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August 1 2022

Policy Briefs

Sepideh Rashno was publicly beaten, then forced to “confess” on State TV

Sepideh Rashno, a 28 year old Iranian artist and writer, was recently arrested after a video of a confrontation between her and a hijab enforcer went viral. In the video, Sepideh—who can be seen without a head covering—is verbally and physically accosted by another woman for not wearing a hijab. The woman began taking Sepideh’s video to expose her identity, threatening to report her to the IRGC for her insufficient veiling. Sepideh can be seen in the video with a bloody arm. The altercation grew so intense that bystanders had to intervene and the enforcer was ultimately asked to exit the bus. After the video was posted online, Sepideh was arrested and her assailant was praised by several regime officials

Sepideh’s detainment has been mired by mistreatment. HRANA reported that she was initially denied access to a lawyer and to phone calls while imprisoned. Just days later, a forced confession on the state propaganda television service was released, seemingly after being tortured, in which Sepideh accepted full blame for the encounter. 

The number of women protesting against compulsory hijabs has drastically increased in recent weeks with the rise of the #No2Hijab Twitter campaign. With this rise in protests, increasing numbers of women have been imprisoned due to their efforts. Sepideh is one in a slew of women incarcerated for civil disobedience. Her forced confession represents the lengths the Iranian regime is willing to go in covering its sexist and oppressive ways.

The regime’s actions show the disconnect between the government and the public. Despite the fact that Sepideh was the victim in this situation, she was the one who faced prosecution. This is not an isolated occurrence either, as self-proclaimed hijab enforcers routinely engage in such harassment, notably with the approval of the regime. By contrast, the hijab enforcers face scant support from Iranian women; as the enforcer shouted and filmed Sepideh, other women on the bus began arguing with the enforcer and covering her phone, attempting to protect Sepideh. Ultimately, it was the enforcer, not Sepideh, who was pushed to leave the bus by the other women. Such encounters are the consequence of a mandatory hijab law, and it is evident that issues such as this should receive more media coverage.