Women in Iran could be jailed for up to a decade for filming or taking photos of themselves without their headscarves in public, following a warning this week from the head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court.
The threat came in response to a campaign, titled "White Wednesdays", spearheaded by the US-based activist Masih Alinejad, who is encouraging women in the country to send her photos and videos of themselves without the compulsory hijab.
Addressing the feminist movement, the head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, said that "those who film themselves or others while removing the hijab and send photos to this woman ... will be sentenced to between one and 10 years in prison," the Associated Press reported.
Since that warning, the human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Alinejad has become "the target of state-sponsored smear campaigns" because of her activism. She has now become more emphatic in her support for the Iranian women defying the government, and says the number of videos she's received has increased, "because women cannot be censored".
Today, head of the revolutionary court in Iran reported that women who send me videos risk 1 to 10 years of jail.— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 29, 2019
My Response: regime isn’t scared of me. They’re scared of people & their demands. I’ll keep relaying the voices of people as long as I keep receiving videos pic.twitter.com/6MjEfXxUii
Yesterday Iranian judiciary system said women who send me their videos will face up to 10 years in jail.— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 30, 2019
Guess what? I'm receiving more videos.Because women cannot be censored.
Here's a video of women from Urmia (Iran) #WalkingUnveiled against forced hijab#WhiteWednesdays pic.twitter.com/PMcSmVTmj6
Women are still sending footage of themselves unveiled in defiance of the oppressive regime, which Alinejad is uploading on Twitter with the #WhiteWednesdays and #WalkingUnveiled hashtags. The hijab is mandatory for women in Iran and those who break the law usually receive a prison sentence of up to two months and around a $35 fine.
Iran's judiciary has criminialised the act of sending me videos from Iranians. But guess what? Iranian women aren't giving up.— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 30, 2019
Here's a compilation of their videos where they're #WalkingUnveiled against compulsory hijab. Women's voices can't be censored.#WhiteWednesdays pic.twitter.com/gmyTp0RPTB
I call on world media, female politicians, #MeToo movement: Yesterday Iranian judiciary system said women who film their harassers will face up to 10 years in jail. They want to silence us. Don’t let them.#MyCameraIsMyWeapon #WhiteWednesdays pic.twitter.com/8sEHERBhvk— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 30, 2019
Human rights groups, campaigners and media organizations have joined in solidarity with the women on social media, and Alinejad is calling on politicians worldwide and the #MeToo campaign to support the cause.
Iran threatens 10 years in prison for sharing videos of women removing their mandatory headscarves in public.— The Geneva Summit (@GenevaSummit) July 30, 2019
We stand with 2015 Women's Rights Award recipient @AlinejadMasih, who gives a voice to the women of Iran.#MyCameraIsMyWeapon #WhiteWednesdayshttps://t.co/lUsNJzKwCe
The hijab rule has been in place since the 1979 Iranian revolution, after which authorities imposed a compulsory dress code, which Human Rights Watch says "violates women’s rights to private life, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression, as well as to freedom of religion, thought, and conscience," and is "a form of gender-based discrimination prohibited under international law".
These are fearless feminists.— Masih Alinejad ?️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 24, 2019
4 girls are #WalkingUnveiled on #WhiteWednesdays against forced hijab on subway.
A guy harasses them for their hijab, but they stand their ground through #MyCameraIsMyWeapon.
Iran arrested 9 women of #WhiteWednesdays, but more are joining it. pic.twitter.com/Y5225H0t8O
In March, the activist Vida Mohavedi, whose removal of her headscarf during a protest in 2017 kickstarted a movement, was sentenced to a year in prison, while the 23-year-old activist Yasaman Ariyani was also arrested in April for peaceful opposition to the compulsory hijab, HRW reported.
Police officers routinely roam the streets of Iran to enforce the strict code, but there are signs that women are increasingly rebelling. An Associated Press reporter recently reported seeing around 24 women without a hijab during nine days on the streets of "mainly well-to-do areas" of Tehran, while others were spotted in "loosely draped colourful scarves that show as much hair as they cover."