We referred, for instance, to the growth in efforts to enforce the imposed veiling of women, as by empowering civilian militias to accost women considered to be wearing “bad hejab.” On Wednesday, IranWire reported on an instance of the continued pressure toward such measures. The site pointed out that Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, one of the highest ranking clerics in the Iranian religious center of Qom, had encouraged security forces and others to “act beyond the law” for the sake of enforcing “good hejab.”
The crackdown on women’s rights has also included efforts to more strictly segregate the genders in public life and to discourage virtually all relations between unmarried men and women. A particularly noteworthy example of this emerged on Wednesday when the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported that Atena Faraghdani, who was recently sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison for drawing a cartoon critical of Iranian legislators, is now being charged along with her lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, for “non-adultery illegitimate relations” because they shook hands when the attorney came to visit his client.
The International Campaign goes on to provide two alternative explanations for the initial case against Farghdani, who was charged with “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “insulting the Supreme Leader, the President, Members of the Parliament, and the interrogating prison agents.” Specifically, the activist organization indicates that that case may have been motivated either by the broader crackdown on political and social media activities, or by Faraghdani’s supposedly relations with the widely persecuted Baha’i religious minority.
In either case, the latest charges against her can only be explained in terms of growing strictness about gender relations, even if she herself is being targeted for reasons other than her gender. Similarly, an article published Wednesday by HyperAllergic points to the simultaneous pressures against women and against free artistic expression in Iran. It summarizes the documentary film No Land’s Song by Iranian filmmaker Ayat Najafi, which recently won the Human Rights Watch Film Festival’s Nestor Almendros Award.
The film follows an effort to stage an all-female vocal performance in Iran, and it anticipates the current situation in which there is tremendous pushback against a public female presence and also against such supposedly Western social influences as musical performance. The concert in No Land’s Song eventually did go forward, but the article quotes the filmmaker and the movie’s central figure as saying that since then it has become steadily more difficult for Iranian artists to live and work in their own country.
The same is certainly true of Iranian journalists – a fact that the website JournalismIsNotACrime.me, which launched last week, is trying to expose. Site founder Maziar Bahari appeared on PBS Newshour to discuss the launch, where he pointed out that about 50 journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran for doing their jobs, and that neither the Rouhani administration nor the judiciary is willing to acknowledge this well-publicized situation.
On the other hand, the Iran Human Rights website suggests that publicity for this and other human rights abuses in the Islamic Republic is insufficient, and that the lack of international outcry is making the situation worse. It points out that a total of 206 executions have been carried out in Iran in the month of June alone. This equates to approximately one execution every two hours, though in fact they are usually carried out en masse, as was done on Tuesday when 25 inmates were hanged in the morning in a single prison.