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UN Calls On Iran To Release Activists Jailed Over Hijab Protests

Farhad Meysami (left) and Nasrin Sotoudeh in an undated photo

UN human rights experts have called on Iran to release human rights defenders and lawyers who have been jailed for publicly supporting protests against the compulsory hijab in Iran.

“We urge the government to immediately release all those who have been imprisoned for promoting and protecting the rights of women,” the experts said in a November 29 statement.

The experts said they’re particularly alarmed at “the critical health” of Farhad Meysami, a medical doctor who was detained in July for supporting women protesting against the hijab law that forces them to cover their hair and body in public.

Meysami has been reportedly on a hunger strike since August to protest the charges he faces and also the lack of access to a lawyer of his choosing.

He’s being reportedly held in a medical clinic at Tehran's Evin prison, where he is being force-fed intravenously.

“The best way to end Meysami’s hunger strike would be to address the violations which are the basis of his protest, including through good faith dialogue about his grievances, and to respect his wishes to use this form of protest,” the UN experts said.

They also expressed concern at the in absentia conviction and subsequent imprisonment of leading human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who represented several of the women detained for removing their head scarves in public to protest the Islamic dress code.

In September, Sotoudeh’s husband, Reza Khandan, was arrested and accused of “promoting the practice of appearing in public without a veil.”

The UN experts called on Iran to guarantee the rights of Meysami, Sotoudeh, and Khandan to fair proceedings before an independent and impartial tribunal.

Earlier this year, Iranian authorities announced they had detained 29 women who removed their head scarves as part of a campaign against the country's mandatory Islamic dress code.

Women's dress has been heavily scrutinized in Iran since the 1979 revolution, when adherence to an Islamic dress code became compulsory.

The dress code dictates that a woman's hair and body must be covered in public.

Morality police launch regular crackdowns on those who are not fully respecting rules relating to the hijab.

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