One day before a planned anti-hijab protest, Iran’s security arrested families of the victims of the 2019 protests accusing them of “trying to instigate riots”.
Security forces raided the home of Rahimeh Yousefzadeh in Tehran on Monday and arrested her and two other mothers whose children were killed by the government during anti-government protests. Yousefzadeh is the mother of Navid Behboudi who was shot dead by security forces in Tehran in November 2019.
Several others, including Nahid Shirpisheh, the mother of Pouya Bakhtiari, and the brother of Vahid Damvar, another victim of government violence, were arrested at their own homes, also on Monday.
The mothers of the victims of government violence have come to be known collectively as ‘Mothers for Justice’. Many among these mothers are usually referred to in reports and on social media by their dead children’s names. In the past few years, they have tried to keep the memory of their loved ones alive while also relentlessly calling for justice for them.
Authorities normally respond to the mothers’ calls for justice with accusations, harassment and even prison.
Quoting an ‘informed source’, the IRGC-linked Fars News agency on Monday confirmed the arrest of an unspecified number of activists by the intelligence ministry during a private meeting. The report dubbed the activists as “insurgents who pretend to seek justice”, a clear reference to Mothers for Justice.
Fars also reported that a foreign national who allegedly gave money to the accused has been arrested in a separate operation.
Fars accused the activists of “establishing contact with a foreign secret service” and receiving money from them to “instigate riot and insecurity in the country under the guise of seeking justice.”
Many believe that the arrests are a preemptive measure against a planned anti-hijab protest on Tuesday.
The ‘Morality Police’ have recently been harshly cracking down on ‘bad-hijab women’ and some officials have ordered extra measures, including to government offices, banks, and public transportation authorities to deny service to ‘bad-hijab’ women.
Authorities have also planned ‘hijab rallies’ at stadiums and other venues on Tuesday (July 12) “to honor, celebrate, and promote” the Islamic notion of the hijab (cover) for women.
Activists, including some of the ‘Mothers for Justice’ have called on women to take action against compulsory hijab on the same day including dropping their headscarves in the streets and other public places. The campaign has been dubbed as the ‘NO2Hijab’.
“They arrested Nahid Shirpisheh because they knew she would come to the street without hijab and many other women would follow her lead,” Mahtab Ghorbani, a France-based poet and activist tweeted. In a video shared on social media last week, Shirpisheh supported the anti-hijab movement and urged everyone to join it.
On Monday a middle-aged woman removed her headscarf in the main square of the city of Tonekabon in the northern province of Mazandaran and protested against compulsory hijab by shouting “freedom” and waving her headscarf over her head. Passers by came to her rescue and freed her when police tried to arrest her and whisk her away.
Crackdown on activists has spiked in the past few days. Security forces on Monday arrested the award-winning film director Jafar Panahi as he was protesting the detention of two dissident filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof and Mostafa Al-e Ahmad, at Tehran’s Evin prison.
Rasoulof, Alehahmad and prominent reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh who is an outspoken critic of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s policies were also arrested last week.