Iranian Hijab Protester Given Five-Year Suspended Sentence

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Sepideh Rashno, a 28-year-old writer and artist arrested earlier this year for refusing to wear the mandatory hijab head covering while using public transport, has been handed a five-year suspended sentence.

The court found Rashno guilty of charges of "gathering and colluding against the country's security," "propaganda activity against the government," and "appearing without a hijab in public," her brother said on December 28.

Rashno was arrested on June 15 after a video of her arguing with another woman who was enforcing rules on wearing a head scarf on a bus in Tehran went viral.

The other woman threatened to send the video -- which showed Rashno riding the bus without a hijab -- to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

On July 30, several days after she disappeared, Iranian state television aired a video "confession" by Rashno in which she appeared to be in a poor physical state. She was reportedly rushed to the hospital after the video was recorded.

The ISNA news agency quoted the head of an Islamic Revolutionary Court branch in Tehran as saying that Rashno was accused of "assembly and collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the security of the country" by communicating with foreigners and through her "propaganda activity against the Islamic republic and encouraging people to corruption and prostitution."

Public anger burst out a couple of months later after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody after being arrested by morality police in Tehran for "improperly" wearing a hijab.

Nationwide protests have been continuing since September, evolving into the biggest threat to the Islamic government since it took power in 1979.

Rights groups say the government's violent crackdown on the protests has resulted in the deaths of nearly 500 people, including 62 children.

Tehran blames the West for the demonstrations and has vowed to crack down even harder on protesters.

Several prominent Iranian public figures -- including athletes, film stars, lawyers, and musicians -- have been summoned by the police or arrested for their alleged involvement in the demonstrations.

The hijab became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls above the age of 9 after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Many Iranian women have flouted the rule over the years in protest and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda