45 European MPs Call on EU Foreign Policy Chief to Support Iranian Women’s Anti-Compulsory-Hijab Protest

Forty-five members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have sent an open letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urging her to call on Iranian officials to immediately release the women who have been arrested for participating in the recent anti-compulsory-hijab protests in Iran, the Center for Human Rights in Iran reports.

“We now ask you to publicly support the women who have been arrested by the Iranian authorities, by joining us in calling on Iranian officials to immediately and unconditionally release these women,” said the letter signed by the MEPs that was sent by the office of Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake on February 28, 2018.

Mogherini represented the EU in the negotiations between Iran and the UN Security Council members known as the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany) from 2014-15. A final agreement was reached between the parties in July 2015 and since then various EU delegations have traveled to Iran.

“Urging the Iranian authorities to respect human rights is not analogous to demonizing Iran. When countries with leverage on Iran are silent on the issue, they are not only failing the Iranian people, they are endangering European citizens who travel to Iran. Marietje Schaake and the other 44 MEPs are holding the torch by letting Iran know that business cannot carry on as usual while human rights are sidelined in the country,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

At least 29 people had been arrested as of February 4 in various cities in Iran for peacefully protesting against the country’s mandatory hijab law, which requires women to keep their bodies and hair covered in public.

The detainees’ names have not been made public and it remains unclear how many remain in custody. CHRI has learned that Vida Movahed, Narges Hosseini, Azam Jangravi, Shima Babaei, Shaparak Shajarizadeh, and Maryam Shariatmadari were among those who were arrested. Shariatmadari was badly injured after a policeman pushed her off a utility platform while she was peacefully protesting against the hijab.

The protesting women have been following the action of Movahed, the first woman to be arrested after she waved her scarf on top of a utility box on Tehran’s Enghelab St. in late December 2017. The act of removing your headscarf in public and waving it like a flag has become a symbol for the “Girls of Revolution Street” movement, which advocates choice over compulsion for women’s clothing.

Iranian officials have tried to smear the protesters by claiming they’re being directed by outside powers. One protester who was arrested, a woman’s rights activist and member of a centrist political party in Iran, immediately rejected the accusations.

My action has no connection with any group or individual, whether inside or outside Iran. I did this to fight against the mandatory hijab. Let us choose our own hijab. As an individual, I have the right to choose,” wrote Azam (Azi) Jangvari in a post on her Instagram page on February 15.

CHRI calls on the Iranian authorities to release all detained protesters and respect the Iranian people’s right to choose what they wear and how they express themselves.

“Iranian women and even some men have been bravely protesting against the compulsory hijab in Iran despite the very real threat of arrest and imprisonment. They are emphasizing that the hijab should be a choice. Countries with leverage on Iran, especially in Europe, should support them,” said Ghaemi.