Iranian activists have taken to social media to condemn the state-run television for airing ‘forced confessions’ of a detained anti-hijab protester last week.
The state-run television (IRIB) on Sundayaired the so-called ‘confessions’ of Sepideh Rashno, a 28-year-old artist, writer and editor, who was arrested on July 16, after a video of her quarrel with a woman enforcing hijab rules – identified as Rayeheh Rabi’i -- went viral.
In the video Rabi’i, who was fully covered by a long, black ‘chador’ – which is typical of the supporters of the Islamic Republic – is seen shouting at Rashno who had unveiled in a city bus. The quarrel became so frantic that other passengers intervened and kicked the hijab enforcer out of the bus.
Iran’s state media and media outlets affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have been publishing videos of forced confessions from women who are arrested over their participation in an ongoing anti-hijab campaign.
In the forced confession under detention shown by the IRIB Sunday, Rashno says she regrets her confrontation with the hijab enforcer and posting her video on social media and that she “begged” US-based anti-hijab activist Masih Alinejad to remove the video of the encounter from social media.
An undated photo of Sepideh Rashno
Rashno has reportedly been in detention at the IRGC ward of Tehran’s Evin Prison since her arrest without any contact with her family or access to a lawyer.
In a tweet Sunday, Alinejad alleged that Rashno was tortured and forced to denounce herself and speak against her. “She’s a hero fighting for freedom for all women, for our dignity. I call on the international community to support Sepideh Reshnou,” Alinejad wrote.
While all these were taking place, a man was arrested outside Alinejad's home in Brooklyn, NY with a loaded AK-47 assault rifle, after being seen loitering for two days and trying to get into her home.
Social media users have pointed out that in the video aired Sunday Rashnou appears to be wearing a heavy layer of makeup to cover up bruises on her face, particularly above her right eye, and looks very tired and worn out resulting from possible physical and psychological torture.
Armin Soleimani, journalist, in a tweet Sunday said by torturing Rashno and airing her ‘confession’ on the state television, authorities aimed at intimidating anti-hijab activists and protesters.
Masih Alinejad, a well-known defender of women's rights living in New York
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claimed last week that the anti-hijab movement is nothing but a Western plot against the Islamic Republic, adding that in his view the Islamic Republic does not need to defend itself about issues related to women including the hijab but should rather be aggressive and attack the West for turning women into a “commodity”.
Rights activists allege that the Islamic Republic systematically uses torture and broadcasts torture-tainted ‘confessions’ of activists, politicians, and even ordinary criminals against themselves and others on state television to intimidate their peers and the public.
“Such confessions may have worked in the early days of the revolution but fortunately has lost its [desired] impact now due to being repeatedly used for all sorts of things and have even made the incompetent security organs the butt of jokes,” Maziar (Mazyar) Ebrahimi, a businessman who was tortured to ‘confess’ that he had been spying for Israel and was involved in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists in 2012 tweeted about the airing of Rashno’s confessions.
On July 12, following a call by women’s rights activists for civil disobedience with the hashtag of ‘No2Hijab’ social media exploded with dozens of videos and photos of women unveiling in public.
Iran’s government which is now fully controlled by hardliners has adopted a harsher than usual approach in enforcing hijab in the streets and government affiliated institutions, amid economic crisis and hardship for tens of millions. Government and military officials have warned the population against disobeying hijab rules and the morality police hijab enforcement patrols have detained many women, sometimes violently, on the streets.