Iranian Actresses Face Charges After Appearing At Events Without Hijabs

Two prominent Iranian actresses, Katayoun Riahi and Pantea Bahram, are facing legal action after they made public appearances without wearing the mandatory hijab.

According to the Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the Tehran Police Public Relations Center cited "unveiling in public and publishing images on social media" as the reason for filing the case against the actresses.

Riahi, alongside actresses Golab Adineh and Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, appeared without a mandatory hijab, or head scarf, at a public funeral ceremony on April 18. It was not clear whether the other actresses also face charges.

Bahram, another well-known actress, has made several public appearances without a mandatory hijab, including at a screening of the last episode of the Iranian television series The Lion Skin at Tehran’s Lotus Cinema on April 19.

Following the event, the director of the Lotus cinema was dismissed and the cinema was closed for two days.

The Judiciary Media Center has previously reported cases against the two being sent to a specialized court, which deals with crimes "against chastity" and says it takes a "serious" stance on "social and moral corruption."

Riahi, a veteran actress, made headlines when she removed her mandatory hijab in solidarity with nationwide protests against the Iranian government after the death in September 2022 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody after allegedly breaking the hijab law.

Although Riahi initially managed to evade the authorities, she was arrested by security forces on November 29 and accused of "gathering and colluding to act against national security and propaganda activities against the system."

She was released on bail on December 8. Her trial took place in January amid a news blackout. According to Soraya Riahi-Rad, a writer and poet, the actress had to leave the court in an ambulance because her state of health had deteriorated "under the most severe threats and pressure."

In recent weeks, officials have warned women to respect the hijab law and have threatened to punish violators. The authorities have also shut down businesses, restaurants, cafes, and in some cases pharmacies due to the failure of owners or managers to observe Islamic laws and hijab rules.

Several Iranian cinematographers and prominent public figures have also been summoned by the police or arrested, including director Hamid Pourazari.

Other celebrities, including actor Hamid Farrokhnejad, have been interrogated and have had their passports confiscated after showing support for the protests.

Since the Amini's death last year, Iranians have flooded onto the streets across the country to protest against a lack of rights, with women and schoolgirls putting up unprecedented shows of support in what is considered to be one of the biggest threats to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Many women have burned their hijabs in public as a show of defiance.

In response to the unrest, the authorities have launched a brutal crackdown on dissent, detaining thousands and handing down stiff sentences to protesters, including the death penalty.

The authorities have also intensified efforts to enforce the hijab as more women flout the law by expanding punishments to businesses and workers who fail to enforce the law on their patrons.

The hijab became mandatory in Iran shortly after the 1979 revolution, by order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic.

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