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Civil Activist, 21, Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison

August 28, 2019
Niloufar Rostami
6 min read
Saba Kord Afshari refused to confess to phony charges even after her mother was arrested in a bid to pressure her
Saba Kord Afshari refused to confess to phony charges even after her mother was arrested in a bid to pressure her

Saba Kord Afshari, a 21-year-old civil rights activist and an opponent of Iran’s law on mandatory hijab, has been sentenced to 24 years in prison. Her lawyer, who was informed of the verdict by Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court on Tuesday, August 27 — 20 days after her trial — tweeted that he would appeal the sentence and that he is hopeful that the judgment will be vacated. Before her arrest, Kord Afshari was preparing to take national university entrance exams.

The major part of her prison sentence has been handed down for her conviction on the charge of “spreading corruption and prostitution by taking off her hijab and walking without a veil,” for which she received 15 years. According to Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, if the verdict is upheld by the appeals court, Kord Afshari must serve at least 15 years of her 24-year sentence.

In his tweet of August 27, her lawyer Hossein Taj listed the details of the verdict: 15 years for “spreading corruption and prostitution,” seven years and five months for “assembly and conspiracy to act against national security” and one year and five months for “propaganda against the regime” [Persian link].

Saba Kord Afshari was first arrested while attending a protest on August 2, 2018, in front of Daneshjou (“Student”) Park in Tehran and taken to Gharchak prison. She was later transferred to Tehran’s Evin Prison. Then she was sentenced to one year in prison for “disruption of public order” and transferred to the women’s ward of Evin Prison. Kord Afshari was released in February 2019 after she received a pardon on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The pardon came when only two months were left until the end of her sentence.

She was arrested for a second time on June 1, 2019, at her parents’ home and taken to Vozara Detention Center in Tehran. One day after the arrest, she was informed she had been charged with “propaganda against the regime,” “assembly and conspiracy through connections with foreign media” and “promoting corruption and prostitution.” After 10 days at Vozara Detention Center, she was transferred to Gharchak Prison and since mid-August she has been at the women’s ward of Evin Prison.

Saba Kord Afshari was tried on August 7 at Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Iman Afshari. “She was taken from Evin Prison to the court as if she was a national security defendant,” a source who asked to remain anonymous told IranWire. “It is customary for the prison guards to bring the defendant to the court, but Saba was blindfolded and shackled and was taken to court by the Revolutionary Guards’ agents from Ward 2A in a car with opaque windows. I guess they wanted to scare her.”

 

Mother Taken Hostage

After her daughter was arrested, Saba Kord Afshari’s mother Raheleh Ahmadi posted a short video online and said that the agents had threatened her with arrest as well. “Security agents came to our home and after an hour and a half of searching, they confiscated my daughter’s laptop, flash memory sticks and her mobile phone and took her away,” she said. “One of the agents threatened me a lot, handcuffed me and said that they were going to take me away as well. Another agent had a camera and was filming us, the cabinets and the sofas. We did not do anything. We don’t know what they were looking for.”

In another video posted later, Ahmadi said interrogators had, in an attempt to force her daughter to confess, told her that they had arrested her mother because of her actions. “Today is June 18 and I am Raheleh Ahmadi, mother of Saba Kord Afshari,” she said in the video. “My daughter was arrested on June 1 and spent 11 days in solitary confinement to extract a forced confession from her. They threatened her that I would be arrested and showed her the warrant for my arrest. But my daughter refused to confess to things she had not done and she was transferred to Gharchak Prison. Since then, whenever she calls me, she asks whether they had come for me. My daughter has done nothing. She is not a thief, nor an embezzler, nor a murderer. I was my daughter’s only voice. What I did was support my daughter...I ask all the mothers of my country to be the voice of their children. If they stay silent and are intimidated, one day they will come for all of us, one by one.”

Eventually, however, the threat was carried out: Raheleh Ahmadi was arrested and sent to Gharchak Prison on July 10 after she had gone to Evin Courthouse to inquire about her daughter. According to IranWire’s source, “she was put in a cell next to her daughter’s because they wanted to force Saba to make a TV confession but, fortunately, it did not work and her daughter did not yield to this pressure.” Ahmadi was released on July 14 on a bail of 700 million tomans ($60,000 thousand). Since the verdict against Saba Kord Afshari has been announced, IranWire has not been able to contact her mother.

 

Three Heavy Sentences in One Week

The verdict against Saba Kord Afshari is the third heavy sentence handed out by Revolutionary Courts in the last week. Keyomars Marzban, a writer and satirist, was sentenced to 23 years and nine months in prison on charges of “insulting the sacred,” insulting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, "spreading propaganda against the regime" and insulting Iran’s authorities. And the journalist Marzieh Amiri received a sentence of 10 years for “assembly and conspiracy against national security," "propaganda against the regime” and “disrupting public order.”

These successive heavy sentences have led to an outcry on social networks. “24 years of prison for a young woman. Why?” tweeted Khashayar Joneidi, a reporter for BBC Persian [Persian link]. “Because she is a civil rights activist. It is meant to teach a lesson to others so that they will not try for a better life and for freedom of choice in how they dress. Had she been an embezzler of public treasury...she would have received a lesser sentence.”

Someone describing themselves as “a lawyer” tweeted: “A young woman of 20 was sentenced to 24 years in prison. In other words she owes the Islamic Republic four years more than the years she has lived” [Persian link]. And Shakib Nasrullah, a psychologist whose profile says he is “in exile” tweeted: “When a government is able to keep injustices away from the society’s collective memory, then it is only natural that 40 years later they still have not given the bodies of protesters to their families or we are witnessing a 24-year prison sentence for Saba Kord Afshari. We don’t have a society that will protest loudly against this verdict” [Persian link].

Masih Alinejad, a US-based Iranian journalist who has been fighting against mandatory hijab for years asked: “Where is the outrage in the media who seem besotted with [Foreign Minister] Javad Zarif and the nuclear deal?”

 

Related Coverage:

More Than 23 Years in Prison for Writing Satire, August 24, 2019

Journalist Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison and 148 Lashes, August 24, 2019

Decoding Iranian Politics: The Struggle Over Compulsory Hijab, May 1, 2019

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

Guards Arrest “Revolution Woman” Maryam Shariatmadari, April 27, 2018

Exclusive: Interview with Revolution Woman Narges Hosseini, March 2018

Khamenei Dismisses Hijab Protesters as “Insignificant and Small", March 2018

People Want the Choice on Hijab — But the Regime Won't Listen, February 6, 2018

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