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Police raid and arrest of Yasaman Aryani and subsequent arrest of Monireh Arabshahi

Status: 
Sentenced
About the situation

On 18 November 2020 Monireh Arabshahi, a women’s rights defender and campaigner against the compulsory hijab, who is currently serving a five and a half year sentence in Kachuei Prison in Karaj, was denied her visitation rights after she refused to wear a chador (a large piece of cloth that is wrapped around the head and upper body, leaving only the face exposed).

On 21 October 2020, Yasaman Aryani and her mother, Monireh Arabshahi were told to prepare themselves for a visit from their lawyer. However, when they made all the necessary arrangements, prison authorities transferred them from Evin Prison to Kachuei Prison in Alborz province.

On 5 February 2020, Branch 54 of the Appeals Court of Tehran reduced the sentences of women’s rights defenders Yasman Aryani and her mother Monrieh Arabshahi, to nine years and seven months’ imprisonment.

On 26 June 2019, having both been denied access to their lawyers, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi were convicted of ‘spreading propaganda’, ‘gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security’, and ‘inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution’. They were both sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment.

On 18 April, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi were brought from the Vozara detention centre to an unknown location. Upon arrival, the two defenders were met by journalists from the state TV network, who filmed them without consent. They were then both taken to a room where they were told they would be interviewed by the journalists, during which they were told they must answer the questions.

On 10 April 2019, security forces raided the home of Yasaman Aryani, confiscated her laptop and mobile phone and arrested her. When her mother, Monireh Arabshahi, travelled to the Vozara detention centre to ask about her daughter the following day, she too was arbitrarily arrested.

About Monireh Arabshahi

MonirehMonireh Arabshahi is a women’s rights defender who has campaigned against forced veiling in Iran together with her daughter and woman human rights defender Yasaman Aryani.

19 November 2020
Monireh Arabshahi denied visitation rights

On 18 November 2020 Monireh Arabshahi, a women’s rights defender and campaigner against the compulsory hijab, who is currently serving a five and a half year sentence in Kachuei Prison in Karaj, was denied her visitation rights after she refused to wear a chador (a large piece of cloth that is wrapped around the head and upper body, leaving only the face exposed). The head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ibrahim Raisi, had previously stated that a normal hijab is sufficient in line with veiling regulations during prison visits and women defendants are not required to wear a chador. As such, this visitation ban is without grounds and is further harassment against the woman human rights defender.

23 October 2020
Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi transferred to Kachuei Prison

On 21 October 2020, Yasaman Aryani and her mother, Monireh Arabshahi were told to prepare themselves for a visit from their lawyer. However, when they made all the necessary arrangements, prison authorities transferred them from Evin Prison to Kachuei Prison in Alborz province. The women’s rights defenders were each serving five year and six month sentences for a number of different offences. Prison authorities have justified their transfer to a public prison through an arbitrary decision to interpret “inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution” as a non-security related offence. Kachuei is a prison with poor living conditions mainly intended for women accused of violent crimes. Human rights defenders believe the transfer is in retaliation against their work continuing to speak out against human rights violations from prison, with its distance from Tehran will limit their communication with the outside world.

On 26 June 2019, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi were convicted of “spreading propaganda”, “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, and “inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution” and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment by Branch 28 of Revolutionary Court. However, on 5 February 2020, Branch 54 of the Appeals Court of Tehran reduced the sentences of women’s rights defenders Yasman Aryani and her mother Monrieh Arabshahi, to nine years and seven months’ imprisonment. According to Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, the most severe punishment, in this case five years and six months imprisonment, is applicable to each of the defenders.

5 February 2020
Sentences of Yasman Aryani and her mother Monrieh Arabshahi reduced

On 5 February 2020, Branch 54 of the Appeals Court of Tehran reduced the sentences of women’s rights defenders Yasman Aryani and her mother Monrieh Arabshahi, to nine years and seven months’ imprisonment. Their sentences are now composed of five years and six months for ‘inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution’ through their promotion of unveiling, and three years and six months for ‘gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security’, and seven months for ‘spreading propaganda against the system’.

Under Iran’s sentencing guidelines, the women’s rights defenders must serve the lengthiest single sentence for the most serious charge, which is five years and six months for ‘inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution’. Their lawyer has indicated that he will file a request for judicial review of their convictions and sentences.

Neither Yasaman Aryani or Monrieh Arabshahi were granted permission to leave prison during the COVID19 outbreak.

26 June 2019
Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi given long-term sentences

On 26 June 2019, having both been denied access to their lawyers, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi were convicted of ‘spreading propaganda’, ‘gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security’, and ‘inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution’. They were both sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment.

On 3 August, Monireh Arabshahi issued an open letter from prison, stating: “I am actually happy that in the fifth decade of my life I have been able to pull aside the veil that for many years covered my thoughts, ideas and beliefs. And today … I feel like a free bird.”

In October, Yasamn Aryani signed a letter from prison with 17 other women’s rights defenders, condemning the prison’s authorities for segregating mothers and children in prison.

18 April 2019
Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi transferred to Qarchak prison

On 18 April, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi were brought from the Vozara detention centre to an unknown location. Upon arrival, the two defenders were met by journalists from the state TV network, who filmed them without consent. They were then both taken to a room where they were told they would be interviewed by the journalists, during which they were told they must answer the questions.

Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi were then transferred to Qarchak prison in Varamin, where they are currently being detained with over 2,000 women and some children in precarious conditions. In August 2019, nearly 200 inmates in Qarchak prison wrote to Tehran’s Director General of Prisons, stating that conditions were so poor that some prisoners had taken to harming themselves as a way to cope with the emotional pain, anger and frustration.

10 April 2019
Police raid and arrest of Yasaman Aryani and subsequent arrest of Monireh Arabshahi

On 8 March 2019, a video was circulated on social media of Yasaman Aryani, her mother Monireh Arabshahi and another woman, getting on to the women-only carriage on the Tehran metro, carrying a basket of white flowers to distribute to women on the metro for International Women’s Day. The video was shared online and drew much criticism as the three women were unveiled in public. Yasaman Aryani tweeted that she had been cut from a play in which she’d been cast as a result of the video being circulated on social media. On 10 April 2019, security forces raided her home, confiscated her laptop and mobile phone and arrested her.

When her mother, Monireh Arabshahi, travelled to the Vozara detention centre to ask about her daughter the following day, she too was arbitrarily arrested.