Some protesters who have experienced sexual harassment and assault in the hands of the security forces in detention have shared their harrowing stories with Iran International.
Female and male victims including some as young as eighteen have told Iran International TV that sexual violence against detained protesters is quite widespread. Their stories are very difficult to verify due to victims’ fear of disclosing personal information and retribution against them and their families.
One of the victims said she and others who were arrested with her were stripped naked in front of male officers at Vali Asr Garrison in Tehran, groped in the genital area, sprayed with cold water, and repeatedly tased to force them to consent to make so-called televised “confessions” against themselves and others. “They threatened us with rape,” the victim who was freed on bail after twenty days said.
“There were two female and two male officers in the van [that took us to Enghelab Police Station]. The men body searched us in the most disgusting manner,” another female victim from Tehran who was arrested with others on Enghelab Avenue said, adding that the male officers told them to shut up when they protested to being touched by them when there were female officers present.
A victim from the religious city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, said she and eleven others were stripped in front of male officers and then forced to squat jump while the officers “frenziedly laughed.” Others have also said officers had groped their backsides and squeezed their breasts during arrest and interrogations. Many say they were threatened with rape or even rape of their family members.
These incidents have been reported from detention centers, prisons, and sometimes in places outside the official system such as warehouses out of town in several major cities including Esfahan, Rasht, Tehran, Karaj, Bandar Abbas, Ahvaz, Tabriz, Sanandaj, Amol, and Mashhad.
Armita Abbasi was reportedly raped brutally after being arrested on October 10, 2022.
There are some reports of much worse violence. Armita Abbasi, a young woman of 20, was reportedly raped brutally after being arrested on October 10. She was taken to a hospital in Karaj on October 18 by security forces with multiple injuries including internal bleeding, a shaved head, and evidence of repeated rape. Reportedly, they tried to pressure the doctors to attribute the rape trauma evidence to a time prior to her arrest. Her trial, according to her mother, has been scheduled for January 26.
Influential Sunni cleric Mowlavi Abdolhamid Esmail-Zehi in his Friday sermon December 23 referred to reports of rape and torture of detainees. In a tweet on December 5, Abdolhamid had said the accounts of sexual assault on female detainees to humiliate them or to force them to make false “confessions” against themselves corroborate the allegations made by the media and urged the judiciary to investigate such allegations.
Ladan Boroumand, cofounder and research director of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in Iran, told Iran International that the government is using sexual violence to demonstrate that it knows no boundaries when it comes to achieving its goal of suppressing the protest movement, to humiliate the detainees, and to instil fear in other people.
In a report on December 21 entitled “Brutal Repression in Kurdistan Capital”, Human Rights Watch said it has documented serious abuses, including sexual harassment and assault against detainees. Two women arrested together during the first week of protests in September told the global rights watchdog that security forces beat, sexually assaulted, and threatened them with rape during arrest and while they were held at the police station.