A young Iranian woman recently faced a punishment of 74 lashes after defying the strict dress code in the country. Her decision to wear short sleeves, a knee-length skirt, and forgo a headscarf stirred controversy, as these actions are deemed serious violations under sharia law. Taking her case to social media, the woman garnered rapid international awareness.
According to a report from the Times of Israel, Roya Heshmati was found guilty of “violating public morals” by revealing too much of her body in public. In Iran, women are obligated to cover themselves, including wearing headscarves, in the presence of men. The rationale behind this regulation seems to suggest that men may struggle to control themselves when exposed to even a small amount of visible skin.
Heshmati, thought to have Kurdish roots, is reported to be either 23 or 33 years old, depending on the news outlet. She has been an outspoken critic of the compulsory hijab requirement for Iranian women and has openly defied this tradition by refusing to wear the headscarf on several occasions. In April, she was reportedly taken into police custody after sharing a picture on social media in which she appeared without a head covering.
Iran Intl reports that authorities have accused Heshmati of not just violating religious decency laws but also of allegedly receiving payment for her public actions and encouraging other women to join her in defying the established norms. The charges highlight her social media content and claim her involvement in “propaganda against the regime.”
Initially sentenced to 13 years in prison, along with corporal punishment and a fine, the court of appeals deemed the prison term excessive and subsequently removed that portion of the sentence.
In Iran, women have been contending with the strict enforcement of hijab regulations in recent years. The tragic death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who lost her life while in police custody in September 2022, underscored the challenges of this struggle.
Heshmati’s narrative, characterized by her courageous resistance against mandated head coverings despite enduring 74 lashes, represents just a single facet of a broader initiative to combat the oppressive treatment of women under sharia law.