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Amnesty International Accuses Iran Of 'Blatant' Intimidation Of Activist With Arrests


British-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad (file photo)

Amnesty International has accused Iranian authorities of a "blatant" attempt to intimidate a women's rights activist by arresting some of her relatives.

Amnesty said in a statement dated September 25 that three members of Masih Alinejad’s family were arrested at their homes in Tehran and in the northern city of Babol.

"These arrests are a blatant attempt by the Iranian authorities to punish Masih Alinejad for her peaceful work defending women’s rights," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"Arresting the relatives of an activist in an attempt to intimidate her into silence is a despicable and cowardly move," he added.

Masih Alinejad, an exiled journalist, founded a popular online campaign in 2014 called My Stealthy Freedom, which pushes back against women being forced to wear the compulsory hijab in public in Iran.

She has also encouraged women to post pictures of themselves without the compulsory hijab online as an act of protest in a campaign titled "White Wednesdays."

Amnesty said the three arrested are Alinejad’s brother, Alireza Alinejad, and Hadi and Leila Lotfi, brother and sister of her former husband, Max Lotfi.

"The fact that they have resorted to going after the family members of an activist is an indication of just how threatened the authorities feel by the growing support for the women’s rights movement in Iran and how desperate they are to put a stop to it," Luther said.

"Instead of harassing and detaining the family members of Masih Alinejad, Iran’s authorities should release them immediately and end their campaign of repression against women," he added.

Iran's treatment of women has come under scrutiny once again after the tragic death of a young Iranian woman who was arrested while trying to sneak into a stadium to watch a men's soccer match.

Twenty-nine-year old Sahar Khodayari died several days after setting herself alight on September 2 outside a courthouse where she had been summoned after being arrested for trying to enter Tehran's Azadi Stadium in March dressed as a man.

"Two weeks ago, the death of Sahar Khodayari, who set herself on fire after facing charges for trying to enter a football stadium, shocked the world and drew attention to Iran's appalling treatment of women," Luther said.

"[These] arrests are another illustration of the Iranian authorities' chilling determination to crush women’s rights activism."

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