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Iran's supreme leader has used the first anniversary of the movement to encourage victims of sexual abuse to speak out to offer his particular notion of Islam as a solution, head scarves and all.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an opponent of gender equality whose establishment enforces discriminatory laws against women, has marked the one-year anniversary of the global #metoo movement by offering strict Islamic dress as a solution to the problems women face in the West.

The overture comes amid ongoing criticism of punishments in Iran against women who have publicly protested the country’s dress code or lawyers who have defended them, as well as of Iran’s execution this week of a young woman convicted for the stabbing death of her husband when she was a minor, reportedly after years of domestic abuse.

“The disaster of countless sexual assaults on Western women -- including incidents leading to #MeToo campaign – and Islam’s proposal to resolve it,” Khamenei said in a tweet alongside a video montage of women in the West coming forward about their personal experiences of sexual assault and abuse or decrying such violence.

The video also includes segments of a speech Khamenei delivered in March in which he claimed that the Islamic veil prevents sexual harassment and violence toward women.

“You might have heard, a few months ago, that a large number of Western female politicians announced one right after another that they had been subjected to abuse, harassment, or violence at times while they were working in government offices,” Khamenei says in the video. “By introducing the hijab, Islam has shut the door on a path that would pull women towards such deviation…. Islam does not allow this through the hijab.”

Viral Video: Iranian Woman Seized For Not Wearing Hijab (originally published April 20, 2018)

Viral Video: Iranian Woman Seized For Not Wearing Hijab
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The video was published along with a sample of Khamenei’s statements on women and the hijab, which according to the Iranian leader provides women with “immunity” while increasing their “dignity and respect.”

The piece, posted on Khamenei.ir, is titled 10 Facts By Ayatollah Khamenei: Can The Hijab Save Western Women? It includes excerpts from the Iranian leader’s speeches in the 29 years since becoming Iran’s second supreme leader after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran’s Judiciary, whose chairman is appointed by Khamenei, executed a 24-year-old woman who Amnesty International said had been a victim of domestic abuse and sexual violence since being married off at the age of 15.

It also follows unprecedented public protests late last year and earlier this year against the compulsory hijab by dozens of women, some of whom were detained and sent to prison.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran also jailed leading human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who had defended some of the women who removed their scarves in public to protest the obligatory hijab rule.

Other protests, which appeared rooted in public anger over economic conditions, shook the country earlier this year and rekindled the debate about the Islamic veil that became compulsory following the 1979 revolution.

Over the ensuing four decades, the Iranian establishment has routinely used the threat of corporal punishment or jail to force women to cover their hair and bodies in public. Many women have fought back by pushing the boundaries and wearing small, colorful scarves and short coats.

The Iranian establishment is often accused by rights groups and women’s rights advocates of treating women like second-class citizens by enforcing laws that prevent them from traveling without the consent of male relatives and denying them equal rights in property-holding, marriage, divorce, and child custody.

In past weeks, several women’s rights advocates have been arrested in Iran on unknown charges.

A blocked website in Belarus

BRUSSELS – The European Parliament has overwhelmingly passed a resolution condemning the repeated detention and state harassment of journalists and independent news outlets in Belarus.

The text, backed on October 4 by the five largest political groups in the chamber, called on Belarus to “end all judicial harassment, intimidation, and threats” against journalists and independent media and to allow all news portals to operate freely.

It also called on the Belarusian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally lift the blockade imposed on Internet access to the news website Charter'97.”

It urged the European Commission to “support all independent sources of information for Belarusian society, including media broadcasting in the Belarusian language and from abroad like Charter'97 and Belsat TV.”

The resolution further stated that EU financial assistance to Belarus “must be linked to clear and tangible steps toward democratization and openness, including comprehensive election reform and full respect to media freedom.”

Between 2014 and 2017, the EU provided an assistance package to Belarus worth 91.5 million euros ($105,000).

The resolution comes amid improved EU-Belarus relations in recent years.

In February 2016, the bloc lifted most of the sanctions against Minsk that had been in place since the political crackdown on the opposition after the presidential election in December 2010.

Rights groups have charged that the government is trying to muzzle independent media that are critical of strongman President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his government.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has denied that allegation.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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