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Shocking Story Of Torture And Attempts By Officials To Evade Accusations

Civil rights activist and journalist Sepideh Qolian. File photo

A female civil rights activist who was arrested in November and spent close to one month in detention has talked about “brutal torture” of her and a labor activist arrested with her.

Sepideh Qolian was at the Haft-Tapeh Sugar Mill in November, where workers were on strike and protesting for their unpaid wages, when security officers attacked and detained her with several labor activists.

At the moment of the arrest they started beating her and a labor leader, Esmail Bakhshi who tried to intervene was severely assaulted. Qolian says that Bakhshi lost consciousness and they were taken to prison where systematic torture began.

On January 7, Bakhshi wrote about their torture on his Instagram page, which led to a public debate in Iran about torture. Top officials began talking about it and parliament members as well as the usually hardline Judiciary promised to investigate.

Qolian says that in a meeting earlier this week, intelligence ministry officials suggested that maybe she and Bakhsi “were imagining” the torture. But Qolian wrote on Twitter, “Remembering those 30 days of brutal and inhuman treatment brings tears to my eyes and makes me tremble.”

Qolian also attests that Bakhshi’s torture in the first ten days was so severe that she thought he must have died.

She adds that that agents forced her to sign a confession of sexual nature under the threat of electric shocks. They told her she will be freed only if she makes sexual confessions.

Qolian says gents told her that if she speaks out after her release, they will publicize her confessions from national TV.

After the initial reaction of many parliamentarians and officials to deal with the torture allegations, the Islamic Republic now seems determined to sweep the issue under the rug.

The chairman of the national security commission of parliament that had promised to question the intelligence minister, later said that the minister has denied the allegations and his commission considers the matter closed.

Initially, President Hassan Rouhani also said the allegation should be investigated, but on January 9 his chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi made a turnaround and threatened to prosecute Bakhshi based on the denial of torture by the minister of intelligence.

The about-face by officials happened while the official investigation in Khuzestan province where the arrests and detention took place has just started.