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Iranian Anti-Hijab Activist Receives International Award


Shaparak Shajarizadeh with her child. FILE PHOTO

An Iranian women’s rights and anti-compulsory hijab activist has won an international prestigious women's award in Geneva, Switzerland.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh, 44, received her award on February 18.

She was a Girl of Revolution Street meaning one of the Iranian women who dared to take their scarves off in busy public places to protest compulsory hijab and Islamic Republic's dress code.

On December 27, 2017, a day before the outbreak of widespread protests to poverty, unemployment, and dictatorship across Iran, an unidentified woman climbed on top of an electricity box on one of Tehran's busiest streets, Enqelab (Revolution) Avenue. She removed her headscarf, put it on a stick, and began waving it in the air.

A video clip of the woman quickly went viral, and her act became a symbol of Iranian women's resistance to compulsory hijab. Hundreds of women across the clergy-dominated Iran followed suit and removed their scarves in public places. Shajarizadeh was one of the leading girls of the Revolution street. She was sentenced to two years in prison in addition to an eighteen-year suspended prison term in 2018.

Immediately after her release on bail, Shajarizadeh fled Iran to campaign for women's rights.

Reacting to her conviction, Shajarizadeh said on her Instagram page, "This means that I will have to be silent for twenty years and not get involved in civil rights activities."

Prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who represented Shajarizadeh and other women arrested for opposing compulsory hijab, was arrested in June 2018, a month after Shaparak fled Iran.

Sotoudeh is still behind bars in Tehran's notorious prison, Evin.

Shajarizadeh received the 2020 Geneva Summit International Women's Rights Award at a ceremony in the Swiss city on Tuesday. There, she addressed UN diplomats, human rights activists, and journalists from around the world attending the 12th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

The executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together Hillel Neuer, said, Shajarizadeh was awarded for her "fearless defense of women's rights in Iran, for which she was jailed, beaten and brutalized."

The award is sponsored by a coalition of 25 human rights NGOs from around the world.

Tuesday event took place just days before the UN Human Rights Council's main annual session, in order to place urgent situations on the world agenda. "It's a focal point for dissidents worldwide," said Neuer.

In 2018, Iranian authorities announced they had detained 29 women who removed their headscarves as part of a campaign against the country's compulsory Islamic dress code.

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