Harrowing realities of Iran’s torture chambers
Four decades of the clerical regime’s rule in Iran has left thousands of victims through widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment with impunity.
Torture has been institutionalized in the regime’s punishment laws and is sanctioned by the Judiciary as well as the regime officials.
Hadi Sadeghi, Deputy Chancellor of the Judiciary was quoted by the state-run ISNA news agency on May 30, 2018, as saying, “There is no precepts of imprisonment in Islam, so we need to seek alternative punishments. Physical punishment is much more effective than imprisonment, and the punishment of flogging is much more effective in Islam. But, the human rights agencies do not have a good idea on this matter.”
The state-run Fars news agency cited Judiciary spokesperson Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, on January 17, 2018 as stressing on cross amputation for offenders where their opposite hand and foot are amputated.
“Other punishments we have in mind for those who create insecurity in the society include execution and permanently isolating them from the society so that they would not dare to return to their life and people.”
Under the regime’s laws, at least 148 crimes are punishable by flogging and 20 others are punishable by amputation. Sentences which are considered torture by human rights defenders and the international law.
According to the same rules many people, including teenagers, are flogged for attending mixed gender private parties or have their hands amputated for theft. The cruel punishment of eye gouging was issued in some cases.
Peaceful protesters who were arrested during the January uprising were subjected to severe mental and physical torture as well. At least 12 protesters were tortured to death.
Amnesty International in a January statement verifies the prevalent use of torture in Iran’s prisons, saying: “We have long documented the nightmarish conditions in detention facilities in Iran, including the use of torture. Those suspected of having any responsibility for these deaths should be suspended from their positions and prosecuted in proceedings that respect international fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty.”
In a March United Nations report, Asma Jahangir a Pakistani human rights activist and the former UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, pointed to findings by the Freedom from Torture organisation of widespread torture during interrogations of detainees, either to extract information about them or their family and friends, and to force confessions.
Commonly reported methods of torture include flogging, amputation, tying the victims to a pole in cold or hot weather, mock execution, denying ill prisoners medical access.
On the eve of June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Iran Human Rights Monitor calls for immediate abolition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments in Iran. We urge all international organizations and human rights activists to take effective measures to put an end to merciless torture practiced in Iranian prisons.
During 2017 in Iran
- At least 25 people have been sentenced to amputation
- At least 99 people received flogging sentences
- There were at least 38 reported instances of prisoner abuse and torture
- And in at least 7 instances, security forces degraded detainees by publicly parading them on the streets in a humiliating manner or beaten them up.
During the first six months of 2018
- At least 47 people received flogging sentences
- There were at least one reported instances of hand amputation
- At least five prisoners were flogged
- Security forces degraded at least 10 detainees by publicly parading them on the streets in a humiliating manner or beaten them up.
B. Common methods of torture in Iran
Although various forms of torture are carried out in Iran’s prisons, Iran Human Rights Monitor makes brief references to some of the most common methods.
Here are some of the most atrocious examples of torture in prisons during 2017 and 2018.
1. Eye gouging
- The Supreme Court ruled that a woman must be blinded in one eye. The sentence was issued in retribution for an acid attack that blinded her victim in one eye. The unidentified woman was found guilty of splashing acid two years ago in the face of another woman identified as Sima, in Dehdasht, capital of the western Iranian province of Kohgiluyeh. Head of the Kohgiluyeh’s Justice Department, Majid Karami, announced that the Supreme Court had sentenced the woman to blindness in one eye, payment of blood money (compensation), and seven years behind bars. (The state-run Tasnim news agency – February 2, 2017)
- A man’s hand was amputated with a guillotine on January 17, 2018, inCentral Prison of Mashhad, northeastern Iran, according to the state-run ISNA news agency. The 34-year-old man, referred to as A. Kh. was transferred to a medical centre immediately after the punishment was carried out. He was sentenced to hand amputation six years ago for stealing livestock and other valuables from several villages in the province. The sentence was then upheld by the Khorasan Criminal Court of Appeal. While the heinous punishment sparked domestic and international outrage, the head of the Justice Department in Razavi Khorassan Province said some judges believed that the thief should have been executed.
- Disturbing video footageof what appears to be a public flogging in southern city of Bushehr, in which a young man lying flat face down on a sort of bedframe emerged on March 2.
- Deputy Chief of SSF in Jiroft announced that three convicted thieves were publicly flogged on October 17, 2017, according to the state-run young journalists’ club.
In addition to prison terms, two of the victims received 74 lashes and the third one received 30, he said.
- A man was publicly flogged outside a hospital in Sirjan, in Kerman Province, southern Iran. The news was published by the state-run Rokna news agency on March 10, 2018. The 37-year-old victim had been sentenced to one year behind bars and 74 lashes for involving a group fight.
- The Malayer Prosecutor announced the public flogging of a man who was charged with harassing a woman. “This man who is around 30 years old has been sentenced to two years of prison, 74 lashes in public and two years of exile to a town in the east of the county,” Abbas Najafi added. “The Judiciary and the State Security Forces will, with complete awareness, identify criminals and punish them accordingly,” he added. (ISNA state-run News Agency, July 4, 2017)
- A young journalist in Najaf Abad received 40 lashes upon a complaint by the Najaf Abad State Security Forces for publishing an incorrect story about the confiscation of motorcycles in this town. (The state –run Tabnak Website – Jan. 6, 2017)
- On Thursday June 1, the flogging sentence for political prisoner Hassan Ratergari Majd who is detained in Urmia Prison was carried out in this prison for the charge of “disrupting public order”. The 51-year-old had been sentenced to three months of prison and 20 lashes for disrupting public order. According to an informed source, he will also be lashed another 50 times in the upcoming weeks for the same charge which has been issued for him in another case.
- The Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor in Qazvin announced the arrest of 90 people who were eating in public in the month of Ramadan. “Ninety dossiers have been created for people who were eating in public in Ramadan and from these people, 20 cases were seen to on the day of their arrests”, Ismail Sadeghi Niaraki said. “The culprits were sentenced to flogging and fines and the sentences were carried out”, he added. (The state-run Tasnim news agency – Jun. 11, 2017)
- The Malayer Prosecutor announced the public flogging of a man who was charged with harassing a woman. “This man who is around 30 years old has been sentenced to two years of prison, 74 lashes in public and two years of exile to a town in the east of the county”, Abbas Najafi added. “The Judiciary and the State Security Forces will, with complete awareness, identify criminals and punish them accordingly”, he added. (The state-run ISNA news agency – Jul. 4, 2017)
- At 1pm on Tuesday, September 19, Leila Bayat received 80 lashes in Tehran. Leila Bayat as an asylum seeker but was deported to Iran in March by Norway. She was arrested in 2007 with three of her friends for drinking alcohol and was sentenced to 80 lashes. Leila was separated from her 13-year-old son and was returned to Iran on March 11, 2017. She tried from that date on to stop the lashing sentence but was unsuccessful and the inhumane sentence was finally carried out.
4. Prison torture and abuse
- Ahwazi Arab activist Sajjad Savari, 32, who was arrested by intelligence agents on April 4, during the protests over state TV insult was severely tortured and his ribs were broken.
- Authorities in Zahedan Prison executed 30-year-old Abdulkarim Shahnavazi and placed a noose on another prisoner. After witnessing Shahnavazi’s death, the latter was brought down from the gallows and told his execution will be carried in 40 days.
- Two prisoners were hanged on September 2017, while being handcuffed and shackled. An audience of fellow inmates was assembled to witness the execution.
- Five Baluch citizens, who were arrested four months ago, were subjected to torture to make forced confessions. These men who were arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence in Iranshahr on July 8, have been identified as Mohammad Saleh Shahdad Zehi, Mahmoud Shahli Bar, Idris Rokni, Abdolaziz Rokni and Hashem Zardukouhi. According to an informed source, they were arrested after a Bassij agent (the regime’s paramilitary force) was killed in the town of Sarbaz. “They are still under torture at the Zahedan Ministry of Intelligence Detention Center,” the source added. According to the source, the agents pulled out three of Idris Rokni’s fingernails.
- A prisoner, identified as Behnam Amiri, who has been sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for robbery, was beaten by prison authorities after being transferred from Ardabil Prison’s youth section to Section 5. When Behnam was transferred to this section, he protested not having a place to sleep do to overcrowded conditions. His request was met with beatings from the head of the prison. He later attempted suicide as a result of the pressure. Prison authorities then decided to chain him to a flagpole, located in the middle of the courtyard. Behnam, who is still chained to the flagpole, is subject to very cold weather without enough clothes. Prison authorities have also told other prisoners that when Behnam is returned to the section, no one is allowed to give him a place to sleep. It is worth noting that this is not the first time that prison authorities use this kind of treatment in this prison. Afshin Zinali, Abbas Alipour and Mohammad Saber Malek Reiesi, a Baloch political prisoner, were all chained to a flagpole in this manner.
- Prisoner Meisam Saber, who is detained in the Central Ardabil Prison, was chained to the prison bars of the quarantine section on September 23, following his protests over the behavior of prison guards. He was returned to his cell after 24 hours. Prison officials have used the same method on other prisoners in the past, including on Abbas Alipour, Afshin Zabanali, and Baluch political prisoner Mohammad Saber Malek Reiesi, who had been chained to a pole in the prison courtyard.
- According to reports, a prisoner, identified as Keivan Mokhtari, who is detained in Ardebil Prison’s Youth Section was flogged, kicked and beaten by the head of the prison and several guards in front of other prisoners. Most of his body became bruised and he suffered numerous injuries as a result.The agents tied the 26-year-old prisoner to a flag pole for four days after torturing him and then took him to quarantine. They eventually returned him to the youth section after about two weeks. The physical condition of this prisoner has been reported as critical.
5. Denying prisoners medical access
Iranian regime deliberately delays or refuses urgent specialized medical care for political prisoners. prison authorities have regularly downplayed or dismissed the seriousness of their medical problems, treated serious ailments with simple painkillers and withheld essential medication. Political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are commonly targeted. Political prisoners Atena Daemi, Soheil Arabi, Golrokh Iraei, Zeynab Jalalian, Arzhang Davoudi, Ali Moezi, Abolghasem Fouladvand, … are amongst those have been deliberately denied medical access. The number of prisoners lost their lives due to being denied or delayed adequate medical treatment has reached to seven since the beginning of 2017.
Arash Sadeghi, one of the critically ill prisoners is suffering from multiple health problems and symptoms including asthma, ulcerative colitis in three regions of the intestine, severe stomach ulcers, arrhythmias of the heart, weakening of the muscles of the heart and kidney problems resulted from a 72-day hunger strike. He should undergo surgery or chemotherapy in cancer treatment centres, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are preventing the hospitalisation of the political prisoner.
C. Murdered under torture
Iran Human Rights Monitor has detailed 22 appalling cases of prisoners who have been tortured to death.
- the Intelligence Ministry in Ahwaz murdered Hatam Marmazi 20, under torture. Ahwaz intelligence authorities contacted the family of Hatam Marmazi on June 5, to have them come and receive his lifeless body.
- A former political prisoner from Oshnavieh, was killed under torture after being arrested and transferred to the Detention Center of Khoy’s city. Rahman Ghorbani was arrested on Saturday June 2, 2018 by the security forces of Iran and transferred to Khoy city’s Detention Center.
- Ali Savari, 50, an inmate of Shiban Prison of Ahwaz, south west of Iran, was killed under torture on March 20,
- On Sunday, April 22, 2018; only a few hours after Hossein Tabe Bordbar, 28, from Shiraz was arrested in his residence by Disciplinary Forces after being severe beaten and being severely injured and transferred to another place, his family announced his death.
- A Dervish Gonabadi community member, Mohammad Raji, who was arrested in February, in Tehran’s 7th Golestan St., was tortured to death during interrogation.
- Ghobad Azami, a young protester arrested on February 28th during recent Iran uprising was tortured to death.
- Sina Ghanbari, 23, died Saturday night, January 6, 2018, in the notorious Evin Prison’s quarantine section. General director of the organization in charge of Tehran prisons claimed Sina Ghanbari had committed suicide by hanging himself in the lavatory of the prison.
- Vahid Heydari, 22, was a street peddler who was arrested during Iran protests in Arak, in Markazi Province. He later died in custody. The city’s State Security Force claimed he had been arrested for possessing drugs and had committed suicide at 12 police station detention center of Arak.
- Mohsen Adeli, 26, was arrested on January 1, in his home in Dezful, southwestern Khuzistan Province.His body was delivered to his family after two days. Local officials and prison authorities claimed he had committed suicide. His friends and family however said the effects of torture were evident on his body.
- Sarou Ghahremani, 24, was disappeared on January 3. After 10 days on January 13, Sanandaj intelligence informed the family of the young protester that his body is at a morgue.
- Ali Pouladi, 26, was arrested in a village near Chalous, northwest of Iran and transferred to a detention centre. The next morning authorities said he had passed away and even insulted his mother as she sought her son’s whereabouts. They did not provide any information regarding the cause of Ali’s death. His family said Ali had no illness and was in good health at the time of arrest.
- Kianoush Zandi, a graduated in engineering from the University of Sanandaj was disappeared on January 4. Sanandaj intelligence agents warned his family against going public about his death. They did not even deliver Kianoush’s body to his family. A ceremony was held on January 14, 2018, for him.
- Mohammad Nasiri was arrested and murdered by Intelligence Department in Zanjan, northwest of Tehran. The intelligence agents told his family that their son had committed suicide.
- Arya Rouzbehi Babadi, 25, was arrested during Iran protest. His body was found in Karoun River in Khuzistan Province on January 9 while his hands and legs were tied.
- Seyed Shahab Abtahi, 20, was arrested on January 2. His body was dumped outside his father’s house in the western city of Arak on January 5. His body was covered in injuries that appeared to have been caused by baton blows.
- Hassan Tarkashvand, 24, has been identified as another victim of the state-repressed protests in Iran. He was shot by the state forces on December 29, 2017 in Karaj and later died in a hospital due to severe injuries. According to his relatives, security agents covertly buried his body after he died from being “shot in the stomach”.
- Farzad Chegini, was arrested on January 1, 2018 in Dezful, Khuzestan Province. He was murdered under torture on January 20.
- Abdulrahman Narouei, was tortured to death in February 2018, by the warden of Birjand Prison using electric shock.
- Khaled Gheisari, from Kermanshah was arrested on January 28, 2018 and tortured to death.
- Ali Momeni from Lorestan, was arrested on December 30 during the Dec/Jan protests and was tortured to death.
- The lifeless body of a prisoner by the name of Hossein Gholizadeh was found in the prison’s bathroom. Prison authorities said Hossein Gholizadeh had committed suicide, but his cellmates denied the claim.
- In January, Seyed-Emami, the 63-year-old founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, was taken to the notorious Evin prison. Two weeks later, the authorities told his family that Seyed-Emami had killed himself. it came after similar deaths in custody of a number of other prisoners in recent months that have remained unexplained.