Last month, an Iranian human rights lawyer named Nasrin Sotoudeh was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. Arrested last June, Sotoudeh was accused of: Insulting Iran’s supreme “leader,” circulating propaganda and spying, as reported by The Guardian. Sotoudeh had previously been incarcerated in years past for similar crimes.
Sotoudeh is known for defending women who have protested Iran’s compulsory headscarf laws, as well as other human rights defenders. In 1985, the hijab became mandatory for all women in the country, regardless of religious beliefs. Recently, women have been protesting this law publically by removing their headscarves and in some cases, carrying them on sticks and posting images to social media, which occasionally go viral. These images and other relevant media have aided in spreading awareness on the issue beyond the country’s borders. Although the sentence for a woman who removes her hijab typically does not exceed two months, if she is believed to be encouraging others to follow suit, she may face up to a decade in prison.
In 1936, ruler Reza Shah Pahlavi banned the hijab and chador in a bid to westernize the country. For some, this caused great discomfort and the hijab and chador became symbols of the revolution to come years later. Some argue that the religious clothing represents aspects of Iranian culture, but to many women living under the mandatory hijab law, such as Shaparak Shajarizadeh, the hijab represents female oppression and infringement of citizens’ rights.
In an interview conducted by Celine Cooper, a Montreal based journalist, Shaparak Shajarizadeh details her own personal experience as an activist against Iran’s oppressive hijab law.
“Lots of people say that there are more important issues than compulsory hijab. But for me, it is not just about having a veil on your head or having some sort of dress code. It’s about violence. Iranian women always have this shadow of fear when we are out. You don’t feel safe.” -Shaparak Shajarizadeh, Iranian activist and defendee of Nasrin Sotoudeh
Whether it be banning certain clothing pieces, or forcing it upon the individuals, policing people’s clothing choices is oppressive and indicative of a government’s lack of respect for their country’s citizens’ rights and freedoms. The harsh and barbaric sentenced being delivered to activists in Iran who dare to protest against the country’s oppressive laws is deplorable and deserved the attention of other nations across the globe that believe in the preservation of human rights for all.