On Sunday, Iranian police—apparently caving in to social-media pressure—released a woman who had stood near a public thoroughfare without her hijab to protest her country’s modesty laws. Charges against her have not been dropped, however. Meanwhile, women in the Islamic Republic continue to post pictures of themselves flouting hijab laws. Nina Shea explains why and how Washington can show its support:
Hijab infractions can bring sentences in jails notorious for medieval brutality and deprivations. (Amnesty International reports that five protesters have already died in detention.) Punishments can also include beatings, lashings, “reeducation,” or even the death penalty: a hijab protester was threatened with execution in 2016.
The U.S. already applies a number of sanctions against Iran for its religious oppression. We should give greater support to communications and information-sharing that are key to protecting dissidents like this heroic woman and the freedom cause itself. . . . When the regime blocks one messaging app—as it did with Telegram this month, effectively shutting down the economic protests—we should ensure there is access to others.
[Furthermore], Voice of America should cease uncritical reporting of Iranian propaganda—for example, that the mullahs showed “restraint” toward protesters (nearly 4,000 were arrested and dozens killed). Instead it should ramp up human-rights reporting. . . . The State Department should [also find] ways to expand the reach of U.S. broadcasting inside Iran. . . .
The new U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, Sam Brownback, should recognize the hijab protests as the religious-freedom issue that it is and publicize the names and cases of all of Iran’s religious prisoners.