Earlier this year, the White House deplored the human rights abuses imposed on the Iranian people by their government and pledged not to remain silent when Iranians rose up to peacefully protest against repression and corruption, as White House Spokesperson Sarah Sanders made clear:
“The United States supports the Iranian people and we call on the regime to respect its citizens’ basic right to peacefully express their desire for change. America longs for the day when Iranians will take their rightful place alongside the free people of the world.”
Unfortunately, that day has not yet arrived.
Tehran’s chief prosecutor has announced that an unidentified Iranian woman, who removed her compulsory hijab in public in late December, was sentenced to 24 months in prison. The prosecutor said the woman was attempting “to encourage corruption by the removal of the hijab in public.”
The woman was one of dozens arrested in Iran since December for publicly removing their hijabs in defiance of the law -- in a nationwide campaign that has alarmed authorities sensitive to any protest after the massive anti-government demonstrations that took place in Iran in December and January.
As the protests against the compulsory hijab intensified at the beginning of February, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert expressed support for the Iranian people. “We condemn the reported arrest of at least 29 individuals for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms by standing up against the compulsory hijab,” she said in a statement.
“The United States remains steadfast in our support for the rights to freedom of religion, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. People should be free to choose the clothes they wear, and practice their faith as they desire. Depriving individuals of this choice undermines their autonomy and dignity.”
The announcement of the years-long sentence for the Iranian woman who removed her hijab in public came just one day before the observance of International Women’s Day. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a warning for those societies, which, like Iran, still deny women their human rights. “Such conditions deprive individuals, families and communities of the contributions that empowered women can provide,” he said. “Governments that fail to treat women equally do not allow their societies to reach their full potential.”
And imprisoning courageous women engaged in peaceful protest is a travesty that must be decried.