Iranian authorities coerce detained activists to retract their opposition to forced veiling in video-taped “confessions”, Amnesty International said on Monday.
The group said it detected a pattern of at least six cases since April 2019, where detainees were placed in incommunicado detentions, prolonged solitary confinement and received threats against family members.
In one of them, a young women’s rights defender was subjected to enforced disappearance from 2 to 13 July, Amnesty said.
“Threatened by the momentum behind a growing women’s rights movement against Iran’s forced veiling laws, the Iranian authorities are employing crude tactics to discredit activists campaigning against forced veiling, dissuade others from joining the movement and instil fear in society,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“These women should not even be detained in the first place,” Luther said.
“It is outrageous that they are now being tortured or otherwise ill-treated to compel their participation in state propaganda videos in which they ‘confess’ their ‘guilt’ and renounce the anti-forced veiling campaign,” he added.
“The authorities should release them immediately and unconditionally, drop all the charges against them and refrain from broadcasting their forced ‘confessions’ on state media outlets.”
Amnesty International is aware of at least eight women currently in detention for their activism against forced veiling and the White Wednesdays campaign: Yasaman Aryani and her mother, Monireh Arabshahi; Saba Kordafshari and her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi; Mojgan Keshavarz; Fereshteh Didani; and two other women whose names are not yet known to Amnesty International.
The group said forced veiling laws violate a whole host of rights, including the rights to equality, privacy and freedom of expression and belief.
The practice of compulsory veiling also degrades women and girls, stripping them of their dignity and self-worth, it added.
Under Iran’s compulsory veiling laws, the punishment for women seen in public without a headscarf includes arrest, a prison sentence, flogging or a fine.