Hijab protester beaten before ‘confession’ aired on TV, Rights Group says


Iran’s News Agency for Human Rights Activists (HRANA) says a woman who confessed to violating the country’s hijab law on air was beaten before making the statement.

Citing an “informed source,” the agency said Aug. 5 it was Sepideh Rashno taken to a Tehran hospital be examined for internal injuries after the statement has been made.

According to eyewitnesses the agency spoke to, Rashno had low blood pressure and was having trouble moving when she was taken to the hospital. Immediately after the investigation, she returned to prison.

Rashno, a 28-year-old writer and artist, was arrested on June 15 after a video of her arguing with another woman who was enforcing hijab-wearing rules on a bus in Tehran went viral. The other woman threatened to send the video – showing Rashno riding the bus without the obligatory hijab – to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Rashno was subsequently arrested and has since been held without access to lawyer, nor have the charges against her been made public.

Weeks after public concerns about Rashno’s whereabouts mounted, a Twitter storm began with the hashtag “Where’s Sepideh?”.

Iranian state television then showed her in a video report on July 30, in which Rashno’s eyes appeared darkened. Witnesses said she was listless and moved slowly.

During a one-page narration about the confrontation, Rashno was shown for a few seconds in what appeared to be a studio setting, uttering lines that appeared to have been written by authorities.

The admission came amid recent reports that the Iranian authorities are increasingly cracking down on women believed to be in violation of the wearing of the headscarf, which is compulsory in public in Iran.

Iran’s notorious Guidance Patrols, or morale police, have become increasingly active and violent. Videos have surfaced on social media that appear to show officers arresting women, forcing them into vans and taking them away.

A July 5 executive order by President Ebrahim Raisi to enforce the hijab law has resulted in a new list of restrictions on women’s clothing.

According to the order, women who did not comply were barred from government offices, banks and public transport.

In response, activists have launched a social media campaign using the hashtag #no2hijab to urge people to boycott companies enforcing the tougher restrictions.

On July 12, suffragettes released videos of themselves publicly removing their veils to coincide with the National Hijab and Government Chastity Day.

The hijab first became mandatory for Iranian women and girls over the age of 9 in public after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Many Iranian women have flouted the rule in protest over the years, pushing the boundaries of what officials describe as acceptable dress.

HRANA is the Media Company for Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRA), a non-political and non-governmental organization composed of lawyers defending human rights in Iran.

With letters and reports by Ardeshir Tayebi

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