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Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and Suppression of Dissent in Iran

3.       Arrests and Detention of Demonstrators

At this time, the numbers of demonstrators who were arrested during the post-election demonstrations remain unknown. In August, the Iranian government stated that 4,000 people throughout the country had been arrested but that 300 remained in custody.[330] Arrests began even before the end of Election Day, but information regarding those arrested continues to be scarce and distorted. Many demonstrators who were arrested or taken to a hospital lost contact with the outside world. Although families frantically searched for them, it often took days, if not weeks, to learn the fate of their loved ones.[331] 

Many detainees suffered from lack of medical attention exacerbated by beatings, sexual molestation and rape from the time of their initial arrest and throughout their temporary detention, arraignment and release. An unknown number died. Hamid Maddah Shourche worked on Mousavi’s campaign in Mashhad. He was arrested on June 15 while participating in a sit-in protest at Mashhad’s Goharshad mosque. Only days after his release, Shourche died from a brain hemorrhage due to the injuries he suffered while in detention.[332]

Amir-Hossein Toufanpour, the father of a seven-year-old, was separated from his brother on June 15 at Azadi Square. His family instantly began a frantic search for him but never saw him alive again. Late that night, they received a phone call explaining that Toufanpour had been shot in the hand and was resting at Hazrat-i Rasul Hospital, but when they reached the hospital, he was no longer there. They searched every hospital in the city, but could not find a trace of him. Finally, four days later, on a visit to the medical examiner’s office, they found his picture in a catalog of the dead. He did, in fact, have a gunshot wound close to his hand. In addition, he was shot in his side and waist, had a bruised upper torso and neck, a broken arm and nose, and a deep gash in the back of his head that had been filled with cotton, presumably to stop the bleeding.[333] In order to receive his body without paying the requisite bullet fees—which the regime charges victims of shootings—family had to convince the authorities that Toufanpour was not a member of an opposition group and promise to refrain from holding a memorial service.[334]

Amir Javadifar and Seyyed Ali Akbar Kheradnejad participated in demonstrations on July 9. The latter was arrested at Valiasr Square by plainclothes officers at around 4:30 pm. He was beaten during his arrest, and throughout his time in custody.

They tied my hands behind me and put me in the van. They were attacking me from behind and were beating me. All kinds of insults and threats of rape were flying in the air. I was taken to police precinct 148, which is located on Felestin Street. There were three other people who were arrested with me and were sitting at the back of the van. When we arrived, we were body searched and were beaten again at the courtyard of the precinct. First they put us in a cage and insulted us in obscene language. Police officers in the precinct were not in charge. Plainclothes forces were beating us with batons through the bars and were laughing at us.[335]

Kheradnejad did not stay long at Precinct 148, but he recalls that during his time there, Javadifar was present as well:

[A] doctor showed up who wanted to take Amir and one other prisoner to the hospital but the plainclothes forces were not letting him. The doctor got into an argument with them and asked them to put that in writing. [T]he doctor said that he did not want to be responsible for their deaths.[336]

Javadifar was eventually moved from Precinct 148 to a small detention center named Kahrizak.[337] Kheradnejad was threatened with the same fate, but after receiving a charge sheet that included the crime of “acting against national security,” he was taken to Ward 240 in Evin Prison. There, the injured detainees were held without contact with the outside world until Sunday, when they were allowed to make short phone calls to their families. After that, they were held in dark cells, interrogated and fed false information about such things as the death of family members.[338]

Kheradnejad was released after his family posted bail. Outside Evin, desperate family members with photographs of their loved ones asked him for any information. Frightened by his experience, he avoided contact with any of the people with whom he had been arrested and soon left Iran for Britain.[339]

An alleged former Basij member seeking refuge in Britain, has reported that rape of detainees was a benefit conferred on Sepah and Basij members for their security work:

We asked what all the noise was about. They said, “Nothing, this is Fath Al Moin (aid to victory).” … We said: “What do you mean, what are you doing? Who’s in there?” Because they were Basij from the provinces, we didn’t know them. We asked: “What’s happening, why are they crying?” As we pursued the matter, the confrontation got worse and they said, “You have no right to enter.” My relative said: “What do you mean? I’m one of the leaders here. You can’t tell me I have no right.” And it really was so, but they didn’t allow us entry. We were all responsible and we clashed. After a few minutes, a vehicle came into the courtyard. Someone must have alerted the others that we were trying to prevent them from achieving what they set out to do, the Fath Al Moin. They had come for us to prevent the scene from deteriorating. They said our superior had summoned us.

[My relative] was very angry. When we got there, he said: “What is this? Sexual abuse is a serious crime. Who gave this order? Who authorized this?” Hajji[340] calmly replied with a smile: “This is Fath Al Moin. It’s a worthy deed. There’s nothing wrong with it. Why are you complaining?” When he said this, Hajji thought it would calm my relative down to know this. But the opposite happened—he became more upset. He raised his voice, saying: “What do you mean it’s not a crime?” “What do you mean it’s not a recognized crime? That it’s a good deed?” Hajji saw that he had lost control and said: “What’s the big deal? Nothing’s happened. What is the issue here?”[341]

Maryam Sabri, a twenty-one year old employee of a boating company, was one of their victims. She was arrested on July 30 during protests marking the fortieth day of mourning for those killed on June 20 and particularly Neda Agha-Soltan. 

On a Thursday, Neda’s 40th, between 5 and 5:15 in Behesht-e Zahra [cemetery,] I was chanting slogans when the guys said we should run. When I turned, I saw that there were loads of Basij and Sepah behind us. There were around a hundred. I started running in the [cemetery’s] sections, and after I was hit a few times while running, I fell to the ground in one of the sections. [By] the time I got up there were plainclothes men all around me. They started beating me with batons and kicking me. Then they took me away. There were five of them and they were all men.[342]

Sabri was arrested, blindfolded, cuffed and taken with five or six others in a van to an unknown detention center. There, she was left in a dark, closet-like cell by herself where she had just enough room to sit with her legs stretched out. The sounds of beatings, screams, crying and cursing filled her cell and she herself was periodically interrogated and beaten by ski-mask-wearing guards.[343]

The first three times she was interrogated, she faced cursing and beatings, but she refused to cooperate fully with the interrogators. She was raped during the fourth session.

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Sexual Violence, Death Penalty, Political Killings, Executions, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Travel Restrictions, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Illegal Search and Seizure, Free Speech, Right to Protest, Protests, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination, Reports