Iran Human RightsIranian regime accused of torturing political detainees

Iranian regime accused of torturing political detainees


ImageThe Times: Opposition leaders accuse the Iranian regime of Abu Ghraib-style torture of political detainees.

Times Online

Martin Fletcher 
ImageOpposition leaders accuse the Iranian regime of Abu Ghraib-style torture of political detainees. Their followers spread dissident samizdat DVDs, use paintball guns to obliterate government posters, and attack government websites. Despite nine weeks of savage repression since Iran’s hotly disputed presidential election, the opposition still refuses to accept defeat.

Mehdi Karoubi, one of the defeated presidential candidates, kept up the public pressure this week by claiming first that male and female detainees have been raped in Tehran’s Evin and Kahrizak prisons, and later that political prisoners were tortured to death.

“We observe that in an Islamic country some young people are beaten to death just for chanting slogans,” Mr Karoubi wrote on his website.

Other detainees “were forced to take off their clothes. Then they were made to go on their hands and knees and were ridden [by prison guards]. Or the prison authorities put them on top of each other while they were naked … Do such treatments conform with Islam, which is a religion of mercy?” he asked.

Mr Karoubi’s allegations, which are supported by Western human rights organisations, seemed designed to deepen rifts within the conservative establishment over the way detainees have been treated.

They certainly appeared to strike a nerve. The regime has denounced them as baseless, and demanded Mr Karoubi produce proof. Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a hardline cleric, used his sermon at Tehran’s Friday prayers yesterday to demand Mr Karoubi’s prosecution. He said his accusations were “full of libel, a total slander against the Islamic system” that helped Iran’s enemies.

With security forces brutally suppressing any street demonstrations, grassroots activists are adopting subtler methods of resisting a regime they consider illegitimate.

They still chant Allahu akbar (God is greatest) from the rooftops every night, and write anti-regime slogans on banknotes, but they are also daubing graffiti(“Death to Basiji” ½ the volunteer militia that confronts protestors on the streets – and “Death to the Dictator”) on walls across the capital, and using paintball guns loaded with green paint to obliterate posters of Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader.. Sometimes they simply paint a black X across his portrait.

Thousands of samidzat DVDs are discreetly distributed in cafés, restaurant and tea houses, and through networks of friends and relatives. They document the regime’s crimes, show protesters being beaten up, and focus on the faces of the basiji volunteers carrying out the beatings so they can be identified.

At football matches, religious ceremonies or anywhere that large crowds gather, small groups in their midst will start chanting and others join in. “It has reached a stage where the government is trying not to show sports events live. When they do, they censor the noise and try not to show spectators,” said one reliable source in Tehran.

The opposition plans to step up its attacks on government websites, and create huge traffic jams outside government offices to prevent employees reaching them. From next week it also plans to paralyse the heavily-used rail system on selected days by holding doors open, pulling emergency brakes and other such actions.

There are still periodic street demonstrations, but they are designed to thwart the security forces. On Wednesday thousands gathered outside Tehran’s huge, labyrinthine bazaar.

“When the police attacked we were able to run into the maze of the bazaar and its surrounding streets only to reappear at a different place to continue the protest,” one participant told The Times. Sympathetic merchants sheltered the protesters, and on at least one occasion beat pursuing basiji.

One prominent activist, Mohsen Armin, has issued a pre-emptive denial of any future “confession” in case he is arrested and tortured. He had received no foreign money or assistance, he wrote on his website. He has not called for a revolution, just for the constitution to be respected. “If, in jail and under pressure, I say something against what I have said, be sure that it is not my true belief.”

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