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Iran Urged To Free Woman Who Took Stand Against Compulsory Veiling

The image of a young Iranian woman protesting against the compulsory hijab quickly went viral on social media.
The image of a young Iranian woman protesting against the compulsory hijab quickly went viral on social media.

Amnesty International is calling on Iranian authorities to "immediately and unconditionally" release a woman who was arrested in Tehran last month for apparently protesting peacefully against the country's mandatory Islamic dress code.

In a January 24 statement, the London-based rights group also reiterated its calls on the authorities to "end the persecution of women who speak out against compulsory veiling, and abolish this discriminatory and humiliating practice."

A video showing the woman standing on a concrete structure in Tehran’s Enghelab (Revolution) Street without wearing a headscarf has gone viral on social media since December 27.

She was silently waving a white flag in an apparent protest against the compulsory hijab, which in Iran refers to Islamic dress that covers the hair and body.

Amnesty International quoted three eyewitnesses as saying that police arrested the woman on the spot and transferred her to a nearby detention center.

It said her name has been "withheld by her family due to perceived security concerns."

In an interview with RFE/RL, Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh described her as the 31-year-old mother of a 19-month-old infant.

Sotoudeh wrote on her Facebook page earlier this week, that she was initially released after being detained but was subsequently rearrested.

Symbol Of Defiance

The woman has become a symbol of defiance against the strict dress code enforced in Iran.

Over the past days, hundreds of social media users have asked about her whereabouts through the hashtag #Where_is_she or #Whereisthegirlfromenghelabstreet.

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

The dress code dictates that women'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.

Amnesty International said the practice has "violated women's rights in Iran for decades, including their rights to non-discrimination, freedom of belief and religion, freedom of expression, and protection from arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda