Freedom Now welcomes reports that Iranian women’s rights activist Saba Kord Afshari was released from prison on February 9 along with other prominent women activists after more than three years in detention. Kord Afshari was arrested along with her mother Raheleh Ahmadi in June 2019 on charges related to her protests of the compulsory hijab law and her public support for another imprisoned activist.
“We are grateful that Saba Kord Afshari has been released and reunited with her mother,” said Freedom Now Legal Officer Adam Lhedmat. “Her wrongful imprisonment stands as a reminder of the continued assault on women’s rights in Iran. We call on the government to quash Saba and Raheleh’s politically-motivated convictions and ensure that they face no further harassment for exercising their internationally protected rights.”
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.
Kord Afshari’s 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.
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. A decision is pending.