Woman Sentenced to Two Years in Prison for Removing Her Headscarf in Iran

An Iranian woman who removed her headscarf in public to protest her country’s oppressive laws has been sentenced to two years in prison, as well as an additional 18-year suspended sentence.

"This means that I will have to be silent for 20 years and not get involved in any activities," the woman, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, said Monday in a widely shared social media post. She explained that she has left Iran to avoid serving prison time and escape “injustices,” Radio Free Europe reported.

Shajarizadeh was detained along with other Iranian women who joined anti-government demonstrations in Tehran in December. At the end of January, Reuters cited judicial sources in the country who said that about 1,000 protestors were arrested in total. While most were released, some still faced charges and others remained behind bars. In April, Shajarizadeh was released on bail and took the opportunity to escape the country.

"Due to the injustices in Iran's judicial system, I had to leave the country," she said.

Iran implements a conservative interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, which sets modesty requirements for men and women in public. Women in the country are required to wear a headscarf and cover their full bodies. Men are also required to cover their bodies, with shorts, sleeveless shirts and pants rolled above the ankles.

Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor, announced in March that another woman had been given a two-year prison sentence after removing her headscarf in public. He claimed she took off the garment to “encourage corruption,” The Guardian reported.

Prominent Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who represented several women protesting against the obligatory headscarf, was herself detained by authorities in June. According to her husband, Sotoudeh was told she would be serving a five-year prison sentence. Her husband said: “I have no idea what the sentence was related to.”

Last week, a 19-year-old Iranian female who had been detained by authorities appeared on television to apologize for posting videos of herself dancing on Instagram without a headscarf.

Maedeh Hojabri said she was not intending to go against “moral norms” and only wanted to gain more followers. Local television also reported that three other individuals have been detained in recent weeks for similar charges. However, all of those targeted by authorities have been released on bail.

In early June, Iran revealed that only 20 government approved lawyers would be allowed to represent individuals charged with political and media crimes, despite Tehran having more than 20,000 registered lawyers.

After the decision was officially announced, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner and lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who lives in exile, condemned the decision. She said the list will lead to the “complete destruction” of the judiciary's independence and the public's right to legal defense services, Voice of America reported.

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