Iranian woman who removed headscarf ‘pardoned’ after jail sentence

Vida Movahed was photographed removing her headscarf during demonstrations in Iran. (Social media)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Iranian woman who removed headscarf ‘pardoned’ after jail sentence

  • Derefshan, who revealed the verdict to local media Sunday, says she is on a pardon list
  • She removed her obligatory Islamic headscarf in a public protest

TEHRAN: An Iranian woman who removed her obligatory headscarf in a public protest has been sentenced to one year in prison but pardoned by the supreme leader, her lawyer said Sunday.

A court sentenced Vida Movahed in March after finding her guilty of encouraging public “corruption,” her lawyer, Payam Derefshan, told The Associated Press. Movahed was arrested in November. Derefshan, who first revealed the verdict to local media on Sunday, said she is on a pardon list but the release procedures are still underway.

There was no official comment. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei occasionally issues pardons, usually tied to public holidays.

Movahed, 32, was dubbed the “Girl of Enghelab Street” and briefly arrested in 2017 after she took off her headscarf and held it in the air. Video clips of the protest were widely shared on social media, and authorities briefly detained 29 women on similar charges the following year. Three have reportedly been sentenced to two years in prison and some others are believed to have left the country. Iranian court proceedings are usually closed to the public and verdicts are often not publicized.

Iranian law requires women to dress conservatively and cover their hair in public. Those who violate the rules are usually sentenced to two months in prison or less and fined around $25.

Authorities have adopted a tougher approach toward the protests, which they say are part of a campaign orchestrated from abroad by opposition groups and social media networks.

Also on Sunday, the official IRNA news agency reported that an appeals court upheld the 13-year prison sentence of a lawyer who was jailed in 2018 after voicing support for people detained during anti-government protests.

Mohammad Najafi was sentenced in December to 10 years for “conveying information to a hostile country” through interviews with foreign media, two years for insulting the supreme leader and one year for publicly supporting opposition groups.

The same appeals court reduced the sentence of his associate, Ali Bagheri, from 12 years to five years. He had faced similar charges.

The demonstrations in late 2017 and early 2018, which focused on economic grievances, lasted for days and resulted in the deaths of dozens and the arrest of hundreds more.


Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

Updated 21 July 2019
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Warning to Turkish artists as singer is jailed for ‘insulting’ Erdogan

  • Actress and singer Zuhal Olcay was charged with insulting Erdogan using hand gestures at a concert in Istanbul in 2016
  • Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence, originally imposed last year but suspended

ANKARA: Accusations of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may lead to a jail sentence — even if the “insult” is in private, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Turkey’s appeals court has upheld an 11-month sentence on actress and singer Zuhal Olcay, 61, after a complaint that she had changed lyrics of songs and used hand gestures to insult the president at a concert in Istanbul in 2016.

The revised lyrics said: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s all empty, it’s all a lie. Life will end one day and you’ll say ‘I had a dream’.” Olcay said she had changed the lyrics only because the president’s name fitted the rhyme.

The court confirmed a sentence originally imposed last year, which had been suspended. The singer is expected to spend up to three days in prison, before being released on probation.

“This case highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres.”

Louis Fishman Academic

“Zuhal Olcay is an artist with great stature, and this case shows that no one is out of reach of a judiciary that increasingly has little independence from the government,” Louis Fishman, an assistant professor at City University of New York, told Arab News.

“The message is clear; artists in Turkey should be silent or face legal consequences that can be drawn out for years and eventually lead to prison,” said Fishman, an expert on Turkey.

He said it was significant that the hand gesture at the center of the case had happened at a private concert, and the prosecution began only after it was reported to police by someone in the audience.

“Therefore, this case also highlights the blurring of the public and private spheres,” he said. 

“In other words, there is a growing fear in Turkey of criticizing, or ‘defaming’ Erdogan, not only in public, but also in private. In both cases, vigilant citizens can report such alleged cases to the police.”