Iran: Arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Vida Movahedi, women’s rights defender

Urgent Appeal
en fa

IRN 004 / 0419 / OBS 035
Arbitrary detention/
Judicial harassment
April 17, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Iran.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran (LDDHI) about the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Ms. Vida Movahedi (widely known as Movahed), a women’s rights defender who is known for being the first woman to remove her headscarf in a public protest against the mandatory hijab laws in Iran.

According to information received, on March 2, 2019 Ms. Vida Movahed was sentenced by Branch 1091 of Ershad Judicial Complex in Tehran to one year in prison for “encouraging the people to commit immorality or prostitution” (Article 639 of the Islamic Penal Code).

The charge stems from Ms. Vida Movahed’s protest in favour of women’s rights held on October 29, 2018, during which she took off her hijab. She was arrested in November 2018 and has been arbitrarily detained in Shahr-e Rey prison outside of Tehran since then.

According to the information received, Ms. Vida Movahed reportedly received an amnesty for the remainder of her sentence and is eligible for conditional release [1] yet she remained imprisoned at the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal.

Ms. Vida Movahed first took off her headscarf in a public protest on December 27, 2017, and was arrested on January 21, 2018 and detained until January 27, 2018. She was sentenced to a fine, the amount which is not known. Under Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code, women appearing without hijab in public can be sentenced to a fine ranging from 50,000 to 500,000 Rials (between one and 10 Euros).

The Observatory recalls that since December 2017 scores of Iranian women have participated in protests against compulsory hijab, by standing on boxes and removing their headscarves in public. More than 30 of those who participated were subsequently arrested, detained, and prosecuted on various criminal charges. Human rights lawyers who defended these women, such as Ms. Nasrin Sotoudeh [2], were also arrested and sentenced to harsh prison terms. On March 8, 2019, some women who had taken off their headscarves gave flowers to other women in underground trains in Tehran and spoke about the right to not wear the hijab. Two of them were arrested: Ms. Yassman Aryani, a drama actor, was arrested on April 10, 2019 and her mother, Ms. Monireh Arabshahi on April 11, 2019. The latter is detained in Shahr-e Rey prison but the whereabouts of the daughter are not known. No information is available on the charges against them.

The Observatory welcomes the amnesty reportedly granted to Ms. Vida Movahed and accordingly urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release her and to end any act of harassment, including at judicial level, against her and all women’s rights defenders in the country.

The Observatory further recalls that Ms. Vida Movahed should never have been arrested in the first place, as her arrest and sentence are aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Iran asking them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Ms. Vida Movahed, as well as that of all other Iranian human rights defenders;

ii. Release her immediately and unconditionally;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Ms. Vida Movahed as well as that all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country, and ensure they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance;

iv. Conform to all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6, 9, 11 and 12;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Iran.


• Leader of the Islamic Republic, H.E. Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Fax: + 98 21 441 2030, Email:; Twitter: @khamenei_ir
• President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98 21 644 54811; Email:; Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian).
• Head of the Judiciary, H.E. Hojattolislam Ebrahim Ra’eesi, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98 21 879 6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567, Email: / /
• Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98-21-66743149;
• Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammed Javad Larijani, Islamic Republic of Iran. Email:
• H.E. Mr. Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email:
• H.E. Mr. Peiman Seadat, Ambassador, Embassy of Iran in Brussels, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iran in your respective countries.

Paris-Geneva, April 17, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Under the conditional release, if the defendant commits the same offence again, he will have to spend the period mitigated and in addition to serve any new sentence.
[2] See Observatory Urgent Appeal IRN 001 / 0618 / OBS 085.1, published on March 12, 2019.

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