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Facing a Decade in Prison for Hijab Protest, Iranian Woman Refuses to Repent

One of the women arrested in Iran for removing her hijab in protest refuses to repent to authorities even if that means she spends the next decade behind bars, her attorney said.

Narges Hosseini was arrested Jan. 29 after she posted a photo on social media in which she was waving her hijab on the street. She was first taken to Shahr-e Rey Prison, south of Tehran, with bail set too high for her family to afford.

She was one of the women in Tehran and Isfahan inspired to protest by Vida Movahed, whose image of waving a white hijab on a stick while standing on a platform on Revolution Street in Tehran at the end of December went viral. Movahed, 31, disappeared into an Iranian jail for a month.

Hosseini, 32, snubbed the regime officials who have levied charges against her that could carry up to 10 years in prison: “openly committing a harām [sinful] act," “violating public prudency” and “encouraging immorality or prostitution."

“Ms. Hosseini did not even appear in court to express remorse for her action," Hosseini’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran on Monday. "She said she objects to the forced hijab and considers it her legal right to express her protest."

“Ms. Hosseini is being held in difficult circumstances in Gharchak Prison [south of Tehran] but she is not prepared to say she is sorry,” Sotoudeh continued. “She believes she’s innocent.”

Imprisoned for three years starting in 2010 on charges of endangering national security, Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, refused to wear a hijab in prison and "tolerated a lot of hardship" as a result.

Judicial officials are trying to tarnish Hosseini's reputation, calling her a drug addict -- accusations they also levied against Sina Ghanbari, 23, and Vahid Heydari, 22, two men arrested for protesting in December who died in custody. Sotoudeh said Hosseini "has never consumed drugs in her life."

Iran's semi-official Tasnim news declared last week that "following calls by satellite channels under a campaign called White Wednesdays, 29 of those who had been deceived to remove their hijab have been arrested by the police."

Protesters silently holding a hijab aloft have included men and religious women who are clothed government-approved coverings but are protesting in support of women who choose not to wear a headscarf.