Attacked, jailed, sentenced to flogging: Young woman reveals her life in Iran

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A young woman sentenced to flogging in Iran said she will not stay silent even if it allowed her to avoid the punishment, in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya English.

Mary Mohammadi, 21, was condemned in April to 10 lashes and three months in prison for participating in a demonstration against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s downing of a Ukrainian civilian airliner in January.

Mohammadi told Al Arabiya English the Islamic Republic of Iran is denying her basic human rights, including the right to education.

“The Islamic Republic is in total conflict with human rights and has demolished any hopes for human development in this country,” Mohammadi said.

Imprisoned in Iran

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence first seized and arrested Mohammadi two years ago for practicing and sharing her Christian faith.

Mohammadi was sentenced to six months in Evin prison. US President Donald Trump mentioned Mohammadi's case during a speech earlier this year at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.

After serving her first six-month sentence, Mohammadi was released – only to be attacked shortly thereafter while riding a bus in the capital city of Tehran.

Attacked over a headscarf

Mohammadi said she was sitting on a public bus “on one of the hottest days of summer” in 2019 when her headscarf slipped down. A fellow passenger noticed.

“Suddenly, I was faced with a screaming woman in chador who was shouting at me to put my scarf back on,” Mohammadi said, adding that she ignored the woman’s repeated calls.

“Eventually she attacked me and made my face bleed, to the point that my blood was under her nails,” said Mohammadi.

When the police became involved, it was Mohammadi who was detained for several hours instead of the alleged attacker.

The woman acted violently “because she knew the regime is a hundred percent behind her,” according to Mohammadi. Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the government has mandated head coverings in public places for all women.

Education denied, advocacy begins

Universities in Iran have refused to accept Mohammadi as a student, a rejection she said is due to her religion and related activities that led to her initial arrest.

“From childhood, having higher education was one of my biggest dreams, but the Islamic regime has officially deprived me of this right,” she said.

Now Mohammadi funnels her passion for education into spreading knowledge about human rights in Iran.

“In Iran, every second of the news cycle brings about a new form of injustice,” according to Mohammadi.

Arrested over protest

In January, Mohammadi saw a headline she couldn’t ignore: Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps admitted to downing a Ukrainian civilian airliner, killing all 176 passengers on board.

She joined an evening gathering on January 12 in protest of the downing in Tehran’s Azadi square. Mohammadi said police officers arrested and severely beat her.

Mohammadi was subsequently charged with “disrupting public order by participating in an illegal rally.”

“When the interrogators called for me, the officers were telling the person on the other line what to say – purposefully speaking loudly so I would hear them talking about my religion and previous arrests,” she said.

Fighting for future generations

The judge at trial handed down the sentence of flogging and jail time that Mohammadi now faces.

“I might still have to endure the punishment in light of my current activities,” she said, adding that she is motivated to continue speaking out about human rights for “our future generations.”

“I believe that if we don’t fight for humanity our lives would be meaningless and futile,” she said.

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