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Systematic Rapes of Jailed Activists Alleged; Pleas to End Hunger Strike

25 Jun 2011 01:57Comments

Press Roundup provides a selected summary of news from the Farsi and Arabic press and excerpts where the source is in English. Tehran Bureau has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy. Please refer to the Media Guide to help put the stories in perspective. You can follow breaking news stories on our Twitter feed.

Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30

EvinByNight.jpg2 a.m., 4 Tir/June 25 According to a report Friday in the Guardian,
Prison guards in Iran are giving condoms to criminals and encouraging them to systematically rape young opposition activists locked up with them, according to accounts from inside the country's jail system.

A series of dramatic letters written by prisoners and families of imprisoned activists allege that authorities are intentionally facilitating mass rape and using it as a form of punishment.

Mehdi Mahmoudian, an outspoken member of [the Islamic] Iran Participation Front, a reformist political party, is among those prisoners who have succeeded in smuggling out letters revealing the extent of rape inside some of the most notorious prisons.

"In various cells inside the prison, rape has become a common act and acceptable," he wrote in a letter published on Kaleme.com, the official website of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

As Tehran Bureau reported on May 9, Mahmoudian's letter -- addressed to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei -- was written last September but made public only recently, first on the Rah-e Sabz (Jaras) website.

Recently, the relative of one political prisoner told Rah-e Sabz, "If [an] inmate is not powerful enough or guards w[ill] not take care of him, he will be certainly raped. Prison guards ignore those who are seen with condoms simply because they were given out to them by the guards [in the] first place."

A group of 26 prominent political prisoners, including former Deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh and Mohsen Mirdamadi, secretary-general of the banned reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, have written to the state prison monitoring organization describing systematic abuses, including sexual assaults, against jailed opposition activists.

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Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:

The children of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi asked the 18 political prisoners who are on hunger strike to end their action. Their statement reads,

Your message of strike was heard loudly by your compatriots and comrades. Although your lives are your only way of sending your message about seeking the truth and your rights, these Green lives are dear to everyone, your patient families, and us who are familiar with your pain, and your health is the cause of our hope [for the future]. Thus, as your brothers and sisters we ask you to end your hunger strikes. If our parents were not under arrest, as you are, they would make the same request.

The Association of Researchers and Scholars of Qom, a clerical group that supports the Green Movement, and the popular Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Mohammad Dastgheib also asked the 18 to end their strike. Dastgheib said, "God willing, the ruling group will be punished."

One hundred and sixty-two prominent physicians wrote a letter to judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, telling him that he should not remain silent about what is happening to the political prisoners. Ahmad Montazeri, son of the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, also wrote to Larijani, saying, "Instead of denying or justifying wrongdoings, undertake fundamental reforms to satisfy the people." Criticizing Larijani's declaration that Iran will not allow the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights to visit the country, Montazeri said, "The first thing that comes to mind is, What is going on in the country that an international observer is not allowed to inspect the situation? If the judiciary that you head has not done anything wrong, what are you afraid of?"

Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, chief deputy to Sadegh Larijani said, "The judiciary believes that the presence of the human rights rapporteur in Iran will provoke sedition because they want to lead the counterrevolutionaries to create a tumult after he visits Iran." This is again contrary to what Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has said. Criticizing what he called the "politicization of human rights," Salehi claimed that even before the U.N. appointed the special rapporteur, Iran had asked the organization to send an investigator to Iran. But Raeisi, reaffirming Larijani's position, said that the judiciary is opposed to the visit. Raeisi was one of the key people responsible for the execution of nearly 4,500 political prisoners in the summer of 1988.

Prominent investigative journalist and human rights advocate Emad Baghi, who was released from prison after serving his sentence in full, said that his release is not the end of his activities on behalf of his fellow citizens' rights. "Many Iranians are still wrongfully in jail. Although I have been released from prison, half of me is still in jail with others," he said in an interview with Amnesty International. Baghi is one of the prisoners who went on hunger strike to protest the death of Haleh Sahabi and reza Hoda Saber.

Hardline cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda, Friday Prayer Imam of Mashhad, said that Khamenei is personally directing the confrontation with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Unfortunately the perversion that has been created forced the Supreme Leader to personally intervene and manage the challenge [to the system]. He must warn about the perversion, even if he has previously supported the same group," he said.

Hossein Fadaei, a former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer and secretary-general of the hardline Society of Islamic Revolution Devotees (Isaargaran), said that the "perverted group" -- code name for Ahmadinejad's chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei and his associates -- has employed jinns everywhere. He said that the group uses people who can predict the future to advance its agenda. He mentioned a person named Yaghoobi, whose father was killed during the Iran-Iraq War, and said that he claims to be in direct contact with the prophets and that his father is a judge of the jinns. He added that the jinns are present in the Majles and the executive branch. According to him, Imam Hossein, Shiism's Third Imam, rejected jinns' offer of help in the Karbala event.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, former secretary-general of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, said that if the ruling group wants a large turnout in the Majles elections next March, it should release the political prisoners, return the military to the barracks, allow free press and freedom for the political parties, and guarantee a democratic vote. In essence, Khatami, younger brother of former President Mohammad Khatami, repeated his brother's conditions for participation in the elections.

Six prominent political prisoners, Rasoul Bodaghi, Masoud Bastani, Isa Saharkhiz, Ali Ajami, Keyvan Samimi, and Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, have written a letter to U.N. special rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed on the state of human rights in Iran, asking him not only to visit the prisons, but also to meet with the families of the political prisoners. The six are incarcerated in Rajaei Shahr Prison near Karaj, west of Tehran. In their letter, the six men say that they have been imprisoned only because they tried, as part of their civic duties, to create democratic change in Iran's political conditions and the state of human rights, in particular by taking part in the 2009 presidential election.

Tara Sepehrifar, former secretary-general of the Muslim Student Association at Sharif University, has been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment and 74 lashes. The court has also seized her bail. Her "trial," of which her attorney was not informed, lasted two minutes.

Maysam Emamzadeh, a student activist at the University of Semnan was arrested. There is no information on his whereabouts. The university was in a state of agitation after his arrest, which the students protested by singing patriotic songs. Mohammad Amin Alizadeh, a Kurdish student activist at the University of Isfahan in central Iran, was also arrested. He studies sociology and is the editor of a student newsletter, Chia.

In a letter, political prisoner Mehdi Koohkan, who is being held in Evin Prison, says that if he does not receive medical treatment, he will lose a foot. He writes, "Because treatment of his right knee has been stopped, it has developed infection. To prevent spreading of the infection, I have been taking antibiotics, which have created digestive problems for me. Under torture in Ward 240, my right knee was hurt. After 17 months, they finally agreed that I can seek out treatment and pay for it myself. I had surgery on May 22 in Taleghani Hospital, while I was chained to the bed and was mistreated by the security agents. These conditions created problems for my back and neck. Before my treatment was over, I was returned to Evin Prison. I was supposed to return to the hospital to seek continue treatment, but after a month they still do not allow me to do so. If the infection spreads, they will have to amputate my foot."

Nationalist-religious journalist and political figure Dr. Ali Reza Rajaei has been transferred to Evin's Ward 350, where political prisoners are held amid common criminals. Arrested on April 24, he has said that interrogators told him that he was arrested due to his "conviction" a decade ago. That conviction, after a large number of nationalist-religious figures were arrested in March 2001, was appealed, but never taken up by the courts. As a result, the conviction is not final, and the recent arrest is illegal.

Amnesty International has called for urgent action for the release from detention of Kurdish environmental activist Farzad Haghshenas. According to the organization's statement,

Farzad Haghshenas, an environmental activist and member of the NGO Sabzchia (the Green Mountain Society), was arrested on 18 May 2011 in front of his shop in Marivan, Kurdestan Province, north western Iran. He is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. A member of the Kurdish minority in Iran, Farzad Haghshenas, 35, was arrested in front of his confectionary shop by members of the Ministry of Intelligence. No reason was given for his arrest. He was taken to the Marivan Intelligence detention facility. His mother was allowed to visit him on 13 June 2011 and he told her that he was being kept in solitary confinement and that he did not know why he was being held. Haghshenas is a member of the environmental NGO Sabzchia whose objective is to ensure that the countryside around Marivan is clean.

Laura Fattal, 58, and Cindy Hickey, 50, the mothers of two American hikers imprisoned in Iran for nearly two years, will renew a rolling hunger strike to protest their sons' detention, they said in a statement. They said that they are preparing to spend their birthdays without their sons for the second straight year, and planned to fast from Saturday, June 25, to Thursday, June 30. "The only thing we want for our birthdays is for justice to be served," said Fattal, whose son Josh, was arrested with Shane Bauer on July 31, 2009, near the border between northern Iraq and Iran. The two men are being held on charges of spying and entering Iran illegally. Their mothers will be joined in the hunger strike by Ingrid Betancourt, a former hostage in Colombia, and U.S. antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed fighting in Iraq. The two mothers, who first launched the rolling hunger strike on May 19, plan to hold a news conference in New York next Thursday.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced sanctions against IranAir, the Islamic Republic's national air carrier, and Tidewater Middle East company, the largest operator of deep water ports in Iran. The Treasury said that the reason was their affiliation with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The sanctions were imposed under Executive Order 13382, signed by former President George W. Bush in 2005. The order gives the Treasury Department the authority to freeze the assets of companies and individuals associated with the Revolutionary Guards. The Treasury Department claimed that the Guards use IranAir to ship military supplies, including rockets and missiles, throughout Iran and to Syria. The Guards own Tidewater, which operates facilities at seven Iranian ports; the Treasury alleged that arms shipments originating from Tidewater facilities have been uncovered in Africa and the Middle East.

Last year the European Union banned most of IranAir's jets from flying to Europe. The E.U. said that the ban was due to safety concerns, and not related to United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. IranAir's Boeing 727s and 747s, along with its Airbus 320s, were placed on the E.U. blacklist following a safety audit.

The E.U. also imposed sanctions on three important Revolutionary Guard figures. They are Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the Guards' top commander; Major General Ghasem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force, the Guards' foreign operations unit; and cleric Hossein Taeb, head of the Guards' intelligence unit and former commander of the Basij force. The E.U. accused the trio of helping Syria's government to crackdown on the demonstrations there.

Russia and China oppose publicizing a report to the U.N. Security Council about violations of the sanctions imposed on Iran. The reason given is that the report does not contain enough reliable information as yet. The report apparently details the shipment of arms by Iran to its strategic ally, Syria, some which eventually reach the Islamic Republic's allies, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari. The three presidents discussed fighting terrorism, radicalism, and narcotic trafficking in the region.

Sergey Kiriyenko, chief of Rosatom -- the Russian Nuclear Energy Commission -- said that the Bushehr light-water nuclear reactor will soon come online at full power. After a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Kiriyenko said that Russian engineers are carrying out the final tests on the power plant's turbines.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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