Iran on Wednesday detained at least 12 female activists in what rights groups say is an escalating campaign to deter protests to mark the anniversary of the “woman, life, freedom” uprising that swept the country last year.
The protest movement against clerical rule was sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in the custody of the country’s “morality police” after an alleged violation of Iran’s conservative dress code for women.
The 12 women arrested in the Caspian Sea province of Gilan have histories of “anti-security activities,” according to state media reports on a statement by the Intelligence Ministry. The ministry accused two of the women, without presenting evidence, of receiving money and training from Western security services, including Israel’s.
The women’s whereabouts and the exact charges they face remain unknown, and their families have had no contact with them, according to Shiva Nazarahari, an activist based in Europe who works with the Volunteer Committee to Follow-Up on the Situation of Detainees, an informal network that operates inside and outside Iran.
Nazarahari and other rights activists called the accusations baseless — but said they were part of an effort at suppression and intimidation seemingly meant to deter protesters from marking the first anniversary of Amini’s death next month.
“The regime is definitely frightened of the anniversary coming up,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “It believes there is a large appetite in the country for protests and resistance again. Otherwise, it would not be rounding people up.”…