“One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html
Civil Disobedience has been practiced by men and women for millennia. Societal norms and laws are essential to maintain normalcy in order for law and order to exist.
However, when laws are unjust, a person is faced with the option to either obey or ignore. According to the state, obedience has its rewards while ignoring or breaking the unjust law has consequences, sometimes a slap on the wrist, fine, jail time, imprisonment or death.
In 2019 as we near the year 2020, life on this planet traversing the cosmos has its share of injustice on a global scale. One such case is the imprisonment of Iranian Saba Kord Afshari, civil rights activist.
According to the Iran Human Rights Monitor, this twenty-old woman was charged with “spreading corruption and prostitution by taking off her hijab… walking without a veil…spreading propaganda against the state… and assembly and collusion”. The Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced her to 24 years at Evin, a prison located at the foot of the Alborz Mountains in Tehran Providence.
Evin is no country club prison like in the USA. Perhaps, in many ways it resembles the prisons of yesteryear in the USA and other “civilized” countries.
Many compare Evin to the infamous Devil’s Island in French Guiana. In the links below Evin is described in graphic terms.
Saba Kord Afshari began protesting as a teenager and was arrested previously. Her past activities entered into her 24-year sentence by the court.
Many view her as the new face of Iran, a woman who defied a male religious hierarchy by choosing to be an individual. To many she is a heroine.
However, there are many who view the hijab and its religious symbolism as essential to their religious heritage. Many women who practice hijab do not view it as an oppressive artifact of the past.
On the surface, to Western eyes, 24 years in prison is barbaric for being an individual. Truly, it is very harsh, and one must grieve at this injustice to a young woman.
A person may seek individualism over their culture and heritage by engaging in civil disobedience like Saba Kord Afshari and her friends. There are consequences to civil disobedience, especially in a country like Iran, deeply entrenched in its religious heritage.
To the Western mind, with its liberation viewpoints of 2019 such as religious freedom, such intolerant practices toward women should be condemned. It is very easy for the current Western mindset to be used as the model for global mores regardless of local heritage and religion.
If one examines the history of Western countries and their current egalitarian stance, it was arrived at after centuries of debate and compromise as well as civil disobedience. Based on history, individuals like Saba Kord Afshari may have an impact on her society in the years to come.
She will be an inspiration for other women to consider their place in the 21st Century. On the other hand, other women of her society will view her as an iconoclast influenced by ideas and views foreign to their way of life.
Regardless of how one views Saba Kord Afshari, her life will be one of hardship. Prison does have an emotional and physical detriment.
G. D. Williams © 2019
Saba Kord Afshari
“Hijab” means “curtain” or “partition,” not “headscarf.” The Koran uses forms of the words “khimar” and “jilbab,” but not “hijab,” when describing women’s dress. “Khimar” means “cover” and corresponds to what we would call a scarf; “jilbab” is an outer garment.
“Hijab” has become a common way of describing a Muslim woman’s head covering, but sharia rules on modesty are about more than covering one’s hair — they deal with a range of attire and conduct, applicable to both men and women, intended to protect interactions between men and women from sexual innuendo. It’s not necessarily offensive to use “hijab” as a synonym for “headscarf.” (It’s a lot closer than other terms, as long as you say “wearing hijab” rather than “wearing a/the hijab.”) But either way, fixating on one piece of cloth misses the point of sharia’s holistic rules for modest behavior. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths/five-myths-about-hijab/2019/03/15/d1f1ea52-45f6-11e9-8aab-95b8d80a1e4f_story.html
Hijab is an Arabic word meaning barrier or partition.
In Islam, however, it has a broader meaning. It is the principle of modesty and includes behaviour as well as dress for both males and females.
The most visible form of hijab is the head covering that many Muslim women wear. Hijab however goes beyond the head scarf. In one popular school of Islamic thought, hijab refers to the complete covering of everything except the hands, face and feet in long, loose and non see-through garments. A woman who wears hijab is called Muhaajaba.
‘I wonder if we are in a prison or a torture chamber’: summer is hell in Iran’s Evin jail August 3 2015
A sign reading, ‘O God, preserve Khomeini until the revolution of Mahdi,’ hangs in Evin Prison in northwestern Tehran. This photo was taken during an inspection tour for domestic and foreign journalists in the summer of 1984. The prison holds a large number of political prisoners. Photograph: AP
Standing at the foot of the Alborz Mountains, it is home to an estimated 15,000 inmates, including killers, thieves and rapists. But the prison has also held ayatollahs, journalists, intellectuals and dissidents over the years, and few if any who have survived time in Evin could be surprised by claims of torture and abuse made by Abedini’s supporters.
“To many Iranians, the concept of Evin prison is synonymous with political repression and torture,” Gissou Nia, executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, told FoxNews.com. “Today, anyone who is perceived to be a threat to the Iranian regime, including human rights defenders … is kept within the confines of Evin and other notorious prisons in Iran.”
Evin House of Detention was built during the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi — known to Americans as the Shah of Iran. Before he was ousted from power in the 1979 revolution, the prison housed some of the very radicals and sympathizers who would one day rule the Islamic Republic. During the 10-year reign of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, thousands of political prisoners were systematically murdered at Evin, according to Nia. After Khomeini’s death in 1989, Evin continued to serve as a holding pen for some of Iran’s most prominent intellectuals, activists and journalists, earning it the nickname “Evin University.”