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Iran sentences woman to 24 years in prison for refusal to wear hijab

Saba Kord Afshari, a 20 yr/old woman, sentenced by Iran to 24 yrs in prison for protesting compulsory hijab. (U.S. State Department spokesperson/Twitter)
September 04, 2019

A 20-year old Iranian woman was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Aug. 24 by the Islamic Republic of Iran for violating the country’s hijab law, which requires women keep their heads covered while in public.

Saba Kord-Ashrafi joined other women in the Islamic-controlled nation by removing their hijabs and showing their hair in public for a demonstration called “White Wednesdays,” the Toronto Sun reported.

She was charged on Aug. 19 with “spreading corruption and prostitution by taking off her hijab and walking without a veil [hijab],” according to the Sun.

Her mother was also arrested.

In an interview Saturday with CBC New’s Natasha Fatah, White Wednesday’s founder Masih Alinejad said Kord-Ashraf was compelled by Iranian authorities to make a false confession against the White Wednesday movement.

“They asked Saba to say ‘death to Masih Alinejad, death to White Wednesday,'” Alinejad said. “And Saba said in front of the camera, and she said ‘death to dictators.'”

She was also reportedly held in solitary confinement and her mother’s arrest was part of the effort to pressure her into a false confession, according to Alinejad.

The sentencing caught the attention of outspoken activists, including Irwin Cotler, the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, who condemned the sentencing on Twitter.

“Condemn the brutal & unjust sentence of #SabaKordafshari, who at only 20 years old has just been sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment. Her ‘crime’ ? Speaking out for women’s rights in #Iran,” he tweeted.

This is not the first time this year women have been imprisoned for not covering their heads.

In July, 23-year-old Yasaman Aryani, her mother, Monireh Arabshahi, and Mojgan Keshavarz, the mother of a 9-year old girl, were arrested for violating the hijab law in April.

“The day will come when we won’t have to fight for our most basic rights,” Arabshahi said in court.

That sentencing provoked a response from State Department spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, condemning the action by Iran.

“We condemn the Iranian regime for sentencing Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi, and Mojgan Keshavarz to 55 years in prison for protesting compulsory hijab laws while simply handing out roses,” Ortagus tweeted on Aug. 14. “We urge all nations to condemn this grave violation.”

All three women were sentenced on July 31 to five years in prison for “assembly and collusion to act against national security,” one year for “propaganda against the state,” and 10 years for “encouraging and providing for [moral] corruption and prostitution,” according to Human Rights Watch.

Keshavarz received an additional 7 1/2 years for “insulting the sacred.”

Human Rights Watch also noted that the women would serve 10 years, their longest sentence, if the sentences were upheld on appeal.