From Forced Veiling to Forced Confessions;
A spike in crackdowns against women in Iran
In Iran the punishment for being seen in public without a headscarf and what is deemed ‘appropriate’ clothing includes arrest, a prison sentence, flogging or a fine. Such a “use of repressive legislation to criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is incompatible with Iran’s obligations under international human rights law”. Historically, women’s rights activists have been arrested and sentenced to prison for protesting against what has been termed “forced veiling” or “compulsory hijab”.
Most recently there has been a frightening uptick in crackdowns against women in Iran and a slew of those women’s rights activists have additionally been coerced into forced confessions televised across Iranian State media after being arrested for protesting against forced veiling; a violation of the freedom from torture, the right to fair trial and due process.
In July, a video circulated online depicting a woman harassing activist Sepideh Rashno for what she perceived as an “improper hijab”. This is common as the public is encouraged under principles of “enjoining good and forbidding evil” to police their peers on such matters.
Rashno was later arrested. She was held incommunicado, her whereabouts unknown, until a televised confession aired where signs of physical torture were evident. Prior to the airing of her confession, HRANA reported her transfer due to possible internal bleeding–believed to be a result of physical torture. She continues to be held without access to legal counsel.
Of those complicit in the surge in crackdowns against women there are many. However, when it comes to the later point on violations connected to coerced forced confessions, Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour-Ahmadi stands out amongst the crowd. A high ranking individual within the IRIB, she is notorious for producing forced confessions; her voice and name as producer can be seen in Rashno’s confession which aired on 31/July/2022. The IRIB is well-known for broadcasting forced confessions and show trials, this fact has been noted by numerous governments around the globe, the United Nations, and a number of human rights organizations. IRIB is a State controlled media organization; the head of the IRIB appointed by the Supreme Leader. Previous heads have been designated under Global Human Rights Sanctions regimes for this very behavior. The current head of the IRIB, Peyman Jebeli is complicit in the violations surrounding the televised forced confession of Rashno and others and as such should be held to account.
The right not to wear the hijab is a right protected in Articles 19 and 26 of the ICCPR to which Iran is a State party. Iran, and its law enforcement leaders, are bound by the ICCPR and as such should be held accountable. In addition related acts of coerced, televised forced confessions are violations of freedom from torture and the right to fair trial and due process. These acts should be thoroughly and separately investigated.