In Iran, it’s a crime for women to appear in public with their hair uncovered. Yasaman Aryani, a 24-year-old activist, wanted to change this. She’s been sentenced to 16 years in prison for campaigning against forced veiling, and is at increased risk as COVID-19 spreads through prisons in Iran.
It was International Women’s Day 2019 when Yasaman and her mother took off their headscarves and walked through a women-only train carriage in Tehran, handing out flowers. Yasaman spoke of her hopes for a future when all women would have the freedom to choose what to wear, “me without the hijab and you with the hijab.” After a video of this went viral, Yasaman was arrested and charged with “inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution" through promoting “unveiling.”
After the authorities held Yasaman in solitary confinement and threatened to arrest her family if she didn’t “repent”, they sentenced her to 16 years in prison. She is required to serve 10 years of this sentence.
Yasaman’s cruel punishment is part of a wider crackdown on women campaigning against discriminatory forced veiling laws in Iran. The Iranian authorities must not be allowed to rob Yasaman of her liberty simply because she believes women should have the right to choose what they wear.
Now, in prisons across Iran, there have been confirmed cases of COVID-19. This raises grave fears that prisoners like Yasaman are at risk of contracting the virus. Prisoners are at particular risk because they are unable to take the same social distancing and hygiene measures as those outside of prison to protect themselves.
Across Iran, prisoners have pleaded with officials to address overcrowded, unhygienic and unsanitary conditions that put them at greater risk of COVID-19 infections, raising alarms about the authorities’ failure to sufficiently protect prison populations from the spread of the virus. Some prisoners have been denied adequate medical care, leaving them at greater risk from the virus if contracted.
Help us fight for Yasaman’s release.
Sign the petition, call on the Iranian authorities to:
- Unconditionally release Yasaman Aryani from prison; and
- Unconditionally release from prison all other women’s rights defenders detained for peacefully protesting against forced veiling.
Amnesty International firmly opposes all forms of Islamophobia and condemns any and all acts of white supremacist racism and violence against Muslim communities.