• Iran
  • February 11, 2010
  • 5 minutes read

Iran: Crackdown’s Torrent of Abuses

Iran: Crackdown’s Torrent of Abuses

The scope of the Iranian government’s crackdown on dissent since the disputed June 2009 elections is even broader and the abuses more flagrant than previously reported, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today that documents numerous instances of abuse. The government should immediately release all those still being held for peacefully expressing dissent and make certain that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable, Human Rights Watch said.

The 19-page report, “The Islamic Republic at 31: Post-Election Abuses Show Serious Human Rights Crisis,” documents widespread human rights abuses, including extra-judicial killings; rapes and torture; violations of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression; and thousands of arbitrary arrests and detentions during the nine months since the election on June 12, 2009. Fresh details of abuse are coming to light even as the government organizes celebrations to mark the 31st anniversary of the revolution that paved the way for the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

“The Iranian government’s effort to use anniversary celebrations to deflect attention from its human rights violations isn’t going to work,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at the New York-based rights group, “Instead, it should use the occasion to finally hold the abusers accountable.”

The report is based on extensive phone interviews and email correspondence with protesters, journalists, human rights defenders, and the families of detained political figures. It says that the government is carrying on its campaign of intimidation, arrests, and convictions of individuals for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. It has neither ended its crackdown nor held those responsible to account.

One former detainee at Kahrizak detention center outside Tehran spoke to HRW by phone about his experience:

On June 26, prison guards one more time set up fake executions, cursing and randomly beating people who asked for water or to use the toilet. I said, “Execute me if you want and get it over with.” I received a kick to my stomach and when I fell to the ground more kicks in the stomach, until I started throwing up blood. Another man said, “Take this faggot and make him pregnant, so he won’t be a smartass again.” That man grabbed me violently and pulled me to another location. He tied my hands and feet and pulled down my underwear and […] while he was raping me he said, “…. You can’t even defend your own ass, how do you want to start a velvet revolution?” I threw up blood and passed out.

The demonstrations that took place during the weeks after the disputed election were the biggest in the country since those that preceded the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic. Riot police and Basij paramilitary forces confronted the demonstrators with batons, clubs, and in some cases live ammunition, making no distinction between the overwhelming majority of peaceful demonstrators and the few engaging in acts of vandalism. State violence was not limited to the sites of demonstrations: plainclothes and Basij paramilitary forces attacked student dormitories and staged nighttime raids in residential areas. In June alone, at least 40 individuals died as a direct result of the governmental crackdowns.

Authorities also arrested thousands of ordinary protesters and scores of well known political figures and activists critical of the government. The worst abuses against ordinary protesters took place at police stations and detention centers, most notoriously at the Kahrizak detention center. At least three detainees died due to injuries sustained there, as a parliamentary inquiry has acknowledged. Former prisoners held in police detention centers have alleged that authorities sexually assaulted and raped them while in detention.

Authorities also abused detainees in Evin, a large prison complex where HRW has previously documented systematic abuses. Prominent political figures and activists held in Evin gave confessions that appeared to have been coerced and that the government used against them in mass trials of over 100 defendants in August.

Despite widespread campaigns of arrests and intimidation, critics of the government have continued to use important national and religious holidays as occasions to demonstrate peacefully their opposition to the government and its policies. Most recently, in late December, demonstrators gathered in major cities throughout the country to mark the religious holiday of Ashura, which coincided with mourning rituals for the highest-ranking clerical critic of the government, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. Police and Basij paramilitary forces attacked demonstrators in Tehran and Qom, wounding many and killing at least eight. Authorities also arrested scores of additional activists and protesters, and threatened to try some on charges that carry the death penalty.

“The government’s campaigns of intimidation have not worked to silence its critics,” said Stork, “It’s time for them to end their repressive tactics and guarantee citizens the right to express dissent.”