Torture is part of the routine in Iranian prisons

Even Iranian boys and girls who dared to participate in demonstrations against the regime for more freedom cannot count on the indulgence of the Islamic rulers.

In a letter smuggled out of Tehran’s Evin Prison, Sepideh Gholian, a women’s rights activist, describes seeing this week a blindfolded, shivering “young boy” in a T-shirt being interrogated in the cold of winter on the prison floor. “I swear by God, I didn’t hit anyone,” the boy said sadly. Don’t confess, Kolian advised him after she got over him, according to the BBC.

This warning was not superfluous, since the Iranian judiciary usually puts prisoners under extreme pressure to make confessions. Abuse and torture are not unacceptable. The extracted statements are then recorded and broadcast on state television as evidence that the suspects deserve their punishment. Then they admit, for example, that they participated in the death of a volunteer in the Basica militia that often suppresses peaceful protests.

The death penalty

Some are sentenced to death on the basis of these “confessions”. In many of them – so far there has been no minor – human rights activists have reported injuries and even an arm in a cast. Perhaps as a result of torture. According to the Norway-based Iranian Human Rights Organization (IHR), more than 100 people are now at risk of execution because they have already been convicted or charged with capital offences. Four of them have already been executed. The two who were hanged on Saturday are said to have been involved in the killing of a Basij man.

The Iranian public often sympathizes deeply with the prisoners. On Sunday evening, dozens of people quickly gathered in Rajai Shahr Bakraj prison, fearing that two prisoners might be executed. One of them, Mohamed Gbadlo, 22, suffers from bipolar disorder, according to his mother. Shortly before, their appeal was rejected and he was placed in solitary confinement, which may have been a prelude to their execution. However, it was still out. In October, an even larger crowd gathered at Evin Prison when a fire broke out there. They feared that political prisoners would be burned to death. Eight people died in this.


In any case, according to Western human rights organizations, the trials are a mockery. Defendants are often sentenced in secret in hasty hearings and are generally not allowed to choose their own counsel. Since the start of the protests in September, according to human rights regulations, 44 criminal lawyers have already been arrested. The lawyers who were summoned are loyal to the regime. Belgian Olivier Vandecasteele was also part of this closed operation. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison and 74 lashes.

Torture is nothing new in Iranian prisons. They were already familiar under the Shah, and after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the new rulers used them with even greater eagerness, if possible. Whipping, hanging by the hands and feet, electric shocks, mock execution, forced handling of chemicals, making detainees stand or sit in an uncomfortable position until they pass out, and sleep deprivation are part of the standard repertoire. Prisoners who need medication are often deliberately withheld.

In addition, interrogators put psychological pressure on prisoners by threatening to use violence against relatives if they do not cooperate or by telling them that their loved ones are not feeling well. If they confess, they are allowed to contact them again. Many prisoners are also confined to cramped solitary cells for long periods of time.

Qolian, who is serving a five-year prison sentence, says in her letter that in Evin Prison, a wing dedicated to cultural events has been turned into a site for investigation and torture. Other prisoners can hear the screams of the interrogators, boys and girls.

Evin, Iran’s most famous prison, alone holds a quarter of all political prisoners in Iran. Due to the numerous arrests as a result of the many demonstrations in recent months, it has become even more crowded than it already was. In all, some 19,300 people have been arrested since the death of a young Kurdish woman, Mohsa Amini, in police custody in mid-September, which sparked the first protests. No less than 481 demonstrators and possibly many more from their participation in the protests did not survive.


Anoush Ashouri, a British-Iranian businessman who was in Evin until March last year, said afterwards that he was in a wing where seventy prisoners shared four rooms. “We had bed bugs, cockroaches, large rats and bad food,” he told Deutsche Welle last fall. It is very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer. When the inquisitors threatened to crack down on his relatives, out of despair he attempted suicide.

Female prisoners are also at risk of sexual harassment or abuse. Narges Mohammadi, a human rights activist serving a 34-year prison sentence in Evin Prison, wrote in another smuggled letter in December how a woman was tied up and sexually assaulted on her way to prison. She herself had seen the woman’s injuries afterward. The authorities deny such deviations from the course.

The situation in many provincial prisons is even worse, especially those in the Kurdish and Baluchi areas where the situation has been very unstable in recent months. Even earlier, in 2021, Amnesty International concluded, a staggering number of people had died in custody there. Iranian authorities rarely bother to investigate such cases afterwards.

Read also: Iranian youth are paying the price for their protest with imprisonment or execution

Leave a Comment