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“Opposing Compulsory Hijab Is Not a Crime”

December 23, 2018
Shima Shahrabi
6 min read
Imprisoned human rights activists: Dr. Farhad Meysami (left), Nasrin Sotoudeh and her husband Reza Khandan
Imprisoned human rights activists: Dr. Farhad Meysami (left), Nasrin Sotoudeh and her husband Reza Khandan
Mohammad Moghimi says that his clients Farhad Meysami and Reza Khandan have been tried on charges of activities against national security and “promotion of moral corruption and prostitution”
Mohammad Moghimi says that his clients Farhad Meysami and Reza Khandan have been tried on charges of activities against national security and “promotion of moral corruption and prostitution”

Imprisoned activists Farhad Meysami and Reza Khandan have appeared before one of Iran’s most feared and criticized Revolutionary Court judges to face charges of conspiracy against national security, “propaganda against the regime” and promoting “moral corruption.”

The hearing took place on December 19, two and a half weeks after the two prisoners refused to attend court in protest against the absence of due process.

Civil rights activist Farhad Meysami no longer looks anything like he did when he was arrested in July. He is still on his hunger strike, a protest that began on August 1. He uses a wheelchair to move around and his weight has fallen below 44 kg. “He was still on hunger strike on Wednesday [December 19] when I met him at the court,” Meysami’s lawyer Mohammad Moghimi told IranWire “I believe he will continue his hunger strike as long as Mr. Reza Khandan has not been released.” Reza Khandan, a friend and a supporter of Meysami and the husband of the imprisoned human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, has been in prison since September.

Intelligence ministry agents arrested Meysami, 48, a medical doctor, on July 31 and took him to Evin Prison. After arresting him, the agents searched his home and confiscated a number of items, including badges declaring: “I am against forced hijab.”

In recent years Meysami has participated in gatherings and sit-ins in support of prisoners’ rights and in protest against the Islamic Republic’s strict rules on mandatory hijab. Meysami reportedly gave the badges to his friends so they could express their opposition to mandatory hijab in a peaceful manner. The agents also confiscated several books on human rights, including copies of a book, Small Civic Actions. “These are his crimes,” the agents told his mother when they discovered the books and the badges.

Meysami went on a hunger strike on August 1 after he was transferred to Evin Prison’s Ward 209. “His hunger strike is in protest against illegal handling of his own case and against all cases based on trumped up charges in recent years,” a close friend of Meysami told IranWire. “He was kept in solitary confinement for 16 days at Ward 209. He was then transferred to Evin Prison’s Penitentiary 4 and continues his hunger strike.”

“Nothing for Myself”

In a letter from prison, Meysami explained to the outside world that he was not demanding anything for himself. “I would gladly accept any prison sentence even in exile or under any other difficult conditions,” he wrote. “My only strict demand for ending my hunger strike is [for authorities to] drop the charges against Mr. Reza Khandan and restore the warmth of his presence to his home and to his children.”

When Meysami was first arrested and went on hunger strike, Reza Khandan posted updates on social media. Then Intelligence Ministry agents arrested Khandan on the morning of September 4. One of charges against Khandan was that he was in possession of badges objecting to forced hijab, which Meysami had given him. Agents discovered the  badges at Khandan’s home.

Moghimi told IranWire that after he met his client in court he could see that he “is in a critical condition.” 

Meysami and Khandan are now co-defendants in the same case. On December 2 they refused to attend the court session in protest over violations of due process. But on December 19 they attended the Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Abolghasem Salavati, sanctioned by the European Union for gross violations of the rights of defendants, to answer to the charges against them.

According to Iranian law, the defendants must be given at least seven days to prepare for a trial. But according to Moghimi, Meysami and Khandan were initially denied this time. Furthermore, judicial authorities had refused to register Moghimi as the lawyer for the case. “These two legal issues were resolved,” Moghimi told IranWire. “I read the case and met with my clients before the court session. So they attended the trial, we presented the defense and the session was concluded. Now we are waiting for the court’s ruling.”

Moghimi says he cannot reveal any details about the trial. “The rule is that trials must be public,” he explains, “but the Revolutionary Courts ignore the rule. They have also passed a law that says if the trial is behind closed doors and you talk about the details, you could face prison.”


Promotion of Prostitution

According to Moghimi, Khandan and Meysami were tried on charges of “gathering and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security,”“propaganda against the regime” and “promotion of moral corruption and prostitution.”

In an interview with IranWire before his arrest, Reza Khandan had insisted that the badges protesting against forced hijab, or even ordering them to be made, were not crimes. “Yes, I believe the same,” his lawyer said. “Owning and making these badges or even opposing mandatory hijab is not against the law. Neither did my clients accept these charges. They defended themselves by arguing this.”

According to Moghimi, the reason Khandan and Meysami were charged with “gathering and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security” was because they accompanied Nasrin Sotoudeh when she staged sit-ins outside the Bar Association to protest against the suspension of her law permit, and because they held up placards in support of the rights of dissenters.

Sotoudeh was arrested outside her home on June 13 this year. In a phone conversation with her husband after the arrest, she told Khandan that she was being held because of her links to the case against Shaparak Shajari, one of the “Revolution Women” who took off their scarves in public as a protest against forced hijab earlier this year. Shajari was arrested in the city of Kashan and the complaint against Sotoudeh was filed by the judge handling Shajari’s case in Kashan.

Later, however, the judiciary claimed that Nasrin Sotoudeh had been arrested to start serving a five-year sentence that had been issued against her in absentia in 2016. The verdict was issued by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, another judge sanctioned by the European Union. According to Moghimi, her case has been sent again to Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, to be dealt with by Judge Moghiseh.

The fate of these three human rights activists now rests with two judges who are notorious for extreme violations of human rights and for issuing harsh sentences against defendants charged with political and crimes related to issues of national security.


Related Coverage:

Civil Rights Activist Refuses to End His Long Hunger Strike, November 20, 2018

Letter from Prison: Why My Hunger Strike Must Continue, October 2, 2018

Women’s Rights Activists behind Bars, October 1, 2018

Jailed Activist's Mother Fears for his Life, September 20, 2018

Friends Fear for Activist 50 Days after he Started Hunger Strike, September 18, 2018

Husband of Prominent Lawyer Arrested, September 5, 2018

The Saga of an Iranian Peaceful Activist, August 30, 2018

Human Rights Lawyer Charged With Assisting Spies, August 16, 2018




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