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Surviving Rape in Iran's Prisons

I. Introduction

Allegations of rape and sexual violence of political prisoners by authorities began to emerge after the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979 and have continued, to varying degrees, to the present. However, not surprisingly, there is no reliable estimate of the number of prisoners raped in the Islamic Republic’s prisons; no data or comprehensive report has ever been compiled that portrays the full scope of sexual violence in Iran’s prisons. The reasons are simple: few rape victims are willing to speak about their experiences due to (1) government pressure and acquiescence, and (2) social stigma. Iranian authorities have and continue to acquiesce to rapes of prisoners by guards and interrogators who use rape to crush detainees' spirits, inflict humiliation, discourage their dissent, force them to confess to crimes, and ultimately to intimidate them and others.

Rape is always traumatic and has long-term physical, psychological and social effects on victims. Understandably, this means that many victims are unable to publicly acknowledge their experiences, even many years later.1 Many have never even told their families. Given these circumstances, therefore, it is very likely that the few witnesses who have come forward to report rapes they witnessed and experienced in Iranian prisons represent only a small percentage of the total number of cases.

This report documents the ordeals of five former prisoners – two women and three men. They span the almost 30 years of the Islamic Republic’s existence. Four witnesses were raped; one was threatened with rape and saw rape victims. Three of the rape victims were politically active, one in the early days of the revolution and the other two during the last few years. All experienced overtly violent and gang rape. One of the victims in addition to being ganged raped, was sexually exploited by a guard. All were traumatized and some considered suicide.

IHRDC has interviewed many former prisoners who were raped or threatened with rape in Iranian prisons. While many chose to not tell their stories publicly, we wish to express our heartfelt understanding and thank you to all who agreed to speak with us about their experiences.

[1] See Golnaz Esfandiari, New Prison rape allegations in Iran Bring practice to light, RADIO FREE EUROPE, Aug. 26, 2009, available at http://www.rferl.org/articleprintview/1808311.html (last visited June 3, 2011).

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Tagged as:

Imprisonment, Sexual Violence, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment