In Iran, 33-year-old Roya Heshmati faced a brutal punishment of 74 lashes for refusing to wear the hijab, a mandatory dress code for women in the country. The Iranian judiciary, citing the violation of public morals, carried out the flogging, addressing that it was in accordance with both the law and sharia.
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Iran has enforced a dress code for women since after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, requiring them to cover their neck and head.
However, instances of women defying this mandate gained momentum during anti-government protests in late 2022.
The catalyst for these protests was the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd who died in custody after being arrested for allegedly violating the strict dress code.
The demonstrations witnessed women discarding or burning their headscarves in an act of defiance against the oppressive regulations.
Roya Heshmati, an outspoken critic of Iran’s hijab law, found herself at the center of the government on those challenging the dress code.
Arrested in April for posting a photo on social media without wearing a headscarf, Roya Heshmati faced charges of encouraging permissiveness and not wearing the Muslim veil in public.
Her case, as reported by her lawyer Maziar Tatai, underwent several charge modifications, including propaganda against the regime, harming public modesty, producing vulgar content, and encouraging people to commit corruption.
Roya Heshmati’s stand against the oppressive regime continued as she entered the court for her flogging. Defying the counsel of her lawyer and an employee to wear the hijab to avoid trouble, she boldly declared that she had come specifically for the lashes and would not yield.
The lit room where the flogging occurred was described by Roya Heshmati as resembling a medieval torture chamber, equipped with a bed, handcuffs, and iron devices.
Roya Heshmati refused to wear the hijab even during the flogging. The officer administering the punishment instructed her to put on the headscarf, but she refused.
The flogging proceeded, and she chanted, “In the name of woman, in the name of life, the clothes of slavery are torn.” Two women forcibly placed a scarf on her head and handcuffed her to ensure it stayed in place.
Roya Heshmati’s experience, shared on her now-locked social media page, has sparked outrage both within Iran and internationally.
Influential figures, including journalist Abbas Abdi, have condemned the measures imposed on individuals aspiring to live with normal freedoms.
The United Nations and various human rights organizations denounce such physical punishments as barbaric and medieval, calling for the abolition of these practices in Iran.
Iran’s judiciary, through its Mizan Online website, justified Heshmati’s punishment, claiming it was in accordance with sharia and the law.
They accused her of receiving funds from an organized movement abroad and alleged her connection to an outside group.
The government has its efforts to enforce the dress code, with surveillance cameras installed in public places and businesses shut down for non-compliance.
The Iranian parliament is considering a bill that would enhance penalties for those breaching the code, the government’s response to the 2022 protests triggered by Mahsa Amini’s death.
Iran’s Mizan Online, affiliated with the judiciary, asserted that Roya Heshmati’s lashes were due to her refusal to wear the hijab but were also linked to her alleged involvement with an organized group outside Iran.