It has been a year since Mahsa Amini was murdered by agents of the Iranian Regime, which saw protests around the World-over 80 cities-and protests throughout Iran. As the new School Year begins, Kids can't get books, and according to regime figures, over 7,000 schools don't have running water. In the meantime, they just passed the most repressive law to suppress women's rights all the while claiming they've developed missiles to hit Israel directly.
I wanted to share some #RandomThoughts while also capturing some uplifting music courtesy of the team at the Farhang Foundation:
International Community Should Call for an End to Gender Apartheid in Iran
September 20, 2023 – On the anniversary week of the eruption of Iran’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, sparked by the killing in state custody of a young women just three days after she was arrested for alleged inappropriate hijab, the Iranian parliament passed a bill that intensifies punishments against Iranian women and girls accused of wearing inappropriate hijabs. This legislation exposes them to heightened levels of violence.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is trampling the rights and freedoms of all women and girls in Iran by criminalizing freedom of expression,” said Jasmin Ramsey, deputy director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “This includes the countless brave women who continue to risk their lives in peaceful defiance against the state’s forced-hijab law by appearing unveiled in public.”
“One year after the killing in state custody of Mahsa Jina Amini soon after she was arrested for alleged improper hijab, not one Iranian official has been held accountable, not for her death nor the killings of hundreds of protesters who rose up this past year,” Ramsey said. “Instead, all women in Iran are being subjected to collective punishment.”
CHRI has issued a stark warning that the “Chastity and Hijab Law” not only violates due process rights, denying women in Iran a fair trial before punishment, but also exacerbates discrimination and violence against women in the country.
Women in Iran Now Face More Violence, Discrimination
In June 2023, a woman in Tehran shared her experience of the law’s consequences with CHRI: “A few days ago, a man on the metro pushed me hard because I wasn’t wearing a hijab and I fell on the ground. Then he dragged me… If the police hadn’t arrived, the man wouldn’t have left me alone.”
This new law not only places undue burdens on ordinary citizens but also fosters vigilante violence, encouraging them to participate in the state’s enforcement of hijab regulations. Through a system of surveillance and reporting, it also leaves women even more susceptible to violence.
Alarmingly, even before the law’s official ratification, judicial authorities have shuttered restaurants for serving unveiled women, and women have been denied access to banks for appearing without a hijab. These unlawful actions have occurred before the law’s ratification.
Proposed in response to the growing number of women and girls appearing in public without compulsory hijabs over the past year, the bill passed with 152 votes in favor, 34 against, and seven abstentions.
Jasmin Ramsey, deputy director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), criticized the Iranian parliament, stating, “The parliament of the Islamic Republic has again displayed to the world that like the old men who rule over Iran through force, they are neither interested in nor accountable for the rights and demands of the people of Iran. Their only aim is to maintain their power.”
Hijabless Women Deemed “Prostitutes”
The newly passed “Chastity and Hijab” bill, comprising over 70 articles, now awaits review and approval by the state’s “Guardian Council,” which seems likely.
This council, composed of six clerics and six jurists, is headed by the 97-year-old ultra-conservative cleric, Ahmad Jannati, and is charged with vetting all legislation to ensure it compliance with the Islamic Republic’s interpretation of Islamic law.
Presently, women in Iran can face fines, arrests, or imprisonment for not adhering to hijab regulations. Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code stipulates penalties, stating, “Women who appear in public places and roads without wearing an Islamic hijab shall be sentenced to ten days to two months’ imprisonment or a fine of 50 thousand to five hundred rials.” The human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh was imprisoned under this law in 2019.
Moreover, women can be charged with prostitution or “promoting prostitution” if they resist wearing the veil or advocate for a woman’s right to dress as she chooses, as outlined in Article 639. This offense carries a punishment of one to ten years’ imprisonment.
The proposed “Chastity and Hijab” bill goes even further by equating the act of appearing in public without a hijab, whether in person or on social media, with harm to society, deeming it equivalent to “nudity.” The bill introduces a range of additional punishments, including fines, restrictions on accessing bank accounts, confiscation of personal vehicles, travel limitations, bans on online activity, and imprisonment.
Saeid Dehghan, an Iranian human rights lawyer, criticized the bill’s legality, citing a violation of Article 9 of the Constitution. This article explicitly states that “no authority has the right to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country.”
Dehghan further emphasized the bill’s problematic nature by highlighting the lack of clear definitions for key terms such as “violations of social norms” and “hijab.” This absence of clarity not only opens avenues for manipulation and misuse of the law but also increases the risk of citizens’ rights being infringed upon due to the ambiguity.
Global Action Required to Unite Against Gender Apartheid in Iran
UN human rights experts have strongly denounced the Islamic Republic’s practice of “criminalizing the act of refusing to wear a hijab,” asserting that it constitutes a clear violation of women and girls’ freedom of expression. They emphasize that this violation can lead to potential infringements on other fundamental rights, spanning political, civil, cultural, and economic domains.
Simultaneously, women’s rights activists launched a campaign in March 2023 aimed at securing formal recognition of gender apartheid as a crime under international law. The campaign’s ultimate objective is to dismantle the structures perpetuating gender-based discrimination and inequality in the Islamic Republic of Iran and under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Despite facing immense adversity, Iranian women continue their peaceful defiance against the hijab law, even within the confines of prison.
Prominent human rights advocate Narges Mohammadi, from inside Iran’s Evin Prison, recently published a letter in the New York Times.
In it, she wrote, “The regime seems to be purposefully propagating a culture of violence against women. We are fueled by a will to survive, whether we are inside prison or outside. The government’s violent and brutal repression may sometimes keep people from the streets, but our struggle will continue until the day when light takes over darkness and the sun of freedom embraces the Iranian people.”
During his address to the UN General Assembly in New York, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi faced condemnation from UN human rights experts for his government’s violent repression of protests. They expressed ongoing concerns about the policies and practices in Iran, which, they argued, result in total impunity for grave crimes committed under international law in the year following Mahsa Jina Amini’s killing.
“The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran could have learned important lessons from the tragic death of Jina Mahsa Amini. But its response to the demonstrations that have led to the deaths of hundreds of protestors since September 2022 shows that authorities have chosen not to,” they stated.
CHRI urges the international community to urgently call for the repeal of the state’s forced-hijab law and to demand and end the systemic repression and gender-based discrimination against women in Iran that it represents.
“The hijab should be a choice, not a tool of state repression. Iranian women’s courageous stance against this government of old men deserves international support,” said Ramsey.
Iran Protests 2022: Women Protester Eyes Intentionally and Systematically Targeted
Iran Human Rights (IHRNGO); September 16, 2023: Analysis of protester deaths and eye injuries during the “Woman, Life, Freedom” nationwide protests reveals that repressive forces intentionally and systematically targeted women’s eyes and faces.
According to Iran Human Rights data, women made up 9% of slain protesters and 28% of those who sustained eye injuries. In a statistical sample from Mahabad (West Azerbaijan province), 15% of protesters killed were women, while they made up 56% of protester eye injuries.
Publishing this report, Iran Human Rights reaffirms its previous findings with more evidence that the Islamic Republic intentionally and systematically targeted protesters’ eyes.
Director, Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam said: “IHRNGO’s analysis shows that the brutal crimes committed during the protests by the Islamic Republic were planned, co-ordinated and calculated. These crimes were by no means isolated. The Islamic Republic leader, Ali Khamenei and all the perpetrators of such crimes must be held accountable.”
Iran Human Rights has received many reports of eye injuries from the nationwide protests in 2022. Many of the cases recorded by Iran Human Rights have since been shared on social media or by the media, particularly those who have managed to escape Iran and speak publicly. Some of the injured have also preferred to submit their stories and evidence of their injuries with human rights organisations on the condition of anonymity. As with all protester cases, many of the injured and their families have also been forced and threatened into silence.
On 19 November 2022, two months after the start of the nationwide protests, the New York Post reported that “ophthalmologists from three large hospitals in Tehran - Farabi, Rasoul Akram and Labbafinejad- estimated that their wards had admitted a total of more than 500 patients with grave eye injuries since the start of the protests in mid-September.” The number of eye injuries therefore, is certainly much higher than the numbers human rights organisations or media have been able to access.
Iran Human Rights researchers have been able to verify 138 eye injury cases, 43 of whom have submitted evidence of their injuries on the condition of anonymity. The names and details of the other 95 are provided in this report.
8 children under 18 years of age, 4 girls and 4 boys, are amongst those blinded by security forces. The youngest is a 5-year-old girl named Benita Kiani Falavarjani who was shot in the right eye while playing on her grandfather’s second floor balcony in Isfahan. Overall, 5% of eye injuries were children compared to 12% (68 children) killed.
While women constituted 9% of protester death numbers, they make up 28% of eye injury numbers. Of the at least 551 protester deaths verified by IHRNGO, 49 were women and 502 were men. However, of the 138 recorded eye injuries, 38 were women and 100 were men.
A comparative chart of protester deaths and eye injuries:
The ratio of women’s eye injuries compared to all eye injuries is three times the number of women protesters killed to the total number of protesters deaths, indicating that repressive forces have chosen to intentionally target women’s eyes instead of fatally shooting them.
In a smaller sample collected from Mahabad (West Azerbaijan province) by Iran Human Rights, the percentage of women with eye injuries (56%) is even higher than the men. Statistically, 32 eye injuries have been recorded in Mahabad, with 18 being women and 14 men.
This is while only 15% of protesters killed in Mahabad were women. IHRNGO has recorded 13 protester deaths in the city, 11 men (85%) and two women (15%).
In this smaller statistical sample, the ratio of women’s eye injuries compared to all eye injuries is 3.7 times the number of women protesters killed to the total number of protester deaths, strengthening the hypothesis that state forces intentionally targeted women’s eyes.
Data collected by IHRNGO demonstrate that repressive forces started shooting protesters in the eyes from the first days of protests (September 16) and continued on a nationwide scale until 21 November. Eye injuries sustained from direct shooting by security forces continued on a smaller scale throughout thereafter until the end of December.
The majority of eye injuries have been caused by pellets (metal and plastic) and resulted in the loss of eyesight in one eye and in some cases, both eyes. In nine of the cases, paintball guns were used to cause eye injuries and in five cases, teargas cartridges have struck the eyes directly. In one case, a sound bomb was thrown into a car and in another, a protester was blinded by brass knuckles used by a plainclothes agent.
In some cases, especially in smaller cities, injured individuals have managed to identify the assailants; Iran Human Rights will share this information to the UN Fact-Finding Mission.
Protesters being blinded was highlighted by human rights organisations and observers during the Isfahan protests in November 2021, and it seems to be a systematic government method for creating fear and causing damage without killing protesters.
The Isfahan farmers’ protest which began on November 8 against the government’s mismanagement of the water crisis and their demands being ignored were brutally and violently suppressed in Zayandeh Roud river’s dry banks and next to the Khajou bridge on 26 November 2021. According to informed sources, around 40 people were blinded by security forces.
That was of course, not the first time protesters were blinded by state forces. Amongst them, 19-year-old Matin Hosni whose left eye was blinded in the November 2019 protests in Bukan but had stayed silent until recently due to pressure of threats and harassment from state agencies.
The names and details of 43 people who wished to remain anonymous have been excluded from the list below; Iran Human Rights has verified medical evidence of their injuries. The following 95 people are listed in chronological order of sustaining their injuries.