Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Detained Student(s) Tortured & Raped To Death In Iran

The death of a young Iranian in custody for allegedly taking part in antiestablishment protests has heightened fears of brutal official reprisals against detained protesters and other perceived dissidents following the worst street demonstrations Iran has seen in nearly a decade.

Iranian activists probing the fates of detainees during protests and other unrest that erupted late last month reported on January 7 that 22-year-old Sina Ghanbari had died in prison of "unknown causes.”

The activists, who include lawyers and volunteers including individuals caught in past crackdowns like the one after a disputed presidential election in 2009, say their self-styled committee was informed of Ghanbari's death by other detainees following their release. Well after the unconfirmed reports, the head of the prison authority in Tehran Province on January 8 said that Ghanbari had hanged himself in a prison lavatory.

"On the morning of Saturday, January 6, one of the prisoners, Sina Ghanbari, son of Ali Akbar, visited the lavatory of the quarantine section and hanged himself," Mostafa Mohebi told the semiofficial ISNA news agency. Suicide always is official excuse for the deaths of torture victims inside the notorious Evin Prison.

Mohebi said a prosecutor had come to the prison and interviewed "prison guards and those informed" while also issuing "necessary orders."

The activists committee said via an announcement by activist Mehdi Mahmudian, a journalist and member of the reformist Participation Front who spent time in jail in 2009, that Ghanbari had been held in the quarantine section of Tehran's Evin prison, where detainees are frequently held before being taken to a general ward.

Fears Of Another Kahrizak

Mahmudian was reportedly crucial in informing the public about the abuses at Kahrizak, a detention facility where abuses were alleged in 2009. Two Iranian lawmakers subsequently confirmed Ghanbari's death and suggested that the young man had committed suicide while in detention but did not offer details.

"This 22-year-old young man was arrested by the police. I was informed that he had committed suicide in jail," reformist lawmaker Tayebeh Siavashi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial ILNA news agency.

Another reformist lawmaker, Mahmud Sadeghi, made a similar statement to Etemadonline, saying that he had been informed through an unnamed "intelligence official" that Ghanbari had committed suicide in Evin.

Writing on Twitter, Sadeghi warned Iranian officials about a repeat of events following the 2009 protests, when reports emerged of detainees held at the Kahrizak detention center in Tehran being tortured and raped. At least three of those detainees died as the result of torture, rights groups reported.

"I'm warning the president along with judiciary and intelligence officials of a second Kahrizak," Sadeghi tweeted. At least 22 other deaths have been reported in connection with the December-January protests but Ghanbari's is the first report of a death in custody.

"This news is like a knife stabbing the hearts of those whose young ones are in prison," said Mohammad Aghazadeh, whose son, Soheil Aghazadeh, is among some 80 students arrested recently. "Even if [the news] is true, what did you do to them that they prefer to die than to tolerate your actions?" Aghazadeh asked in a separate tweet.

Student protesters inside the Teheran University in Iran.
Wave Of 'Preventive' Arrests?

Some of the detained students were reportedly not among the protesters, but details are difficult to confirm due to official secrecy and restrictions on reporting in Iran. An Iranian lawmaker said on January 5 that the authorities said that most of the students had been arrested as a "preventive measure."

Iranian authorities said that at least 450 people were arrested over a three-day span after the protests began in western Iran in late December. Subsequent reports suggest that well over 1,500 people have been arrested across the country, with some estimates much higher.

Dozens of detainees are said to have been released in recent days. However, hundreds remain in jail, and little has been said officially about their conditions. Authorities have warned some of the families of those arrested not to speak to the media.

Kasra Nuri, a member of the Sufi Gonabadi order who previously spent several years in prison for his activism, is among those arrested. His mother, Shokoufeh Yadollahi, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Nuri had not participated in any of the recent antiestablishment protests.

"It's not clear why he was arrested. Kasra and three of his friends had gone to the Dey hospital [in Tehran] to visit a friend when security forces arrested them while using electric shockers and firing shots into the air," Yadollahi said in a telephone interview.

She added that her son was being held in Section 209 of Evin prison. Yadollahi and family members of him and of other detainees have gathered in front on the prison to appeal for their release. Amnesty International demanded on January 4 that Iranian authorities "protect hundreds of detainees from torture and other ill-treatment."

"Given the alarming scale of the current wave of arrests, it is highly likely that many of those held are peaceful protesters who have been detained arbitrarily and now find themselves in prisons where conditions are dire and torture (including gang-rapes of both men and women) is a common tool to extract confessions and punish dissidents," Amnesty International's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Philip Luther, said.

Police entered the Teheran University and arrested many students male and female.
Teheran University Tracks Fate of Detained Students

(CNN)The University of Tehran is working to track and secure the release of its students who were arrested for taking part in recent anti-government protests in Iran, according to the semiofficial Iranian Students' News Agency.

"A committee has been established to follow up on and track Tehran University's detained students' situation Our aim is to work with relevant authorities and facilitate the quickest release and return of those students to their studies and family embrace," Majid Sarsanghi, the University of Tehran's deputy chancellor for cultural affairs, is quoted by the news agency.

It's not clear how many students have been arrested in connection with the protests, which broke out more than a week ago. At least 21 people were killed, many in clashes with security forces trying to quell the rallies.

Authorities in Iran have said 450 people have been detained. The US State Department has put the number held at 1,000. Tehran public prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said Sunday that about 70 defendants had been released on bail in the last 48 hours, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

Reformist Iranian lawmaker Mahmood Sadeqi told the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency that he holds details on detained students. But he said he does not know the whereabouts of 10 of the 90 who he believes were detained from across the country.

"On the basis of our figures, at least 58 students from different Tehran universities have been detained so far and the strange point is that many of them are not involved in any political activities at all," he said. Sadeqi told ILNA he had spoken to the Ministry of Intelligence and hoped that most of the students would be released soon.

Rights group Amnesty International accused Iran of having an "appalling" track record of carrying out mass arbitrary arrests of peaceful demonstrators.

"Given the alarming scale of the current wave of arrests, it is highly likely that many of those held are peaceful protesters who have been detained arbitrarily and now find themselves in prisons where conditions are dire and torture is a common tool to extract confessions and punish dissidents," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Four UN human rights experts on Friday urged Iran to respect protesters' rights and allow freedom of expression and assembly. The protests, the most powerful challenge to the regime in years, appeared to have fizzled Thursday after Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari asserted the unrest was officially over. Mass pro-government rallies have taken their place in many Iranian cities. Government supporters turned out in force in Tehran and elsewhere Friday.

(Afshin, a shopkeeper from south-west Iran, alleges that one of his friends was beaten and repeatedly raped after being arrested at an opposition rally after last month's disputed election. He gave this account to Esfandiar Poorgiv, a journalist and academic.)

He came to my shop around 10.30am. You could tell straight away that he had just been released. His face was bruised all over. His teeth were broken and he could hardly open his eyes.

He was not even into politics. He was just an ordinary 18-year-old in the last year of school. Before the election he came to me and asked how he should vote. He looks up to me. His father is an Ahmadinejad supporter.

He had gone home directly after his release, but his father did not let him in. He didn't mention he had been raped. At first, he didn't tell me either. It was the doctor who first noticed it and told me.

When he came to my shop he collapsed in a chair. He said he had nowhere to go and asked if he could stay with me. I called a friend of mine who is a doctor to come home and see him. Then I brought him home.

His shoulder blades and arms were wounded. There were some slashes on the face. No bone fractures, but he was bruised all over the body. I wanted to take some photos but he did not let me. The doctor said only four of his teeth were intact, the rest were broken. You could hardly understand what he said.

Then the doctor told me what had happened. He had suffered rupture of the rectum and the doctor feared colonic bleeding. He suggested we take him to the hospital immediately.

They registered him under a false name and with somebody else's insurance. The nurses were crying. Two of them asked what sort of beast had beaten him up like that. He was a broken man. He told us not to waste our money on him, and that he would kill himself.

He was arrested in Shiraz on 15 June, the Monday after the election. Some sturdy young men made a human shield around the demonstrators. He was among them. He said he managed to hit some of the anti-riot police. But then they caught him and beat him up.

"I was kept in a van till evening that day and then transferred to a solitary cell where I was kept for two days," he said. "Then I was repeatedly interrogated, beaten and hung from a ceiling. They call it chicken kebab. They tie your hands and feet together and hang you from the ceiling, turning you around and beating you with cables.

"They gave us warm water to drink and one meal a day. Repeated smacking was a regular punishment. In interrogations, they kept on asking if I was instructed from abroad. I believed I was going to be sent from the detention centre to prison. But they sent me to where they called Roughnecks' Room. There were some other youths of my age in there. I asked a guard why I am not sent to prison and the reply was: 'You have to be our guest for a while.'

"I refused to confess during interrogations. They said: 'Ask your friends what we'll do to you if you don't co-operate.' Others in the room were also arrested on 15 June. I was tempted to confess at this point but I didn't. On the third and fourth day, they beat me up again. They insisted we were instructed from abroad. I kept on saying we were only protesting for our votes.

"It was on Saturday or Sunday that they raped me for the first time. There were three or four huge guys we had not seen before. They came to me and tore my clothes. I tried to resist but two of them laid me on the floor and the third did it. It was done in front of four other detainees.

"My cell mates, especially the older one, tried to console me. They said nobody loses his dignity through such an act. They did it to two other cell mates in the next days. Then it became a routine. We were so weak and beaten up that could not do anything.

"Then the interrogations started again. They said: 'If you don't come to your senses we will send you to Adel Abad [another prison in Shiraz] to the pederasts' section so that you receive such treatment every day.' I was so weak I did not know what to say. Then they asked for my contacts. I told them I had no contacts and I was informed about the demonstrations through the internet.

"The same routine was continued till this morning when I was released. In the last week, there was no interrogation, no beating. Only rape and solitary confinement."

This is what he recounted. But he couldn't articulate quite like this. He was in much physical and mental pain as he talked. I asked him to tell his story in the hope of making a difference to those still detained.

TORONTO, Canada—Azar Alkana has come to terms with all the other torture and pain she endured in an Iranian jail. But recovering from the experience of being raped by a guard at the prison, where she was condemned because of her husband’s membership in a Kurdish rebel groups, has been impossible.

“I am over all the other forms of torture and the pain my little daughter went through in those years,” Alkana, who spoke under the pseudonym Nina Aghdam, said to Iranian documentary filmmaker Reza Alallamehzade. “But the psychological breakdown that rape causes is incomparable and irrecoverable,” she said.

Human rights organizations have recently expressed alarm about the rise of sexual assault on women prisoners in Iranian jails. According to the Kurdpa News agency, university student Hananeh Farhadi committed suicide after spending two months in an Iranian intelligence agency prison.  Her family was warned by authorities not to publicise her case.

Shadieh Basami, 23, from Bisaran village, in Sanandaj province, set herself on fire after being raped by a soldier from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, she told Kurdpa. Sorour, who uses a pseudonym, is a Kurdish woman from Mahabad who told an Iranian Human Rights Documentation Center that she was arrested for her membership in the Kurdish dissident group Komala, and that she was sexually assaulted in a Tabriz prison.

“After swearing by my ethnicity, the Iranian guard raped me using a bottle,” she says. “The physical injury was eventually healed but the psychological one never did.” Sorour says that for months following her release she contemplated suicide. “I tremble every time I remember that incident.”

Minoo Homily, from Sanandaj, was imprisoned in 1982 at the age of 17, for her communist beliefs. In Isfahan, where she was later transferred, she says she was sexually assaulted by a male guard while her female warden was away for a few minutes.

Homily, an outspoken activist who now lives in Toronto, believes that recovering from the psychological harm was lengthy and difficult and that the pain worsened when her ex-husband started to abuse her for her experience in prison.

“He would say that I was touched by the Revolutionary Guards and therefore have no value as a human being,” she recalled. Homily says her reason for talking about her experience is to encourage other female prisoners to speak up.

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told his country’s state-funded Press TV, after foreign media reported increasing sexual assaults in Iranian prisons, that rape or torture of political prisoners in Iranian prisons is carried out by “enemy” agents, not the government. Iran's conservative parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said following a “comprehensive inquiry” that "no cases of rape or sexual abuse" had been found in the prisons.

Kaziwa Salih, a United Nations human rights volunteer and researcher on women prisoners based in Toronto, says that the situation of Kurdish women in Iranian prisons is often politicized and that people should be more sympathetic to the victims. “Kurds should liberate themselves from this trap by becoming more understanding and supportive of the victims of rape,” Salih told Rudaw.

Salih says that Kurdish women suppress their rape stories in order to preserve their family honor. “Kurdish women, unlike women of Rwanda, Cambodia and other target groups of genocide, do not admit to the sexual invasion they have suffered. They feel obliged to preserve the family honor,” she added.

A victim of rape in an Iranian prison who did not want to be identified, told Rudaw that fear is a major factor behind many women’s silence. “It’s hard enough to live with this shame forever,” she said. “But if we mention it in public, we might even get killed by radical members of the family.”

Golaleh Kamangar, a Kurdish activist in Norway, says that in a conservative society where a family’s name and honor is often tied to women, former female prisoners committing suicide is inevitable. “In a strictly patriarchal culture, that every aspect of a woman’s life is directly related to ‘honour,’ victims of rape find themselves in a conundrum,” she says.

Kamangar says that “victims of rape are not criminals,” and that people need to understand this. “For as long as victims of rape terminate their lives, the oppressive regime will continue to use sexual harassment as a powerful tool against the dissidents,” says Kamangar.