Decades-long prison sentences handed down to three women protesting the strictly enforced wearing of veils in Iran, have drawn alarm and condemnation from six United Nations independent human rights experts.
Monireh Arabshahi, Yasamin Aryani, and Mojgan Keshavarz, who have been held in Iranian custody since April for “disrespecting compulsory hijab,” have been sentenced by the Iranian Revolutionary Court to prison terms of at least 16 years each for disobeying the country’s Islamic dress code.
The women were each given five years on charges of “assembly and collusion to act against national security,” one year for circulating “propaganda against the regime” and ten years for “encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution.” In addition, Keshavarz received another seven-and-a-half years for “insulting the sanctities” – a total of 55 years and six months.
“We are alarmed that the arrest and lengthy sentences handed to these women are directly related to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly in the pursuit of gender equality in Iran,” the experts said in a joint statement on Friday.
The experts added, “We call upon the Iranian authorities to quash these convictions and immediately release all human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained for their work in advocating women’s rights, and to ensure full respect for the rights of women to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and non-discrimination.”
The United States State Department also condemned “hefty prison terms” for three women’s rights activists presently detained in Evin Prison.
The State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus in a tweet on August 14, 2019, wrote, “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.”
Bärbel Kofler, German Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, also issued the following statement on August 12, 2019, on the sentencing of three women’s rights activists in Iran:
“I am appalled by the handing down of long prison sentences to the three women’s rights activists Mojgan Keshavarz, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi.
“They campaigned peacefully and with great dedication for the rights of women in Iran. They protested against the compulsory wearing of headscarves and handed out flowers!
“I call for the immediate release of these women and of all other detained women’s rights activists and call on the Iranian Government to honour the human and civil rights obligations it has undertaken to respect.”
The global human rights organization Amnesty International condemned the arbitrary detainment of the three women and their denied access to legal counsel in an open letter to Head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi, earlier last month.