A criminal court in Tehran has handed a woman accused of flouting mandatory hijab rules six months in prison and a two-year travel ban, and ordered her to attend six months of counseling sessions for the treatment of her “mental illness.”
As an alternative sentence, the court imposed up to 300 hours of community service and mandatory psychotherapy sessions twice a week.
A photograph of the court ruling began circulating on social networks on July 10, sparking outrage among Iranians over the increasing number of cases targeting women who defy compulsory veiling laws.
In an act of defiance against the ideology and laws of the Islamic Republic, a growing number of women have appeared in public without hijab since nationwide protests erupted in September last year.
Some defiant women were arrested, summoned by the authorities and faced legal cases, while hundreds of businesses were shut down for allegedly failing to enforce the Islamic Republic’s strict dress codes on their customers.
A civil activist in Tehran who has chosen not to wear the hijab in public, tells IranWire that the Iranian judiciary seeks to "humiliate women and undermine their efforts to create social change."
The Second Criminal Court of the Judicial Complex in Tehran said the woman in the latest case was affected by the “no-hijab infectious disease” and accused her of engaging in "sexual promiscuity."
The woman was imposed the travel ban over concerns she could engage in "anti-Iranian" activities during foreign trips.
According to the court, flouting compulsory hijab laws is an "anti-social" behavior that constitutes "a contagious mental illness."
It claimed that Western security services "exploit this illness, furthering their anti-Iranian agenda within Iranian society."
A friend of the woman tells IranWire she was tried in absentia: "About a month ago, she received an unexpected SMS instructing her to click on a link to view a court notice related to her alleged hijab violation. After clicking the link, she discovered the text of the court summons, which stated that she was being sued for publicly removing her hijab from her head, and required her to appear in court on a specified date."
"She maintained her innocence, explaining that she hadn’t committed any crime and that her scarf had simply fallen off while she was walking."
The source adds that her friend, who decided not to attend the hearing, received an SMS five days after the scheduled date for the court session saying she had been sentenced in absentia.
"On what grounds do they accuse a person of promoting debauchery and prostitution, of having mental and sexual illnesses, of being antisocial and abnormal, and of seeking public attention?” her friend asked.
The woman has 20 days to appeal the ruling, which claimed that she was identified by facial recognition cameras. According to IT experts, the Islamic Republic still lacks such cameras, as well as a comprehensive citizen identity database.
IranWire’s investigations have shown that the government does not bear the costs of psychotherapy sessions imposed by the judiciary. These sessions are often provided at an exorbitant price by clinics affiliated with or close to the judiciary.
“People must shoulder the costs themselves and spend a minimum of 26 million tomans ($520) twice a week for six months," a person with knowledge of the matter says.