Iran: Take Action: Release Women's Rights Defenders and Feminist Activists of Iran’s #WhiteWednesdays Campaign!


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for the release of four women human rights defenders (WHRDs) who have been arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for protesting against Iran’s forced hijab laws. GCHR urges the authorities of Iran to adhere to their commitment to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and release the women who have been arbitrarily arrested for expressing themselves through peaceful protests.  

The four human rights defenders have been detained, charged and sentenced to prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression and participating in the #WhiteWednesdays campaign against compulsory veiling laws. GCHR is increasingly concerned with the ongoing crackdowns on WHRDs and women’s rights in the country. Iranian WHRDs are under threat of being sentenced up to ten years in prison for participating in the peaceful campaign. Among those are Saba KordafshariYasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz.

Yasaman Aryani was arrested on 10 April 2019 for posting a video of herself unveiled and for handing out flowers to female passengers on a metro train in Tehran on International Women's Day. She was taken to Vozara detention center where she was held in solitary confinement for nine days. 

The next day, on 11 April, her mother Monireh Arabshahi was also arrested over the viral video, in which she also appeared.  "The day will come when women are not forced to struggle," Arabshahi is heard saying while her daughter hands a flower to a woman wearing a hijab, saying she hopes to walk side by side in the street one day, "me without the hijab and you with the hijab.” 

On 25 April, Mojgan Keshavarz, who appeared in the same video was arrested in her home, where she was beaten in front of her daughter and taken to an unknown location. During the time of their detention all three women were under heavy pressure to make self-incriminating testimonies on camera. 

On 31 July, the three WHRDs were sentenced to prison for their peaceful activities by branch 28 of Tehran's Revolutionary Court. The court that condemned them is presided over by a notorious judge, Mohammad Moqisseh, who is well known for issuing harsh verdicts entirely based on the reports compiled by intelligence agents. Judge Moqisseh is the same judge who on 11 March 2019 sentenced prominent Iranian lawyer and defender of women's rights Nasrin Sotoudeh to 148 lashes and 33 years in prison.

Aryani and Arabshahi both received sentences of 16 years in prison, while Keshavarz has been sentenced to 23 years and six months. Their sentences are clearly reprisals for their activism and for defying the norms by handing out flowers in the metro and removing their hijab on a day meant to celebrate women, International Women’s Day.

The protest on International Women’s Day drew charges, including “assembly and collusion to act against national security,” “propaganda against the regime” and “encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution,” according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran.

In a separate case, Saba Kordafshari, who was arrested on 1 June, was held for ten days in solitary confinement in Vozara detention centre and was put under constant pressure to appear on camera and denounce the White Wednesdayscampaign. 

The Iranian authorities threatened to arrest her mother unless she cooperated and signed a confession. She refused to sign and her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi, was arrested on 10 July in an attempt to pressure Kordafshari into denouncing the White Wednesday’s movement and its founder, Masih Alinejad

Kordafshari is being targeted for her peaceful activities to campaign for a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, as well as, for her work for prisoners of conscience in Qarchak prison, a women’s prison outside Tehran. 

On 19 August, Kordafshari was sentenced to 24 years in prison, without being granted access to her lawyer before the trial. This is the second time she was arrested in under a year, as she was also arrested for her participation in the protests against the economic situation in August 2018. 

GCHR urges the authorities in Iran to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Saba Kordafshari, Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz and all human rights activists and defenders in Iran.
  2. Overturn the unjust sentences of Kordafshari, Aryani, Arabshahi and Keshavarz;
  3. Stop arbitrarily arresting human rights defenders and their family members as a result of their participation in peaceful human rights activities, including women’s rights advocacy; and
  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.

Take Action Now!

Send our appeal with your private message and tweet using the hashtag #FreeWhiteWednesdayActivists to the following contacts:

●      Leader of the Islamic Republic, H.E. Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, 

Fax: + 98 21 441 2030, Email: ; Twitter: @khamenei_ir 

●      President Hassan Rouhani, Islamic Republic of Iran, 

Fax: + 98 21 644 54811; Email: ; Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian).

●      Head of the Judiciary, H.E. Hojattolislam Ebrahim Ra'eesi, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98 21 879 6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567, Email:  /  /

●      Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98-21-66743149;

●      Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights, Mr. Mohammed Javad Larijani, Islamic Republic of Iran. Email:

●      H.E. Mr. Javad Amin-Mansour, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iran in your respective countries.