Torture and abuse in Iranian prisons
21 October 2012 – ANF – Taken into custody in Mahabad in 2007, Emini served his sentence in five separate prisons, suffering torture and abuse.
Eyes have once again been turned to Iranian prisons where human rights violations and death sentences have recently recorded a remarkable increase as more and more Kurdish prisoners are being subjected to torture, ill-treatment and punishments every passing day. Hadi Emini, a Kurdish prisoner who has been released recently, spoke to ANF about his experience and the situation in Iranian prisons.
Hadi Emini was taken into custody in the Iranian city of Mahabad as a result of a conspiracy in 2007. He served his sentence in five separate prisons where he was subjected to torture during both his interrogation and arrest like other prisoners. Emini called on the international opinion to denounce the situation in Iranian prisons where –he said- the systematical torture has so far claimed many lives and still constitutes risk of death for many others.
Let’s start from your own experience. How were you taken into custody and what did you experience while in custody?
I was taken into custody as a result of a conspiracy carried out by a person who I later understood to be an intelligence officer. Like all other people, I was also subjected to interrogation after my detention. The first phase of the interrogation aims to force the detainee to submit as he is subjected to psychological and physical torture should he not give the information they want. They practice all kinds of methods, including rape, to harm human dignity. The Iranian state deems torture proper to whoever opposes it.
What about the legal process?
The courts are just for formality as they progress in accordance with the statements and information given under torture in custody. The intelligence service notifies the court about the punishment it proposes and the court therewith puts that decision in an official frame. Neither the accused nor lawyers have the right to voice their defense because of the fact that the judges at Iranian courts are elected from former officers of the intelligence service responsible for interrogation. When I wanted to raise an objection against some accusations at court, the judge insulted intelligence members involved in my interrogation for not having tortured me enough. The entire staff of judges is made up of former soldiers or intelligence officers with completely ideological purposes. While in custody, I was not only threatened with being turned into a drug addict but also told that release, a long prison sentence or death penalty was something they could decide at their wish.
Can you tell us what kind of torture a prisoner face?
Torture begins while entering the prison as detainees are undressed and beaten at the very beginning before they are put in wards. Those not surrounding in custody are however not left alone in prison too. On the other hand, prisons have a remarkable over-population problem which makes prisoners go to bed in shifts as six hundred prisoners live in a ward designed for two hundred.
Prisoners aren’t even allowed to develop any human relation and are interrogated as soon as they talk about current issues. As the use and distribution of drugs is allowed in prison, you are warned to not to interfere should you react against this practice. Guantanamo has a reputation but each prison in Iran is a kind of Guantanamo.
Are these practices a common policy in all Iranian prisons or are they implemented just in pilot prisons?
These practices are mainly implemented in Kurdistan prisons where every day dozens of people die because of drugs which are brought into prisons through prison officers and distributed to prisoners by means of networks of agents. However, special methods are used in Mahabad prison where the Iranian state follows a specific policy as this prison leaded a resistance in the past. Drugs, although said to be ‘banned’ in Iran, are used as a very significant state policy as many kilos of drugs are let in by intelligence officers every day. 150 out of 200 prisoners in Mahabad have been made drug addicts, while officers impose continuous pressure on new prisoners, especially the young ones, to make them drug addicts too. Political prisoners are wanted to be destroyed in Iranian prisons. One of the common diseases in prisons is the AIDS which is always used as a means of threat.
How many years and in which prisons did you serve your sentence?
I spent five years in five separate prisons, two months in Urmiye prison, six months in Serdest, one year in Mahabad, two years in Tehran’s Evin prison and sixteen months in a prison in the city of Kerez.
The prison in Kerez is also particular where torture is common and there is a heavy security. Prisoners are sent to this prison where all public officers are made up of specially trained intelligence officers. There are different kinds of prisoner groups whose discussions or debates usually end up in injuries or deaths. The state doesn’t interfere in these conflicts and it even promotes them. Some formal changes have been made recently only in Tehran’s Evin prison for it has been watched by the world for some time.
As to another significant problem in Mahabad, Evin and other prisons, prisoners who fall ill because of prison circumstances or some other different reasons are left to their fate. We witnessed many prisoners dying because of lack of medical treatment. There is no competent authority to appeal to when you fall ill in prison as the court refuses to listen to your complaint saying that it is not the court’s duty to provide medical service. The disease of a prisoner in Evin prison progressed more and more every day, until he first lost his eyes and then died for not being cured. This is the way they want all political prisoners to die. Their policies aim not only to force prisoners to surrender but also to take revenge as many prisoners are mutilated under torture, transmitted AIDS or made drug addict so that they can no more resist against the state once again. They also torture women from prisoners’ families and threaten to rape those women in front of their eyes. Political prisoners are forced to expose the organisation they are affiliated to in front of cameras. When not feeling convinced about the interrogation of a prisoner or when seeing a negative situation against him, prison officials take him out of the prison, interrogate and torture him outside before imposing new sentences and sending him back to prison. To give an example, prisoner Munsur Rapur was sentenced to five years in prison after he had been subjected to this process. Despite the fact that some circles of the society are still being an instrument of the policies of the Iranian state because of different kinds of concerns, the freedom struggle in Iranian prisons bases on the tradition of Amed prison’s resistance (Diyarbakir prison in the 1980’s saw a huge resistance) against which the prison policy of the Iranian system fails.
Many comrades of us have resisted against the system of Iranian prisons despite all kinds of torture they faced before being sentenced to death. Şehit Soran, Ferzad Kemanger, Elî Heyderiyan, Şirin Elemhuli, Ferhat Wekili and many others are among those who couldn’t be made to resign and were therefore executed. Are prisoners allowed visits by their families and lawyers?
Iranian laws allow visits by families once a week or two weeks but these visits generally don’t take place because of the fact that visitors are subjected to torture and humiliating practices, such as being completely undressed and searched in a dishonourable way, before they are allowed to pass a 700 meter tunnel under ground and see their children. Talks between prisoners and their families are carried out with telephones behind a glass and last only a few minutes. Prison officials don’t spare any kind of disrespect against prisoners’ families whom they considered as “guilty” as the prisoner. The conversation between the prisoner and his family is also followed carefully in order to prevent families to inform prisoners about developments outside. Letters for prisoners are delivered to them only after heavy censorship.
Lawyers don’t play a role in the Iranian state where everything is controlled by intelligence officers. There are some good lawyers who defend human rights but there is no mechanism or authority to take them seriously and listen to their defense.
Political prisoners are always threatened with being left to mafia groups in prisons, while in some prisons they are put in separate wings with circumstances that are designed to destroy the prisoners and therefore don’t fulfil any human needs. The political prisoners in these very narrow cells like a dark box are allowed to air for only two hours a day. Dozens of people have lost their life because of these reason in recent times, like Hüseyni Dövmeci, Muhsin Ratpur and Mehdi Zali who were tortured and then died due to lack of treatment.
On the other hand, the way from prison to the court becomes a torture itself as prisoners are subjected to humiliating practices as well as continuous psychological pressure. Would you like to add anything about what you and many other prisoners experience in Iranian jails? On the basis of what I and many others have been through, I can say that there is a heavy violation of human rights in Iranian prisons which, as the saying goes, put the situation on a red alert. However, political prisoners continue to resist. Despite numerous hunger strikes they have undertaken to protest against these practices, the pressure on them becomes more violent and causes death as international institutions don’t exercise enough pressure on the Iranian government to stop these abuses. I should also remark that a number of political prisoners currently face the risk of death for not receiving treatment for their diseases. From here, I am calling on international institutions to carry out inspections so that executions and inhuman treatments could end and the voice of the people in prisons could be heard.