Released labor rights leader Esmail Bakhshi has spoken openly about being subjected to severe torture and abuse during his detention and is calling on the Minister of Intelligence for an explanation of his treatment while in custody.

Esmail Bakhshi after release from prison

Esmail Bakhshi, a representative of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex workers was arrested along with 17 of his colleagues and a female activist, Sepideh Gholian on 10 Nov 2017, in the midst of ongoing protests of the factory workers in Shush, Iran. Earlier reports from independent labor groups had already revealed that he was being tortured. He is currently released on a hefty bail of 400 million tomans.

In a note to Mahmoud Alavi, Iran’s Minister of Intelligence, Bakhshi writes: “In the first few days, for no reason, they kicked and punched and abused me to the point of death. For 72 hours I could not move in my cell or even sleep from the persistent pain.” He goes on to add that he suffered from broken ribs and is still suffering from pain in his ribs, left ear and testicles.

A relative of Bakhshi who had spoken on the condition of anonymity with Iranian Journalist Shahed Alavai had revealed that Bakhshi’s testicles were tasered during interrogations.

Esmail Bakhshi in the protests

Bakhshi reveals that his torturers identified themselves as the “unknown soldiers of the Absent Imam” (a title often attributed to security and intelligence officers in Iran). He stresses that the “psychological tortures” he was subjected to were even more severe than the physical abuse.

Bakhshi adds that his torturers also subjected Sepideh Gholian, the only female prisoner detained along with labor protester to sexual insults. Gholian has confirmed on social media that she was subjected to severe beating and psychological pressure during her detention.

In his note, Bakhshi goes on to accuse the authorities of tapping his telephone and listening to his conversations and those of his family members. The labor activist challenges the Minister of Intelligence to respond in a televised interview to his questions regarding his mistreatment by the authorities.

Khuzestan authorities had denied the earlier reports about Bakhshi being subjected to torture in custody. Haft Tappeh Sugarcane workers have persisted in their protests for demanding the release of their colleagues including Bakhshi.

The authorities cracked down on these ongoing protesters by arresting another prominent labor activist, Ali Nejati, former president of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers Syndicate.

The protesting workers of Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex want payment of their overdue wages, a return of the factory to public ownership and release of all their detained colleagues.

Persistent delays in the payment of workers, widespread layoffs and shut down of manufacturing units are the symptoms of a chronically ailing economy and have been recently exacerbated by the new rounds of US sanctions against Iran.