Iran has arrested a young woman who bravely defied morality police by eating in a restaurant without wearing a hijab, in an image which has gone viral on social media and inspired thousands of anti-regime protesters.
The photograph showed Donya Rad eating breakfast in a restaurant in Tehran, alongside a female friend who was also not wearing a headscarf.
The pair were silently protesting the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman killed in the custody of the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death has sparked mass protests across Iran which have led to more than 50 people being killed by riot police.
It came as another image emerged from Iran of a young woman, Minoo Majidi, standing next to the grave of her mother, who was also killed in the protests. Staring into the camera, Minoo is shown clutching her shorn long hair, which Iranian women are cutting off as a symbol of resistance against the regime.
In a post on Twitter, Donya Rad’s sister, Dina, revealed that Iranian police had confronted them about the photograph before arresting Donya.
“Yesterday, after this photo was published, the security agencies contacted my sister Donya Rad and asked her to give some explanations,” the sister said.
“Today, after going where she was told, she was arrested. After a few hours of silence, Donya told me in a short call that she was transferred to ward 209 of Evin prison,” she said, referring to an infamous jail in Tehran where British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was also imprisoned before her release.
“Our family is very concerned about her wellbeing,” she added.
The decision to arrest a woman for simply appearing in a photograph without a hijab reflects how the Iranian leadership has been spooked by the massive scale of the protests. Initially focused on the death of Ms Amini in police custody, they have quickly transformed into a campaign for the downfall of the Iranian regime.
Several other Iranian social media users have posted similar photographs of them venturing outside without headscarves, risking the wrath of riot police and Iranian security officers who seem to be sifting through high-profile internet posts to make arrests.
Campaigners and Iran affairs analysts have described the decision to arrest Donya as “brutal and sick”. Comparisons were also drawn with Rosa Parks, the black civil rights activist in the United States who, in 1955, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger.
Over the past week, extraordinary footage has shown Iranians engaged in running street battles with riot police, in some cases overpowering them. Many women are burning their hijabs on bonfires in the streets in protest as well as cutting off their hair.
In a letter on Friday, Iranian football fans asked Fifa to ban their national team from this year’s World Cup in Qatar over the crackdown.
“Why would Fifa give the Iranian state and its representatives a global stage, while it not only refuses to respect basic human rights and dignities but is currently torturing and killing its own people?” they wrote on behalf of the Open Stadiums campaign.
The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 29 journalists have been arrested, including Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi, female reporters who helped expose Amini’s case.
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