Narges Hosseini, who was arrested for protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab, refused to appear in court to face charges punishable by up to 10 years, including “encouraging immorality or prostitution.”
“Ms. Hosseini did not even appear in court to express remorse for her action. She said she objects to the forced hijab and considers it her legal right to express her protest,” Hosseini’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on February 5, 2018.
Hosseini, 32, has been in detention since January 29, 2018. She was unable to pay the $135,000 USD bail set by the judge presiding over her case.
She was arrested on January 29, 2018, for posting a photo on social media of herself standing on a bench holding her white headscarf like a flag on Tehran’s Revolution’s Street.
All women in Iran are required to cover their hair and bodies in public.
Vida Movahed was the first woman to be arrested after she did the same thing in late December 2017 in Tehran. The act of removing your headscarf in public and waving it like a flag has become a symbol for the “Girls of Revolution Street” movement, which advocates choice over compulsion for women’s clothing.
“Ms. Hosseini is being held in difficult circumstances in Gharchak Prison [south of Tehran] but she is not prepared to say she is sorry,” Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, told CHRI. “She believes she’s innocent.”
Hosseini is facing the charges of, “openly committing a harām [sinful] act” and “violating public prudency” under Article 638 and “encouraging immorality or prostitution” under Article 639.
According to Article 639 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, “The following individuals shall be sentenced to one year to 10 years’ imprisonment… A – Anyone who establishes or directs a place of immorality or prostitution. B – Anyone who facilitates or encourages people to commit immorality or prostitution.”
Article 638 states, “Anyone in public places and roads who openly commits a harām [sinful] act, in addition to the punishment provided for the act, shall be sentenced to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes; and if they commit an act that is not punishable but violates public prudency, they shall only be sentenced to 10 days to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes.”
Hosseini’s lawyer also rejected a senior judicial official’s claim that her client is a drug addict.
On February 4, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei told the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that some of the hijab protesters “have been taking industrial drugs and participating in an organized plot hatched abroad.”
“Despite the Judiciary Spokesman’s false claim, Narges Hosseini has never consumed drugs in her life,” Sotoudeh told CHRI.
Iranian officials also accused two protesters who died in detention of being drug addicts. Some detainees in Evin Prison were also told by their interrogators to admit to being drug addicts to speed up their release, according to Sotoudeh.
Since late January 2018, at least 29 people have been arrested in cities throughout Iran, including Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan and Rasht, for joining the “Girls of Revolution Street” movement and posting photos of themselves on social media with their hair uncovered.
On January 30, Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri dismissed the protests as a “minor issue” and criticized the protesters for being “childish.”
“We have a population of about 80 million people and the vast majority of our women either wear the chador or have an appropriate hijab,” he said.
“In these circumstances, they will not allow the enemy to carry out its plans,” added Montazeri. “It was a childish move for a young girl to take off her scarf in a place where people are living their normal lives and some people were assigned to post the films on the cyber network.”
He continued: “I think those who committed these acts did it mostly out of ignorance. Their emotions were stirred by foreign instigations. Most of our people are Muslim and observe religious laws. These actions do not have much of an impact. Anyone appearing on the street without a hijab is committing a crime and can be pursued by the law.”