Source: RFE/RL’s RadioFarda
The lashes to Roya Heshmati’s body have triggered renewed condemnation of Iran’s harsh punishments against women for alleged crimes against “morality.”
But the official reason for carrying out the flogging is also being questioned, while the 33-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman now faces the double jeopardy of having to defend herself against smears to her name.
Heshmati announced on Facebook last week that she had been lashed 74 times because of a social media post she made in April in which she could be seen without a hijab.
The incriminating post featured a photo from afar of her dressed in a red shirt and black skirt — an outfit that in much of the world would be considered conservative — walking down a popular Tehran street with her back to the camera.
The post led to Heshmati’s arrest and 11-day detention for appearing in public without her head scarf. Later she was charged with propaganda against the establishment, violating public decency and order, and disseminating immoral social media content.
While she was initially sentenced to 13 years in prison on those charges, the sentence was ultimately reduced upon appeal to a one-year suspended sentence, a three-year ban on leaving the country, a fine of about $25, and 74 lashes on her back.
This week, she was finally summoned to appear at a district prosecutor’s office in the Iranian capital, where her beating was administered on January 3. Afterward, the Tehran resident and native of Sanandaj — the second-largest city in the western Kurdistan Province — described the experience in detail on Facebook.
Heshmati wrote in the account of her punishment that she steadfastly refused to wear a hijab, despite threats by the man carrying out the flogging to initiate a new case against her for violating the hijab law.
Eventually, she said, her hands were cuffed behind her back, preventing her from removing the head scarf placed over her head by female court officers.
Heshmati was then led to a room she described as a “medieval torture chamber” where she was lashed in front of a judge by one of the many whips on display.
While the blows came as a shock, Heshmati wrote, she bore the pain while reciting the words of a song popularized during the Women, Life, Freedom protests that erupted in late 2022 across Iran after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a native of Kurdistan Province who had been detained during a visit to Tehran for an alleged hijab violation.