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UN denounces ‘more serious’ Iran crackdown on women without veils

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More Iranian women began refusing the veil in the wake of the 2022 death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. (AP)

GENEVA: The United Nations said Friday that it was concerned by reports of new efforts to track and punish Iranian women, some as young as 15, who refuse to wear the headscarf required under the country’s Islamic law.
The UN Human Rights Office also expressed alarm about a draft bill on “Supporting the Family by Promoting the Culture of Chastity and Hijab,” which would impose tougher sentences on women appearing in public without the hijab.

“What we have seen, what we’re hearing is, in the past months, that the authorities, whether they be plainclothes police or policemen in uniform, are increasingly enforcing the hijab bill,” Jeremy Laurence, a spokesman for the office, said at a press conference

“There have been reports of widespread arrests and harassment of women and girls — many between the ages of 15 and 17,” he said.
Iranian police announced in mid-April reinforced checks on hijab use, saying the law was increasingly being flouted.
Hundreds of businesses including restaurants and cafes have been shut down for not enforcing the hijab rule, and surveillance cameras are being used to identify women without it, Laurence said.

More women began refusing the veil in the wake of the 2022 death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaking the headscarf law, which sparked a wave of deadly protests against the government.
Laurence said that on April 21, “the Tehran head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps announced the creation of a new body to enforce existing mandatory hijab laws, adding that guard members have been trained to do so ‘in a more serious manner’ in public spaces.”

And while the latest draft of the new hijab bill has not been released, “an earlier version stipulates that those found guilty of violating the mandatory dress code could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment, flogging, and fines,” he said, adding that “this bill must be shelved.”

The Human Rights Office also called for the release of a rapper sentenced to death for supporting nationwide protests sparked by Amini’s death.
Toomaj Salehi, 33, was arrested in October 2022 for publicly backing the uprising.
“All individuals imprisoned for exercising their freedom of opinion and expression, including artistic expression, must be released,” Laurence said.

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