Radio Free Europe

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Iranian Women Protest Arrest, Alleged Forced Confession Over Hijab Offense.

Sepideh Rashno was shown for a few seconds on state television on July 30 in what looked like a studio setting. Her halting voice raised suspicion she was reading from a text written for her.

Sepideh Rashno was shown for a few seconds on state television on July 30 in what looked like a studio setting. Her halting voice raised suspicion she was reading from a text written for her.

Dozens of female civil activists have called on Iranian authorities to release a woman who was arrested for protesting mandatory head-scarf rules after she appeared on television and gave a "confession" they allege was made under duress.

According to the Free Union Workers of Iran's Telegram channel, the women took to the streets of Tehran carrying placards asking, "Where is Sepideh Rashno?" and demanded to know her status after the 28-year-old writer and artist was arrested on June 15 after a video of her arguing with another woman who was enforcing rules on wearing a head scarf on a bus in Tehran went viral.

The other woman threatened to send the video -- which showed Rashno riding the bus without a hijab -- to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Rashno was subsequently detained and has been held since without access to a lawyer, nor have the charges against her been made public. Amid growing concern over her whereabouts, a Twitter campaign started with the hashtag "Where is Sepideh?" Iranian state television subsequently showed Rashno in a video report on July 30 where her eyes appeared darkened. Witnesses said she seemed listless and moved slowly. The Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency, the media outlet for Human Rights Activists in Iran, said on August 5 that Rashno had been beaten before she confessed on air to breaking the country's hijab law. According to eyewitnesses, Rashno had low blood pressure, had difficulty moving, and was transferred to a hospital. She returned to prison immediately after being examined. During a one-sided narrative over the confrontation, Rashno was shown for a few seconds on state television in what looked like a studio setting. Her halting voice raised suspicion she was reading from a text written for her. The confession aired amid recent reports that authorities in Iran are increasingly cracking down on women deemed to be in violation of wearing the hijab, which is mandatory in public in Iran. The hijab first became compulsory in public for Iranian women and girls over the age of 9 after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Many Iranian women have flouted the rule over the years in protest and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda

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