IranWire has recently obtained a voice note from a female inmate in Urmia prison, in northwestern Iran, saying that a 22-year-old woman committed suicide soon after being release from custody.
The young woman, identified as Afsaneh, was arrested during recent anti-government protests, the source said. While in prison, she kept yelling at the other inmates she had been repeatedly raped during her interrogation by agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) intelligence agency.
Afsaneh was transferred to a hospital because of her critical mental and physical condition and was later released, before taking away her own life, according to the voice note.
The torture and sexual abuse Afsaneh, from the city of Bukan, is said to have experienced while in custody has been shared by many women locked up in Iran’s detention facilities.
Fatemeh Davand, a political activist who has been incarcerated at Urmia prison, left Iran last year and is currently living in Turkey. She has spoken to several women recently released from the prison or who remain behind bars there. They said they both witnessed and suffered sexual violence while in detention.
“At least eight young women, including a 17-year-old girl, said that they were raped by IRGC intelligence forces during their preliminary interrogation before entering the prison,” Davand said.
Teenagers, young women tortured and raped
Some reports indicated that at least 18,000 people, including many women, have been arrested in the brutal state crackdown on the protest movement that started more than two months ago. IranWire has identified 577 of the arrested women; some of them have been released on bail.
“Around 150 women, most of them young girls from Kurdish cities of West Azerbaijan province, have been detained in cities such as Mahabad and Bukan since the protests began on September 16, and have been transferred to Urmia prison,” Davand said.
According to the activist, they were first interrogated in the IRGC Intelligence Organization’s temporary detention centres for about two weeks before being transferred to the women’s ward at Urmia prison.
At the temporary detention centres, the so-called “rioters” are being subjected to all sorts of abuse by IRGC agents, including rape.
A woman who was kept with other recently detained protesters in Urmia prison was able to stay in the general ward for about 10 minutes, Davand said. She told other inmates that at least eight women who were recently arrested had been tortured and rapped. They were said to be aged between 17 and 23.
Another inmate delivered a message to the general ward on a small piece of paper reading: “Get a pack of LD pills, birth control pills, for the newly arrested women.”
“A 17-year-old girl gave her family’s phone number to a trusted prisoner and asked her to tell her family that she was in prison, which she was raped but could not say more. She said that she was tortured very badly,” Davand said.
Prisoners are silenced by violence
Former prisoners told Davand that those who were arrested during the protests have been kept away from other prisoners and packed in “two small rooms and one corridor”.
One of them said that the arrested protestors “are prevented from getting fresh air, telephone and talk with other prisoners.”
Every night at 8 p.m. the guards forcefully give sleeping pills to them, saying they will help them keep their spirit up.
“Most of the detainees who protest the situation would be given an injection and then would be transferred to Razi hospital. We don’t know what happens to them there,” Davand said.
Once, inmates complained they had been raped and other prisoners protested in their support, but IRGC agents entered the prison, took at least 10 of them to the Ministry of Information and beat them, according to Davand.
Sex for furlough
Rape in Iran’s detention centers is not a new phenomenon that emerges with the current protests.
A prisoner who was serving a 15-year prison sentence told Davand that she lost consciousness as interrogators were raping her. When she regained consciousness, she had no underwear on her.
“A male interrogator put a bottle of soda into my friend’s vagina before my eyes and they scared and threatened me. After seeing this, I shouted: ‘I will do whatever you want and confess whatever you want’”, another prisoner told Davand.
Davand said many correctional officers are using their powers to have sexual relations with female prisoners, in exchange for a 10-day furlough for instance.
“Leila was one of my friends in prison, she requested furlough to see her children. Mr. Faramarzi (eds: the head of the administrative department) said the request should be reviewed by a five-member committee and that he would give the final decision. He asked Leila for sex. She did not accept and could not go to see her children.”