The Torturers and the Secretary

By now, most people know that the Iranian regime treats its dissidents with unrestrained barbarity.  Even the leading dead tree media have reported anecdotally on the torture of prisoners and the bashing, beating, axing and stabbing of protestors in the streets of the major cities.  But it is not easy to get a clear picture of the dimensions of the savagery.  It’s hard to get the real numbers on the bloody repression the mullahs have unleashed on their people, and one reason–perhaps the most important one–is that the regime is doing everything in its power to conceal the facts, typically using the same cruel methods that filled the prisons in the first place.

Officially, the regime claims only 37 dead since the demonstrations began on the 12th of June, but about 1800 persons remain unaccounted for.  The real figure is very close to five hundred known dead.  And, according to reliable sources, the morgues still have a stockpiles of about 400 corpses. Each day three to four corpses are released to relatives.

The release of the cadavers follows a singularly macabre procedure. Close relatives, such as mothers, are ordered to report to a particular prison. Upon arrival they are immediately – and totally unexpectedly - jailed for two days. After these two days they are told that they can be released but that they first have to sign a secrecy pledge about their treatment and a declaration that their loved one had died of “innocent causes,” such as a car crash. The regime uses several other non-torture related death causes, such as brain injury, heart surgery, etc.

After signing the papers the relative can receive the corpse. Upon receipt of the corpse of the [mainly young] man or woman, the real cause of death–brutal torture–becomes obvious.  They see their loved one totally beaten up,  nails pulled out, evidence of rape, bodies covered with so many burns that it is difficult to recognize the dead person, and the like.

Despite the secrecy pledge, these horrendous details are now emerging and even members of the usually very loyal part of the clergy are now disgusted and upset.  Indeed, there is so much disgust with the supreme leader and his men, that the country is inundated by leaks from the highest level of the regime.

The most famous of these leaks were contained in a letter written by one of the leaders of the opposition Green Movement, Mehdi Karroubi, to his sometime ally, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who still sits in the country’s two most powerful “legislative” bodies, the Guardian Council and the Council of Experts.

Karroubi’s letter was published on August 9th in a newspaper close to his group, and then reprinted on the reformist Norooz web site.  The principal accusation was the sexual torture of prisoners.  Citing “people who hold sensitive positions in the regime,” Karroubi wrote:

Some of the detainees say that [certain] people [in the prisons] are raping girls who have been arrested, causing them vaginal tearing and injuries. They are also raping young boys, causing them depression and severe physical and emotional harm... so that [after their release] they hide in the corners of their homes.

In light of the gravity of [these allegations], I expect you, as head of the Assembly of Experts, [to form] a committee to will investigate and deal with this matter objectively and transparently...

Although the rape of prisoners is a longstanding practice in the Islamic Republic, the letter produced a considerable outcry.  The Parliament appointed a special investigator, who said he could not digest the horrible details (or perhaps face the consequences to himself if he submitted an accurate report), and promptly resigned.  But his resignation was rejected.  Meanwhile Karroubi himself has left Tehran for his native Lorestan, where he can count on the protection of his people.