March 20, 2024

Prominent Iranian Scholar Arrested Amid Stand Against Compulsory Hijab and Women’s Oppression

برای خواندن این مطلب به فارسی اینجا را کلیک کنید

Sadiqeh Vasmaghi, an Islamic scholar and civil rights advocate, was arrested at her home in Tehran on March 16. According to Vasmaghi’s legal counsel, she refused to comply with a summons for a one-year prison sentence without clear charges and was forced into custody after refusing to comply. 

A member of Tehran’s inaugural City Council, Vasmaghi has been a vocal critic of women’s oppression and an advocate for religious reform. Approximately five months ago, she ignited public discourse by sharing a video on social media in which she appeared without a hijab, directly challenging Iran’s compulsory hijab law. Vasmaghi’s scholarly work, including titles like “Woman, Jurisprudence, Islam,” “The Merchandise of Jurisprudence,” and “Rereading Sharia,” critiques traditional jurisprudence and gender inequities, positioning her as a leading figure in religious reformation.

“In spite of the investigator’s insistent request for her appearance, she refused to present herself until the allegations against her were revealed,” said Vasmaghi’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabai. “This stance led to her arrest at her residence.” Vasmaghi had announced on the 5th of March that she was summoned to the Evin Courthouse, yet the summons failed to specify the charges or the complainant in her case.

The arrest operation was detailed by Mohammad Ebrahimzadeh, Vasmaghi’s husband, to the Emtedad website, stating that “this morning, four plainclothes officers, including three men and one woman, approached our home. They bypassed our doorbell, using a neighbor’s instead, and demanded entry at our doorstep.” He added, “Faced with their threats to break down the door, I complied. One officer, presenting a warrant, entered our home without explaining their reason, insisting on a hasty departure. My wife’s phone and laptop were seized. When I raised concerns about her severe visual impairment, a female officer assured me of her care. They also took her walking cane and her medications before taking her away.”

Vasmaghi is now detained in the women’s ward of Evin Prison, having managed to inform her husband of her safety through a telephone call.

Her detention follows her active opposition to the compulsory hijab and the treatment of women in Iran, especially highlighted by her public appearances without a hijab at various events, including the funeral of Armita Geravand, following the death of Mahsa Amini while in morality police custody.

In a poignant letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei last spring, Vasmaghi questioned the stringent hijab regulations imposed by the Islamic Republic, seeking clarity on their religious justification given the absence of explicit Quranic mandates on covering women’s hair. This recent arrest underscores the ongoing tensions between progressive voices advocating for societal change and the conservative authorities within the country, highlighting the significant risks faced by those daring to challenge the status quo.

National Iranian American Council (NIAC) expresses its deep concern with Dr. Vasmaghi’s arrest, which appears to be a reprisal for her outspoken criticism of the mandatory hijab law and her continued defiance of it. We reiterate our call on Islamic Republic authorities to release all prisoners of conscience unjustly detained, including those arrested in connection with the Woman, Life, Freedom protests or for defying mandatory hijab laws – which the UN Fact Finding Mission recently stated defies international law.

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