Iran – Old Repressions and New Protests

Patheos reports that the American Center for Law and Justice is once again pushing for the release of one prominent Iranian political prisoner, and is urging the State Department to use the extension of nuclear talks as an opportunity to make his release a condition for any final agreement.

Pastor Saeed Abedini has served two years of an eight year sentence on vague national security charges stemming from his conversion to Christianity, emigration to America, and subsequent support for the house church movement in Iran. The pastor has suffered repeated beatings, threats, and denial of medical care during his time in prison.

Though he has had a difficult time in prison, Abedini arguably has better chances of release than many of his fellow political prisoners, on account of the international attention that is being given to his case. It could be said that domestic protesters take an even greater risk than Abedini did when returning to Iran to do charity work. This is especially the case when the protest is especially personal and out in the open.

Such was the case with one unidentified young women who contributed to the longstanding “stealthy freedom” campaign for women’s rights, but who did so in a decidedly non-stealthy way. YouTube video shows the woman in a Tehran subway car, playing music on a personal electronic device and dancing so energetically that her legally required head covering falls off.

The protest renews attention not only for such legal restrictions against women but also for Iran’s prohibition against dancing, which led in May to the arrest of six young people who had posted video of themselves dancing to the Pharrell Williams song, “Happy.” The six ultimately received suspended sentences of about a year in prison and 91 lashes each.

The potential consequences of dancing and removing one’s veil are so serious that according to the India Times, Masih Alinejad, the female journalist behind the “stealthy freedom” campaign initially declined to post the video as part of that campaign, doing so only after it had already appeared online elsewhere.