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Turkey will not deport Iranian anti-hijab activist facing arrest: Officials

In 2018, Maryam Shariatmadari became well known for removing her hijab in public places in Iran in protest of the mandatory headscarf
Maryam Shariatmadari has been arrested twice in Iran due to her political beliefs (Screen grab)
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Ankara

The Turkish government will not deport prominent Iranian activist, Maryam Shariatmadari, after she was released from detention in the city of Denizli over an expired residency permit, two Turkish officials told Middle East Eye on Tuesday.  

Shariatmadari posted a video she took from the police car after she was detained on Monday asking for help against deportation on social media, which has been shared by thousands of people, including Reza Pahlavi, the former crown prince of Iran. 

“You can help me by sharing this video,” she said in the video.

In February 2018, Shariatmadari was arrested in Iran for removing her hijab in public places and has been described as one of the leading anti-hijab activists in the Islamic Republic, where women are required to cover their hair with a scarf under an Islamic law imposed after the 1979 revolution. Women who violate the law are likely to be fined or arrested. 

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A few months later, after being released from her second arrest, this time for joining a gathering in tribute to Iran's last monarch, Shah Reza Pahlavi, the activist fled to Turkey. 

The National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), an activist group based in Washington, said in a tweet that, if deported, Shariatmadari could face torture and the death penalty in Iran.

BBC Persia reported the she was released from custody on Tuesday afternoon.

One Turkish official told MEE that Shariatmadari was detained because her residency permit had expired.

“She was taken to the station because she didn’t make an application to extend it since 18 January. She will be released,” he said on condition of anonymity, in line with government protocol.

A second Turkish official said Shariatmadari could make an application to extend her residency permit or file for international protection.

Earlier this year, Turkey accused Iranian intelligence of killing Iranian dissident Masoud Molavi Vardanjani last November in Istanbul.

Two senior Turkish officials told Reuters that two intelligence officers at Iran’s consulate in Turkey instigated the killing and the government would raise the issue with Tehran.

Iran and Turkey often find each other on opposing sides of regional conflicts.

Turkey is backing the Syrian opposition against Iran-backed President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Ankara killed dozens of Iranian trained militia members in the northwestern province of Idlib earlier this year.