Former political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi

Iranian Dissident Alleges Sexual Assault Threat by Security Forces

Tuesday, 06/11/2024

Former political prisoner Hossein Ronaghi has alleged that security forces threatened him with sexual assault and confiscated his belongings while he was traveling from Tabriz to Tehran on Sunday.

In a social media post on Monday, the activist described the incident: “What stood out for me was the public threat of rape by a young man in plain clothes at the Tabriz airport, along with the deputy prosecutor of Tabriz breaking the law and stealing my belongings!”
As he described on X, the national emblems of the Lion, Sun, and "Woman, Life, Freedom" movement caught the attention of agents, who ridiculed him. Woman, Life, Freedom became the slogan for the nationwide protest in Iran in 2022 following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. Over 550 protesters were killed during the uprising.

Ronaghi had to flee his home in September 2022 as security agents raided his home while he was speaking with Iran International about unfolding protests.

The blogger was waiting to board the flight in the transit lounge when officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) approached him and told him they need to ask questions and inspect his bag one more time. He was then interrogated, and his belongings were searched.

The agents told him he could not leave unless he surrendered all his belongings, claiming that the deputy prosecutor of Tabriz had ordered the confiscation of his mobile phone, laptop, electronic devices, and identity documents.

Describing the conversation he had with one of the agents, Ronaghi wrote: “Suddenly, in a harsh tone, he threatened to rape me, saying: ‘It's a pity that Islam has tied my hands. Otherwise, I would have shown you what it means to suffer (as a result of rape)!

Ronaghi wrote he replied to the plainclothesman: Do you think these threats scare us? Or does it compel us to be silent? No one is afraid of you anymore!" Ronaghi wrote on X.

Ronaghi's brief detention at the airport and confiscation of his belongings could be part of regime actions to intimidate dissidents during the tightly controlled presidential election on June 28. He is a well-know dissident and has published opinion articles in Western media.

In the past decade, the dissident activist has been arrested several times and has staged hunger strikes in prison. He was first arrested, along with his brother Hassan, in the aftermath of the disputed presidential elections in 2009 for assisting journalists and political activists to circumvent internet censorship. In addition, he was charged with insulting the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in his blog posts.

His most recent arrest was in September 2022 during the Woman, Life Freedom protests. He was detained along with his lawyers in front of the Evin Prison prosecutor's office and subsequently tortured. In protest, he went on a hunger strike. Iranian authorities later released Ronaghi on bail.

According to human rights sources, previous rounds of torture had resulted in him losing one kidney, with his remaining kidney functioning at only 60 percent.

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