- Damn Amedee
- BBC – World Service
In a letter she wrote from Evin prison, a prominent female activist in Iran described the “brutal” treatment of prisoners there, and how confessions are extracted from them.
Activist Sepideh Qolian wrote her letter from her prison in Tehran, where she has been held since 2018 after being convicted of her work “against national security” and sentenced to five years in prison for supporting a strike and labor protests.
Sepideh described the interrogators’ brutal treatment of her and the rest of the detainees in the prison to force them to make certain confessions, which would later be broadcast on state television networks.
Referring to the anti-government protests currently sweeping the country, Kolian says, “In the fourth year of my imprisonment, I can finally hear the echoes of freedom’s steps across Iran.
“The echoes of the chants of ‘woman, life, freedom’ can be heard even through the thick walls of Evin prison.”
Gulyan is currently studying law while in prison. In her letter, she describes how the so-called “cultural” section of the Evin prison, where she takes her exams, was transformed into a place for “torture and interrogation”, and says she witnessed interrogations of young detainees there.
In her letter, she wrote: “The examination room is full of boys and girls, and the cries of those being tortured can be heard.”
Gulyan described a scene she witnessed on December 28, 2022 while being escorted by a warden, who took her to the hall to take her exam.
It was very cold and snowing, and near the exit door of the building a young boy sat blindfolded in front of the interrogator wearing nothing but a thin gray cotton shirt.
“He was trembling and begging, saying, ‘I swear to God I didn’t hit anybody, they wanted him to confess,’ and I shouted as I passed him, ‘Don’t confess. ‘Death to you tyrants.’ “
According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (Hrana), no fewer than 519 protesters, including 69 children, have been killed so far in the protests taking place in the country, and 19,300 people have been arrested. Thousands were sentenced to prison.
Many of those arrested face the death penalty, and so far four protesters have been hanged after their confessions were shown on state television.
Human rights activists and lawyers say that the hearings of the detainees took place in the absence of any legal representation for them, and after they were tortured. But the Iranian authorities deny these allegations.
Since the beginning of the protests that broke out in September last year, government television has broadcast the confessions of dozens of protesters, who were forcibly removed from them.
In her letter, Sepideh Gholian refers to the interrogation she underwent in 2018, which forced her to confess to things she did not commit, after she was arrested for supporting protests and a workers’ strike at a sugar factory in the Iranian province of Khuzestan.
Qolian was arrested in November 2018 in the city of Shush, located in Khuzestan province, southwest Iran, along with other activists, and 20 workers in the “Haft Tappeh” agro-industrial company, one of the oldest companies that sugar produced from sugar. cane. in Iran.
“You Communist Bitch”
Gulian describes how, when she saw that she was going to be interviewed by a woman, she hoped that she would be less harsh with her than the male interrogators, and “at least she wouldn’t sexually assault me”.
But in her letter, she says, her hopes were short-lived, quickly fading, as “the interrogator kicked the leg off the table and shouted at her: ‘You communist whore, who have you slept with?’
Last December, Narges Mohammadi, another Iranian human rights activist serving 34 years in prison, provided a detailed description of the sexual assault in prison of women arrested in connection with the recent protests.
Gulian says the interrogator, who interrogated her, removed her blindfold and ordered her to describe her alleged sexual relations to the camera. But she refused to respond.
She describes how, after hours of questioning, she begged the interrogator to be taken to the toilet. When she reached the women’s restroom, the investigator pushed her into one of them, locked the door, and locked her inside.
According to Sepideh, the toilet she was locked in was connected to an interrogation room, and she could hear the sounds of a man being tortured and flogged.
She wrote: “The screams of torture continued for hours, or maybe for a whole day, or maybe more, at which point I lost track of time.”
She explains that after being removed from the toilet, and deprived of sleep for three days due to the constant interrogation, she was taken to a room with a camera.
And she wrote: “I took the text of the confessions from her (the investigator) while I was half unconscious, and I sat in front of the camera and read it.” Based on these confessions, she was sentenced to five years in prison.
Later, state television showed a report describing Gulian and other detainees as belonging to “opposition groups outside the country trying to overthrow the regime”.
In 2019, Gulyan was in the notorious Qarchak Women’s Prison and got to know the woman she was interrogating while watching another prisoner’s forced confessions shown on TV.
Qulian disclosed the name of the investigator in an open public letter, and she is Amina Sadat Zabihpour, an “investigator and journalist” with close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
In November 2022, the US Treasury Department imposed economic sanctions on Amina Sadat Zabihpour, who works for Iranian state television, for her role in extracting and broadcasting forced confessions from Iranian prisoners and other dual citizens.
Zabihpour responded by filing a lawsuit against Qolian, which resulted in the activist being convicted and sentenced to an additional eight months in prison.
Gulian concludes her letter by describing the protests sweeping her country as a “revolution.”
“Today, the voices we hear in the streets of Marivan, Izeh, Rasht, Sistan and Baluchistan, and all over Iran, are louder than the voices coming out of the interrogation rooms. This is the voice of the revolution, the real voice ( of the slogan) of women, life, freedom,” she says.