The Times: Ardeshir, an engineering student dressed in jeans and T-shirt, tells his story in a corner of a Tehran park obscured by trees — he no longer trusts telephones or the internet.
Martin Fletcher and a special correspondent in Tehran
Ardeshir, an engineering student dressed in jeans and T-shirt, tells his story in a corner of a Tehran park obscured by trees — he no longer trusts telephones or the internet.
He smokes, fidgets, has bags beneath his eyes. Sometimes he cries. At one point he has to break off and return another day. His distress is hardly surprising: he was locked up, beaten and raped multiple times for daring to protest against President Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.
A psychologist said Ardeshir, 19, is depressed and may be suicidal: “He has extreme feelings of self-hatred resulting from a sense that he will never be clean again, and from shame over the repeated rapes.”
A hospital report confirms he suffered anal damage. He has temporarily abandoned his studies temporarily and seeks solace by playing the santur, an Iranian instrument.
Ardeshir said: “When I first participated in the protests I was not demonstrating against the Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] or the Islamic Republic. I was protesting Ahmadinejad’s cheating. But today, I say ‘Death to Khamenei’, and having been raped by his henchmen I also say ‘Death to the Dogs of Khamenei’.”
Ardeshir — not his real name — is one of scores, perhaps hundreds, of detainees who have been raped and tortured by their jailers in the past three months in what appears to be a systematic attempt to break their will.
Mehdi Karoubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, the defeated presidential candidates, accused a regime, which claims to champion Islamic values, of raping opposition supporters.
The regime responded by accusing them of peddling lies to help enemies of Iran and, earlier this week, shut the offices where the opposition was collecting evidence and confiscated documents and CDs, and arrested key employees.
Ardeshir was no political activist but took to the streets on June 20 to protest at the election. He and his friends were attacked by Basij, the Islamic volunteer militia, and separated.
As the violence increased Ardeshir headed to a metro station but was seized by plain-clothed police and thrown into a windowless van containing 14 other bruised and bloodied demonstrators.
They were driven to an apartment building 90 minutes away that was clearly an unofficial detention centre. Ardeshir believes that 60 to 70 detainees were held there.
The new arrivals were ordered to strip to their underwear and stand in lines. Two Basiji “rubbed our genital areas with their batons, calling us ‘scum’ and saying ‘Ah, yes, the balls of the foot soldiers of the heretic Mousavi’,” Ardeshir recalled. “They then promised that we would confess to trying to overthrow the divine regime.”
The next day two Basiji took a 17-year-old schoolboy from the cell that Ardeshir was in. “Ten minutes later we heard him screaming and crying. It then went suddenly silent,” Ardeshir said.
“A couple of minutes later two Basiji grabbed me … I felt faint and wanted to cry when faced with a scene I had never before in my life imagined … The boy, completely naked, was seemingly unconscious on the mat, his face in a pile of vomit and with blood around his rectum.
“A Basiji called Mahmoud said, ‘Take a good look. That will happen to you if you resist, you faggot lover of Mousavi’.
“The Basiji then said: ‘Now you.’ “They threw me on my back on the ground. Mahmoud then urinated on my face, saying that this would teach me not to oppose the divine wishes of the Great Leader of the Revolution. ‘We have been sent to re-educate you, you spoilt Western piece of shit,’ he said.
“They took off my underwear and made me go around on all fours. Then Mahmoud said it was time for my punishment. I was still on all fours when he began to rape me. As he penetrated me I cried out and felt as if I would throw up. He told me that if I didn’t stop screaming he would stick his baton up me.
“When he was done, another Basiji came up and raped me. At this point I felt that I was not me. I seemed to have shut down and separated from my body. All I could think of when it was going to end, andwas why these people who claim to be the most religious in our society can do such things?”
Every other day Basiji would choose detainees from the cell to rape. “The third time they dragged me from the cell, I momentarily escaped their grip and ran to a corner. I screamed, ‘You say you are Muslim. How can you rape and humiliate us in this way?’. They laughed and said they had religious sanction from the Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] to do so because we had gone against his word.
“Three guys then dragged me from the corner. I was shoved against the wall, face first. Two guys spread my legs and once again I was raped by them. I just cried and prayed for God to take my life. After the third man finished Mahmoud said, ‘This is for insubordination. I warned you. I then felt a large object shoved up my rectum. I think I lost consciousness because the next thing I knew I was back in the cell.
“It’s hard to explain what it was like in that cell. All of us were in shock. Those of us who had been raped spoke the least and cried the most.
“They also liked to take several of us out at the same time and forced us to ride each other, doggy-style, whilst naked. They laughed and took pictures with their mobile phones. They would watch this for ten minutes and then proceed to rape.”
Ardeshir spent 23 days in the makeshift prison before his father secured his release on bail with the help of an influential friend. Before he was freed he was taken to meet the commander in the flat above his cell. When the commander ordered him to sign a confession he refused and told him what was happening.
“He asked me why I was once again slandering the Islamic Republic. ‘Nothing illegal is taking place here. Everything that has happened has been religiously sanctioned by the Leader in his battle against you, Mousavi and Karoubi scum. Now sign.’. I again refused. He punched me in the face and then hit me above my eye with his pistol,” Ardeshir said.
After being beaten and raped again by two Basiji Ardeshir finally signed the “confession” which said that opposition leaders and the foreign media had encouraged him to engage in anti-regime activities, and was released.
“He’s a broken boy,” his father told The Times. “I just pray that we can put him back together, although I know he will never be the same gregarious, optimistic, sensitive boy we brought up How could this so-called Islamic regime do this?”
Punishment for disputed vote
June 12 Election heldafter campaign with rallies for Ahmadinejad and Mousavi
June 13 Mousavi calls for vote-counting to stop but the Government says Ahmadinejad won
June 15 Ayatollah Ali Khamenei agrees to investigate as tens of thousands join largest protest since 1979 revolution. Eight killed; 368 detained
June 16 Mass rallies continue
June 19 State television says that more than 450 are detained during clashes in Tehran. At least ten are killed, including Neda Soltan
June 21 Ahmadinejad blames the US and Britain for the protests
August 11 The opposition candidate Mehdi Karoubi says detainees have been systematically raped
August 14 Group of reformist MPs denounce government brutality September 8 Karoubi’s office closed down by the authorities
Source: Times database