Tortured labor activist Esmail Bakhshi calls on the intelligence minister for a debate
Labor activist Esmail Bakhshi, revealed in a letter posted on Instagram on January 4, 2019, that he was severely beaten during his 25 days in a detention facility operated by President Rouhani’s Intelligence Ministry.
He was left with serious and lasting physical injuries, according to his open letter.
Esmail Bakhshi, a representative of protesting Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers in Shush, southwest Iran, said: “During the first few days, without reason or any conversation, they tortured me and beat me with their fists and kicked me until I was going to die.
They beat me so much I couldn’t move in my cell for 72 hours. I was feeling so much pain that I couldn’t even sleep without suffering.”
“Today almost two months after those difficult days I still feel pain in my broken ribs, kidneys, left ear and testicles,” he added.
“But worse than the physical torture was the psychological torture. I don’t know what they did to me but I turned into a washed-up rat.
My hands are still trembling. I used to walk with my feet firmly on the ground but I was humiliated into a different person. I still get severe panic attacks despite taking anxiety medication.”
Calling on Intelligence Minister and mid-ranking cleric Mahmoud Alavi for a debate concerning the maltreatment of detainees, the activist also said that he, along with journalist Sepideh Qolian, who was arrested at the same time, were bombarded with abusive sexual language.
Writing on his Instagram page, Bakhshi said, “The torturers, who presented themselves as the unknown soldiers of [the Shi’ite] Hidden Imam, used to shower us with vituperative sexual terms while beating us up.”
Bakhshi asked of Alavi: “As a cleric, and from the moral and human rights point of view, tell us what is the sentence for those who torture prisoners? Is torturing prisoners permissible? If it is, to what extent? Has the ministry run by you the right to secretly monitor private telephone conversations?”
Esmail Bakhshi also accused the government of tapping his phone before his arrest and listening in on his private conversations.
“The second issue that is far more important to me and my family than the physical and mental tortures is that your intelligence apparatus listened in on me and my family’s telephone conversations. My interrogator told me that he knew everything about me including arguments with my wife over my labor rights activities. I asked them how they knew and they said that my phone was tapped from long before which severely angered me in the interrogations,” the labor activist wrote.
“Is listening in on the people’s most private conversations morally, humanely and Islamically permissible? With what right did your intelligence apparatus listen to the most private telephone conversations of me and my dear wife?” he demanded addressing the Minister of Intelligence.
Esmail Bakhshi challenged Alavi to a live television debate on the conditions at prisons and detention centers across Iran. Alavi has not yet responded.
Bakhshi, spokesman for the labor union of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane industrial complex, was arrested on November 20, 2018, during ongoing demonstrations by workers demanding unpaid wages. He was released on December 12 on bail.
There were previous reports that Esmail Bakhshi was tortured in prison and transferred to hospital, though the reports were denied by officials of the southern province of Khuzestan, where Bakhshi resides.
Iranian officials have denied the use of torture against Esamil Bakhshi and other labor activists.
The Revolutionary Guards affiliated Fars News Agency wrote today that a judicial official had talked to Mr. Bakhshi days after his release and that the labor activist had denied the “rumors” on social media that he was tortured.
In an interview with the ILNA state-run news agency today, an Iranian parliamentarian and member of the parliament’s Judicial Commission said that Bakhshi’s claims had to be “proven” adding that “torture is banned in our constitution”.
“The claim is an accusation against the country’s authorities and has to definitely be seen to,” Mohammad Kazemi added in comments that seemed more like a threat.