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Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour, Photo Wikidata; Sepideh Gholian, Photo Mehdi_Gholiyan

Two women confronted each other in court in Tehran, Iran, on August 22, 2023: one the epitome of the Islamic Republic’s hijab-enforcers and torturers who aim to drag women into a medieval past, the other a shining example of the fearless women of the future. One of them walked out with spit on her face.

When Sepideh Gholian (Qolian), then a journalist/activist just 23 years old, was arrested in 2018 along with striking workers from the Haft Teppeh sugarcane conglomerate, she and fellow detainees were subjected to torture in solitary confinement and forced to confess to “collusion and propaganda to act against national security” and other charges. Their forced confessions were broadcast on state-sponsored TV. When Sepideh renounced this confession in court, she pointed to the role of supposed “TV reporter” Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour[i], who participated in the interrogations and handed Sepideh the statement that she was forced to read on camera.

Zabihpour filed a suit against Sepideh for defamation (for exposing her true role as pro-regime pig) and added charges of “espionage” and “incitement”. On August 22, 2023, this case went to court in a session which was private because Sepideh refused to wear a hijab (headscarf) in court.

Sepideh’s defense was typical of her bravery and rebelliousness. She “said her presence in court was not strictly for self-defense but to stand up for what the people have achieved through their movement.” She “mentioned honorable journalists such as Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi (arrested for reporting on Mahsa Jina Amini’s death), whom Ms. Zabihpour also called spies of Israel and the United States.” Finally, Sepideh “spit in her face at the end of the trial and, in her own words, spit on her ‘on behalf of the people’”.[ii]

The judge convicted Sepideh and sentenced her to another 15 months in prison, on top of the two years she is currently serving since March for “insulting the Supreme Leader”. See IEC’s #FreeSepideh Resource page.

[i] Zabihpour leads the Political and Security reporting at IRIB and has produced scurrilous “documentary exposés” against activists, including at Haft Teppeh. Faces of Crime, updated January 4, 2021.

[ii] Description of Sepideh’s defense and actions during the trial is from her brother’s Instagram, translated from Farsi by IEC volunteers.