As you have repeatedly heard or read in the press over the years, at various points in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, this regime has always been accused of widespread rape of political prisoners, which we all know has a solid basis.
The start of this deadly nauseating story goes back to the time of the execution of political prisoners in the 1980s, the same period that people such as Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was the deputy Supreme Leader at the time, protested against the rape of female prisoners in a letter, which is proof of the fact. Later in the aftermath of the 2009 protests, in what is known as the “Bloggers’ Case,” the defendants announced the “threat of rape” at the time of their arrest, which caused reactions from various authorities in different levels of the regime, and Mehdi Karoubi called for investigation into the matter but virtually nothing was done.
During Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency and the implementation of a security plan by the police, people detained in Kahrizak prison spoke of raping, stripping and urinating on prisoners, and reports of torture and sexual harassment of detainees who were arrested at the tenth presidential elections protests were also reported.
Although the Islamic Republic denounces sexual harassment in its prisons as absurd, there are many cases in which these allegations have been substantiated and there is ample evidence to support these allegations. One of these examples involved the case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian / Canadian photographer and journalist who was arrested at street protests and tortured in prison leading to her death. Shahram Azam, a former physician and employee of the Iranian Ministry of Defense, who emigrated later, after examining Zahra Kazemi’s body, confirmed that she had signs of severe beatings, torture and rape, skull and nose fractures, crushing of the toes, fractures of middle, small fingers of right hand and middle finger of left hand, pulled nails of thumb and index finger, lung and rib injuries, severe abdominal bruising, genitalia and legs indicate repeated sexual assaults and lashes. All these indicate she was killed under torture and sexual assaults.
Other examples of such practices of the Islamic Republic include the conduct of interrogators during the questioning of Saeed Imami’s wife, one of the agents of the Islamic Republic, who was terminated during the “Chain Murder Case”, the videos of interrogators are abundantly found on the internet. As reported by Reporters Without Borders, sexual harassment of detainees and political prisoners has been an integral part of the security and intelligence interrogations since the inception of this regime but became public by Mehdi Karroubi’s letter.
A nongovernmental organization working against gender apartheid called Aaj (Ivory) also referred to sections 209 and 2A of Evin prison as dangerous sections for women, in which women and girls accused of political and security offences have been subjected to sexual abuse threats; the organization emphasizes in its report that the reenactment of the rape scene for women defendants in these security sections, which is outside Evin Prison supervision and law, such as the reconstruction of executions for men, is a usual practice. It is their permanent procedure in these sections of the prison to touch women and girls’ genitalia and sickeningly describe every detail of their private parts. The report also mentions cases of sexual abuse or trafficking and the rape or abuse of women prisoners by former heads of Rajai Shahr and Section 350 of Evin prison. There are, of course, references to women prisoners with other offenses, who have been in danger of being raped:
“Prisoners in need of leave, money and drugs, and even a place to live, some of whom have been convicted of prostitution and drug dealing, have no choice but to accept these conditions and relationships.”
The range of these sexual threats goes so far as to rape political prisoners’ spouses and children to make forced confessions.
As reported in various reports and news, female political prisoners are even sexually abused during frisking. Deutsche Welle reports on 2012 that 8 female political prisoners were asked by the guards to expose their genitalia to them.
Shahed Alavi, in one of his latest reports on 2019 protests, also cites various cases of sexual harassment of detainees. Amnesty International mentions one of several recent sexual harassment cases against an Iranian protester in its December report:
“One of the female protesters arrested on the street by security guards has been forced into oral sex after being transferred to a police’ detention center and the officer has repeatedly tried to rape her.”
Another woman from south of the country, detained during widespread November 2019 protests says she was threatened to be raped by ISIS members, which has subjected her to fear and psychological trauma while waiting endlessly.
Among other cases that have been talked about lately is the case of Niloufar Bayani and Sepideh Kashani, environmental activists sexual harassment. Niloufar wrote a letter to the head of Section 2A, IRGC detention center in Evin on January 16 2019, describing parts of the officers’ behaviors as follows:
” A large team of interrogators repeatedly saying the filthiest sexual insults in lengthy interrogations, forcing me to complete their fantacies.”
In September 2019, in her last defense, she mentions being in constant fear of her interrogator acting on his threats:
“You can see on videos, my main interrogator with the alias Hamid Rezaei, I shake by even calling out his name, how he behaved with me. Because of his shameless behavior towards me, whenever the interrogation took long until after sundown, I would shake from fear of serious assault. I was afraid if I didn’t write what he asked me, he would rape me. His unexpected appearance in the dark hallway, or the yard made me feel unsafe everywhere. I’ve had uninterrupted severe anxiety from all this.”
These revelations by Niloufar Bayani, which were repeatedly denied by the authorities of the Islamic Republic, were not only ignored but were also cause to further harm this environmental activist!
It is clear that sexual harassment in Iran prisons is as old as the life of the Islamic Republic, and although not exclusively for women, women inmates experience different kinds of sexual assaults and at a deeper psychological level. The effects of these psychological wounds never heal and will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
This is a translation of this post by Mira Irani.