The recent protests taking place in over one hundred cities across Iran is accompanied by daily arrests regarding which Islamic Republic regime refrains from providing clear and accurate statistics. So far three detainees have died while in custody. The official statement is that they have committed suicide.
In the capital detainees are loaded onto security vans and taken to detention centers in local police stations, NAJA (Armed Forces) Stations or to prisons. During the trip detainees are forced to hold their heads between their legs to prevent them from identifying the location to which they are taken to.
Leaked reports reveal that one of the four prisons of the notorious Kahrizak detention centre, where in 2009 post-election unrests prisoners were tortured and murdered while in custody, has been opened up for detainees from the protests. A few arrested protesters who have managed to escape the hands of the security forces, report that Gharachak Prison is also being used to hold recent detainees.
Local Prosecutor’s office, detention centers and police stations do not respond to inquirers about situation of prisoners or information about arrests. The prosecutor’s office particularly persists in abuse of the families of those detained by not providing them with information and intimidating families –many of whom are have been stranding outside prison doors hoping for some information.
Upon arrest and following initial interrogations, detainees have to provide the arresting officers with signed statements. These signed statements are then forwarded to agents and interrogators affiliated with Ministry of Intelligence who are in constant dispute with the arresting officers because they want to see at least charges of vandalism and destruction of public property in the initial statements signed by the detainee. Intelligence agents and interrogators often try to make detainees accept more charges with promises of release –including vandalism, setting public property on fire, attacking state forces, etc… They even try to convinces the detainees to give up friends and acquaintances by involving them in the charges.
At the second stage of interrogations, detainees find themselves with fresh interrogators that disregard the first statement and try to coerce them into accepting charges of sedition or tearing and burning photos of the late Islamic Republic leader, Ayatollah Khomeini or the current one, Ayatollah Khamenei. Collaboration with enemy states is another charge that most detainees face. To this end torture is a common tool in the hands of the interrogator and many obviously cannot endure this tactic and provide them with false confessions. Then the interrogator will force the detainee to prepare for televised confessions.
In 2009, Kahrizak became notorious for the mass detention of protesters in sub standard conditions and was finally shut down after at least three detainees died under torture. It is beyond a doubt that numerous Kahrizaks are now gearing into action across the country to implement the lessons learned from their predecessor. This explains why families are not able to locate or visit their detained kin. The secrecy surrounding the location of these prisons will give interrogators a free hand in using all their gruesome tactics to obtain their desired confessions during which detainees are not obviously afforded the right to retain the services of a lawyer.
Many detainees are students and prolongation of their detention is another pressure tactic as it adversely affects their education, preventing them from attending classes and exams. President Hassan Rouhani’s empty promises of citizen’s rights are no consolation to families with missing children as they have no effect on the current court and police procedures.
On the streets the regime is shooting down protesters. Without giving them an opportunity to mourn, families are forced to bury their loved ones in secret without any ceremony. Then they air images of their coerced confessions blaming the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia for all problems of the country. Meanwhile they roll out their mad carnival of cudgel wielding Basijis on their payroll in every city spreading fear and intimidation.
The Islamic Republic once more shows off its inhumane face to protesters in detention centres and public spaces of the country. It is vital that we blow the whistle on its old tactics and to persist in finding out the fate of every detainee before the Islamic Republic realizes catastrophes more horrendous that the ones it committed during the 2009 protests.