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May 18, 2021

Saba Kord Afshari Goes on Hunger Strike in Prison

Iranian women’s rights activist, Saba Kord Afshari, was arrested in June 2019 for her activism against Iran’s enforced dress code, including compulsory hijab that all women in Iran must don in public. Though she was initially sentenced to an outrageous 24-years in prison on charges of “encouraging corruption and prostitution,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and “propaganda against the state,” her sentence was later reduced to 7.5 years. Of course, any punishment for the simple act of removing her headscarf in public and advocating for women’s freedom is an affront to the basic rights of women.

According to Amnesty International, Kord Afshari’s due process rights were repeatedly violated, she was held for long periods in solitary confinement, and Iranian authorities threatened to arrest her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi. In 2019, after the arrest and subsequent sentencing of her daughter, Ahmadi made a video protesting the unfair detention of her 20-year-old daughter who had acted only as a voice against injustice. Ahmadi’s protests and her work as a women’s rights activist led to arrest in July 2019.

Following a disturbing pattern of targeting human rights activists on charges of national security, Ahmadi was sentenced to two years and seven months, and began serving her sentence at Evin prison in February of 2020. The imprisonment of mother and daughter is a reminder of the cruelty of the Iranian judiciary system, which too often fails to carry justice or provide the accused with their rights before the law.

Only 22-years old, Kord Afshari continues to resist the intimidation tactics of Iranian authorities. Rather than surrendering to silence, the young activist began a hunger strike on May 8th to protest her mother’s detention. Iranian authorities must heed their people’s rightful calls for greater freedom, and abide by their human rights obligations. While Iranian women continue to fight for their equality, Ahmadi was right to say her daughter has become a voice for human rights in Iran.

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