’s lawyer, spoke with the Center for Human Rights in Iran and said. “I don’t know if she removed her hijab or not but my question is: How come women get immediately arrested for not observing the hijab or having an inappropriate hijab, or wearing tight or short dresses, or wearing lipstick, but in cases dealing with theft and murder, suspects never get arrested so fast?” Sotoudeh said. “Why should women be arrested like this every day?” she wondered. “This is a manifestation of violence against women.”

In a post on Twitter, Alinejad said she spoke with Shaparak and that the activist “said millions of women are against compulsory hijab. Iran is a bigger prison for all of us.” Shaparak has been freed on bail, but Alinejad, in an email to Women in the World, criticized the sentence against Shaparak as “inhuman and backward.”

Meanwhile, a teenager with a devoted social media following was arrested for posting videos of herself dancing on Instagram. Maedeh Hojabri, 19, often posts videos on Instagram in which she can be seen dancing to Western music — and not wearing a hijab. According to The Guardian, she was just one of several popular social media personalities who were arrested in the sweep. The identities of the others have yet to be revealed.

Hojabri, The Guardian reported, was shown on state television issuing a forced apology.

Alinejad told Women in the World she spoke briefly to Hojabri and said that the teen has been released on bail. “I am 19 years and I’m free on bail because I promised that I am not going to publish videos of my dancing performance on Instagram,” Alinjead said Hojabri told her.

But her arrest has sparked outrage and resulted in many people uploading videos of themselves, like the one below, to social media showing them dancing in solidarity with Hojabri.

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