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Iranian Doctoral Student Lashed In Connection With Postelection Arrest*


A screen shot of Somayeh Tohidlou's blog, on which she announced the meting out of the lashing on September 14

A screen shot of Somayeh Tohidlou's blog, on which she announced the meting out of the lashing on September 14

A doctoral student of sociology and blogger who campaigned for defeated presidential candidate and opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi has reportedly received 50 lashes at Tehran's Evin prison.

Thirty-three-year-old Somayeh Tohidlou, who spent more than two months in jail at the height of the continuing postelection crackdown, was sentenced to one year in prison and 50 lashes after the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad*, the incumbent victor in the disputed June 2009 vote. An appeals court later canceled her prison sentence.

But she reports that her lashing sentence was carried out on September 14.

"Be happy, your aim was to humiliate me, I confess that I feel my entire body is burning with humiliation," Tohidlou wrote on her blog.

Later on Facebook, Tohidlou downplayed the physical pain of the sentence.

"I am a child of the great Iran," she wrote, adding that she is "ashamed" that others have paid a higher price than her.

U.K.-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that she had information that Tohidlou's sentence was executed "symbolically," which she suggested means that the doctoral student was flogged as hard as the law requires.

"It doesn't change a bit the heinous act of lashing a woman, an academic who is well-known among women's rights advocates and Internet activists, particularly that the sentence was conducted by a man at Evin prison," Alinejad said. "It was a ceremony aimed at humiliating an active member of Iran's protest movement."

The incident has led to outrage among intellectuals and opposition activists who have sent Tohidlou messages of support on Facebook and blogs, and issued statements condemning the sentence. Some have changed their Facebook profile pictures to images of Tohidlou, while others have joined a Facebook page that has been created to demonstrate support for her.

Sadigheh Vasmaghi, a university professor in Tehran, told Radio Farda said the sentence against Tohidlou was the result of what he called the "quasi-Taliban" way of thinking of the Iranian establishment.

Iranian bloggers said in a joint statement that "a pen can be broken, and people can be shut up through lashing and the use of force, but no repressive measure can imprison or chain an idea."

* This piece initially suggested the lashing was explicitly ordered for insulting President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. That cannot currently be confirmed and there are conflicting reports on the action for which Tohidlou was lashed.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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