“I went to police stations, I went to the Security Police, but nobody knew who had arrested Maryam or where she was,” Mitra Jamshidipour, the mother of “Revolution Woman” Maryam Shariatmadari, tells IranWire. She returned home, tired and desperate, to find that four security agents — three men and one woman — were searching her home. They confiscated laptops, memory sticks and her daughter’s mobile phone that she had left at the house. They told her that Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Unit agents had arrested Maryam and taken her to the detention house at Evin Prison.
Shariatmadari is one of several women who took part a wave of protests against forced hijab earlier this year. One by one, women went to public spaces, tied their headscarves to sticks and waved them in front of them. The first woman to do so was Vida Movahed, who stood on a utility box on Revolution (“Enghelab”) Street in Tehran, and waved her white headscarf — giving the movement its name, “Revolution Street Women” or “Revolution Women.”
On Wednesday, April 25, Maryam Shariatmadari and her mother set out for the Shah Abdol Azim Shrine near Tehran to participate in a peaceful gathering. A couple of days earlier, a mummified body had been found near the shrine. Many believe it could be the body of the early 20th-century Iranian monarch Reza Shah, father of the deposed Shah. The so-called “hanging judge” Sadegh Khalkhali ordered the destruction of the Reza Shah mausoleum after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
People gathered at the shrine to pay respect to the late king, but police prevented people from assembling and arrested a number of would-be participants. “Around 6pm we were in the courtyard of the shrine when I heard shouting,” says Jamshidipour. “A girl was shouting ‘let me go!’ They wanted to arrest her and Maryam went toward her. People crowded around and a number of them were arrested, including Maryam.”
Beaten Again, Arrested Again
According to Jamshidipour, police kept the detainees inside the courtyard and only released them after they signed a promise. “It was 11pm and almost everybody was released,” she says. “They also released Maryam. We were about to call a cab to go home when suddenly a group assaulted us. They tried to force us into a car and didn’t tell us who they were.”
She pauses for a few seconds before continuing. “Remembering it makes me feel bad. Maryam resisted and a stout man kicked her and pulled her by the hair. They eventually forced us into the car and blindfolded us. Then, along the way, they separated us and told us that they wanted to talk to us separately.”
She insisted that she stay with her daughter, but the agents refused. “A few minutes after they separated us,” she says, “they stopped the car and told me to get out because they had to talk. I did and waited for a few minutes. When I did not hear anything, I [removed the blindfold and] found out that they were gone.” She says she was left at in the middle of nowhere at 1:30am. “There was nobody around and I had no idea where I was. I was lucky that a motorcyclist was passing by. I asked him to get me to a cab. It was past three in the morning when I got home. But all this aside, the worst thing was that I did not know who had taken my daughter away.”
The next morning, she returned to Rey City, where the shrine is located. “The police stations told me that the arresting agency was not the police,” says Jamshidipour. “They said they had released everybody the previous night and had no idea who was responsible for the arrest. Then I went home. I found out that the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence was the responsible party.”
During our conversation, her phone line repeatedly disconnected. “It started yesterday,” she says, “and I cannot talk to anybody. Probably people do not want me to talk, but what is the purpose of trying to frighten me?” Come Saturday, when the offices reopen after the Muslim weekend on Friday, Jamshidipour will set out again to find out what has happened to her daughter.
Maryam Shariatmadari, a 32-year-old computer science student at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University of Technology, is one the best-known Revolution Women. On February 22, she stood on top of a utility box on and waved her headscarf in front of her. A group of people gathered around her to take photographs and record videos. Then two policemen arrived. One of them climbed up on the box and brutally kicked Shariatmadari down to the ground. The moment was captured on video and posted on YouTube. According to her lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, Shariatmadari sustained a fractured knee as a result of the fall.
“When the policeman pushed her down in that violent way, it shocked the surrounding crowd,” one eyewitness told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “The girl was on the ground for a few minutes and she struggled to get up, limping. The crowd quickly surrounded her and didn’t let the police come close. We got her a taxi and she left, but the policemen followed her. I heard the taxi was stopped at the next crossing and they arrested her.”
She was taken from jail to hospital for treatment and was then returned to jail. Many people on social media condemned the police's use of violence. Even Iran’s Interior Ministry chided the police for using force against Shariatmadari. “Dealing with infractions should be with full respect of moral and legal rules,” the ministry spokesman Salman Samani said on February 25. “No one has a license to act against the law even in the role of an officer dealing with crimes.”
Shahindokht Molaverdi, Special Assistant to President Rouhani for Citizens’ Rights, went on to Twitter to express her alarm that the police had not observed the proper procedure. “Observing the law and the citizens’ rights by the police and the judiciary bailiffs is a necessity,” she wrote. “Resorting to force and violence in dealing with civil protests — no matter by who, in any situation, in any place or at any time — must be condemned. Administering the law in a wrong manner is many times worse and more destructive than lawlessness.”
The “Gift” Controversy
Maryam Shariatmadari was released on March 7 on a bail of 50 million tomans, around $12,000. After her release she set up an account on Twitter using her own name and began tweeting regularly. Not long after, she did something radical: She posted a picture of an envelope containing a number of money orders in different currencies, each worth 50,000 tomans, or about $12. Using the hashtag “#So_Brazen” she said she had received the money from Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of the 2009 reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi, both of whom have been under house arrest for years.
Zahra Mousavi, Rahnavard’s daughter, denied that her mother had sent Shariatmadari the gift. But a journalist who had acted as the courier and handed the envelope to Shariatmadari tweeted that it came from “two well-known political activists” who had given it “in the name” of those under house arrest. And Mostafa Tajzadeh, a well-known reformist, tweeted that for the last few years, to mark the Iranian new year, it had been customary for some well-known people to give such gifts “in their name” to political and civil activists and their families.
Supporters of the regime cited these tweets to prove their claim that some of the protesters against forced hijab have received money for their actions. But some people siding with the protesters have said that Shariatmadari should not have gone public with the gift because it raised doubts about the protesters’ motives. In response, Shariatmadari posted a video of herself, along with the words: “For me, the truth is more precious than anything else and it does not make a difference whether the truth makes you a hero or somebody whom everybody hates.”
Shariatmadari was sentenced in March to one year in prison for removing her hijab in public. Her lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh emphasized that the Iranian judiciary had discriminated against her client. “Ironically,” said Sotoudeh, “the judiciary ignored the case of a girl who had been sexually abused by her father but, surprisingly, issues such heavy sentences for women who remove their scarves...I believe that the protests against the compulsory veil will not be subdued by such unusual decrees that do not comply with legal and judicial standards.”
And now Maryam Shariatmadari has been physically attacked again, and she has been arrested again. This time, it is not clear on what charges.
More on the “Revolution Women” and their fight against forced hijab:
The Regime’s Tactics Against Iran’s “Revolution Women”, February 2018
People Want the Choice on Hijab — But the Regime Won't Listen, February, 2018
The Man Who Joined Revolution Women, February, 2018
More Women Protest by Removing their Hijabs, January, 2018
The Woman Who Stood Up Against Forced Hijab, January, 2018