Iran: Dozens of women human rights defenders and journalists arrested following protests against Mahsa Amini’s death


Since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa (Zhina) Amini in police custody on 16 September 2022, echoing demonstrations and strikes in Iran have spread around the 31 Iranian provinces, including big cities, such as Tehran, Isfahan, Rasht and Shiraz. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for immediate action to end the violent crackdown against demonstrations and supporters of women’s rights.

Amini was arrested by the morality police in the capital Tehran for not “respecting” the dress code for women. She died in Kasra Hospital after three days in a coma due to a heavy beating while being taken into custody with other women. While the perpetrators have not been held accountable for this crime, the authorities have been using violence against protesters, steadily shutting down internet access, blocking social media statements and contributing to the massive human rights violations taking place around the country, in particular, the arrest and harassment of women human rights defenders and journalists. 

The injustice and hate perpetrated against women in Iran are in the spotlight right now, due to the ongoing peaceful protests against compulsory hijab, especially since they have been met with such severe violence that has led to the deaths of over 130 people, according to news reports. These latest protests for #Woman_Life_Freedom have given voice to women and all those demanding women’s rights and also protesting against corruption, state brutality and calling for political and economic reforms. 

A remarkable number of women human rights defenders, journalists, reporters, activists, lawyers, civilians and children have been targeted, intimidated, arrested, beaten and killed during three weeks of protests. Among them are also students, some of whom were violently attacked by security forces at Tehran University and Sharif University of Technology, and dragged off with their heads covered in black scarves, according to media reports. The situation is quite alarming, especially considering the great number of imprisoned women human rights defenders, before the protests, following unfair trials resulting in lengthy sentences. 

At least two dozen women and men journalists have been subjected to arbitrary detention, including Niloufar Hamedi, a well-known journalist who first revealed the circumstances surrounding Mahsa Amini’s death. Hamedi was arrested at her house in Tehran on 22 September 2022, and placed in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. In her reports, she focuses on women’s aspects, such as the ban on entering stadiums, women’s autonomy, the mandatory veiling law and the use of aggression by morality police against civilians and women. 

Another journalist and woman human rights defender, Elaheh Mohammadi, a reporter for Ham-Mihan Daily, was arrested on 29 September 2022, after she covered Amini’s funeral in Saqqez. Prior to her arrest, security forces raided her home on 22 September and confiscated her laptop and phone. Journalist Fatemah Rajabi was also arrested in Tehran on 22 September as well as Mozhgan Kavusi, a Kurdish researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker, who was arrested in her home city of Nowshahr in Mazandaran province. Photojournalist Yalda Moayeri was arrested on 20 September, on Hijab Street in Tehran, during protests following Amini’s death. Moayeri has since been able to make a call from the notorious Qarchak Prison, where she said she is being held in terrible conditions with over 100 people. Moayeri has underlined prejudice against Iranian women through her work and art.

In addition, many women human rights defenders have been arrested, such as recently-released Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraeei, according to FEMENA. Ebrahimi Iraee is a writer who has faced judicial harassment and imprisonment since 2014 on charges of insulting the Supreme Leader and spreading propaganda against the state. On 9 May 2022, Ebrahimi Iraee was released from prison after her sentences were consolidated. On 26 September 2022, she was arrested again after security forces stormed her home in Tehran. 

Among other Kurdish women, five women human rights defenders from Jivano Women's Organisation, Faranak Rafiee, Bahar Zangiband, Azadeh Jama'ati, Mahroo Hedayati and Baran Sae’diwere arrested on 19 September 2022, after being summoned by security forces in Sanandaj in Kurdistan province.

Women’s rights activist Narges Hosseini, one of the “Girls of Revolution Street” who was imprisoned in 2018, was also arrested on 22 September 2022, in Kashan. In 2018, she was sentenced to three months in prison on charges of “encouraging prostitution” and “non-observance of hijab”. 

GCHR is concerned about the ongoing violent suppression of protests in Iran and the unprecedented numbers of arrests and deaths, noting that the recorded cases represent a small number of violations, given that many victims and their families are afraid to report their cases. Therefore, GCHR addresses some recommendations to the international community to promote accountability for the violations and counter impunity. In addition, GCHR calls on the Iranian authorities to end the severe and unlawful violence against peaceful protesters, to whom GCHR extends its solidarity. 

GCHR is among 162 NGOs which signed a statement initiated by FEMENA in solidarity with “Iranian women who are protesting the unjust killing of Mahsa Amini and demanding their rights to bodily autonomy and fundamental freedoms all over Iran.” 


The Gulf Centre for Human Rights calls on:

  1. International human rights organisations and the United Nations mechanisms to keep track of all the individuals who have been detained in Iran during the protests and call for the release of journalists and women human rights defenders, such as Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, Niloufar Hamedi, Mozhgan Kavusi and Yalda Moayeri;
  2. The United Nations Human Rights Council to carry out a proper investigation of the extensive murders of demonstrators by establishing an International Commission of Inquiry and a Fact-finding mission to respond to the situation of severe violations of international human rights law; and
  3. Attorneys around the world, along with domestic and international legal affiliations, civil society and human rights organisations, to create a worldwide committee for the defence of prisoners and demonstrators to avoid more infringement of their human rights issues. 

Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of FEMENA