Saba Kord Afshari and Raheleh Ahmadi

Date of Birth: 1998
Occupation: Women's rights activists
Arrested: June 2019
Charges: propaganda against the government; acting against national security; encouraging moral corruption; violating religious taboos
Sentence: 5 years and 2 years, 7 months
Released: February 2023 and October 2022

Saba Kord Afshari is a women’s rights defender sentenced to five years in prison for protesting compulsory veiling laws in Iran. She was imprisoned along with her mother Raheleh Ahmadi, who served a two year and seven month sentence on the same charges.

Prior to her arrest, Kord Afshari regularly joined protests known as White Wednesdays, a campaign in which women wore white to protest the compulsory-veiling laws. She often published videos on social media of herself without a hijab. Her efforts were supported by other female activists, including  Raheleh Ahmadi, her mother. Kord Afshari was previously arrested in August 2018 for taking part in anti-corruption protests. She was sentenced to one year and released in February 2019 as part of a mass pardon.

Kord Afshari’s most recent arrest came after she published a video in April 2019 with her mother in support of Yasaman Aryani, a fellow activist who had recently been arrested and forcibly disappeared for protesting the hijab law. In the video, Kord Afshari appears without a hijab.

Kord Afshari was arrested on June 1, 2019 during a raid on her home. She was charged with “gathering and collusion against national security” through supporting political prisoners, “propaganda against the state” through collaborating with opposition and subversive groups, and “promoting corruption and prostitution” through appearing without a headscarf in public. Following the arrested she was held in solitary confinement and incommunicado for nearly two weeks. During her detention, Kord Afshari was interrogated and asked to record videos denouncing the White Wednesday movement and confessing to her alleged crimes. She refused to do so, despite threats to her family.

Ahmadi was arrested on July 10, 2019, an act apparently calculated to coerce a confession from Kord Afshari. She was charged with “propaganda against the state,” “promoting corruption and prostitution,” and “assembly and collusion to act against the national security.” She was released on bail four days after her arrest.

Kord Afshari’s her trial began on August 19, 2019. She was not given access to a lawyer prior to the proceedings and only met her legal counsel for the first time at the trial. Her lawyer was allowed access to parts of her case file only one hour before trial, and parts of her file were censored under the pretext of confidentiality. She was sentenced to 24 years in prison on August 27. After numerous appeals, her sentence was reduced to five years on April 29, 2022. She was detained in Qarchak Prison, where female political prisoners are intermingled with violent criminals. She reportedly suffers from chronic stomach disorders and ulcers, as well as anxiety attacks, which cause muscle contractions and require immediate injections and oxygen therapy. She did not receive adequate medical treatment while in prison. She has also contracted COVID-19 at least twice. Moreover, she was the victim of violent attacks by both guards and inmates.

On December 16, 2019, Ahmadi was convicted and sentenced to 2 years and 7 months in prison. In November 2021, she was given an additional charge of “propaganda activities against the state” after “publishing statements on websites hostile to the Iranian government, while in detention.” She began serving her sentence in February 2020 and was released in October 2022.

Afshari was released in February 2023 along with several other prominent women activists.

In June 2022, Freedom Now and Dechert LLP filed a petition to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on Kord Afshari and Ahamdi’s behalf. In March 2023, the Working Group declared their detention a violation of international law.

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