Woman in Iran receives 74 lashings for not covering hair, ‘violating public morals’

33-year-old Roya Heshmati accused by Tehran’s judiciary of having ‘encouraged permissiveness’ after violating mandatory dress code in public

Illustrative: Women share an umbrella as they stand at Enghelab Square in Iran's capital Tehran on December 5, 2022.
(Atta Kenare/AFP)
Illustrative: Women share an umbrella as they stand at Enghelab Square in Iran's capital Tehran on December 5, 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN — Iranian authorities have whipped a woman 74 times for “violating public morals” and fined her for not covering her head, the judiciary said.

“The convicted, Roya Heshmati, encouraged permissiveness [by appearing] disgracefully in busy public places in Tehran,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said late on Saturday.

“Her penalty of 74 strokes of the lash was carried out in accordance with the law and with sharia,” and “for violating public morals,” Mizan said.

Kurdish-focused rights group Hengaw identified Heshmati as a 33-year-old woman of Kurdish origins.

She was arrested in April “for publishing a photo on social media without wearing a headscarf,” her lawyer Maziar Tatai told the reformist Shargh daily.

Heshmati was also ordered to pay a fine of 12 million rials (around $25) for “not wearing the Muslim veil in public,” Tatai said.

All women in Iran have been required by law to cover their neck and head since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Whippings for breaching the dress code are uncommon in Iran, although officials have increasingly cracked down on those defying the rules after the practice surged during anti-government protests that began in late 2022.

The protests were triggered by the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd arrested for an alleged breach of the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

A protester shows a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration to support Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022 in Paris. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard, File)

Amini died a few days after her arrest by religious police for allegedly violating the strict dress code. Her family says she died from a blow to the head while in custody, but this is disputed by Iranian authorities.

Following her death and the widespread protest movement that came about as a result, a growing number of Iranian women have been seen in public without hijab head scarves or observing the rules against clothes that are deemed too tight-fitting or otherwise revealing.

Officials have installed surveillance cameras in public places to monitor violations and have shut down businesses that breached the rules.

Iran’s parliament has also discussed a bill to toughen penalties for those breaching the dress code.

In October 2023, shortly after the first anniversary of Amini’s death, Iranian teenager Armita Geravand was injured in a mysterious incident on Tehran’s Metro while not wearing a headscarf and passed away several weeks later.

At the time, Geravand’s parents appeared in state media footage saying a blood pressure issue, a fall or perhaps both contributed to their daughter’s injury. However, activists abroad have alleged Geravand may have been pushed or attacked for not wearing the hijab.

For observant Muslim women, the head covering is a sign of piety before God and modesty in front of men outside their families. In Iran, the hijab — and the all-encompassing black chador worn by some — has long been a political symbol as well, particularly after becoming mandatory in the years following the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran and neighboring Taliban-ruled Afghanistan are the only countries where the hijab remains mandatory for women.

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