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Iranian security forces raped and sexually assaulted protesters

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Published: 10:34 GMT, 7 December 2023 | Updated: 11:35 GMT, 7 December 2023

Iranian security forces raped and sexually assaulted male and female protesters as young as 12, according to a damning new report.

Amnesty International found security forces used rape and sexual violence to torture, punish and traumatise protesters arrested as part of the Tehran regime’s crackdown on nationwide protests that erupted from September 2022.

The rights group said it had gathered testimonies from 12 women, 26 men, one girl and six boys who survived rape or other forms of sexual violence.

Its 120-page report details 45 cases of rape, gang rape or sexual violence against protesters, with six victims gang-raped by groups of up to ten men.

With cases in more than half of Iran‘s provinces, Amnesty expressed fear these documented violations appeared part of a ‘wider pattern’.

Iranian security forces raped and sexually assaulted male and female protesters as young as 12, according to a damning new report

Amnesty International found security forces used rape and sexual violence to torture, punish and traumatise protesters arrested as part of the Tehran regime’s crackdown on nationwide protests that erupted from September 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini (pictured)

‘Our research exposes how intelligence and security agents in Iran used rape and other sexual violence to torture, punish and inflict lasting physical and psychological damage on protesters, including children as young as 12,’ Amnesty’s secretary general Agnes Callamard said.

The London-based organisation said it had shared its findings with the Iranian authorities on November 24 ‘but has thus far received no response’.

The protests began in Iran in September 2022 after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22. Her family says she was killed by a blow to the head but this has always been disputed by the Iranian authorities.

After rattling Iran’s clerical leadership, the movement lost momentum by the end of that year in the face of a fierce crackdown that left hundreds dead, according to rights activists, and thousands arrested, according to the United Nations.

Amnesty said 16 of the 45 cases documented in the report were of rape, including six women, seven men, a 14-year-old girl, and two boys aged 16 and 17. Six of them – four women and two men – were gang raped by up to 10 male agents, it said.

It said the sexual assaults were carried out by members of the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij force, agents of the intelligence ministry, as well as police officers as the Tehran regime rounded up protesters off the streets.

The rapes on women and men were carried out with ‘wooden and metal batons, glass bottles, hosepipes, and/or agents’ sexual organs and fingers’, it said.

As well as the 16 rape victims, Amnesty said it documented the cases of 29 victims of other forms of sexual violence such as the beating of breasts and genitals, enforced nudity, and inserting needles or applying ice to men’s testicles.

It said it collected the testimony through interviews with the victims and other witnesses, conducted remotely via secure communications platforms.

‘The harrowing testimonies we collected point to a wider pattern in the use of sexual violence as a key weapon in the Iranian authorities’ armoury of repression of the protests and suppression of dissent to cling to power at all costs,’ said Callamard.

Members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attend an IRGC ground forces military drill in the Aras area, East Azerbaijan province, Iran, October 17, 2022

Protesters chant slogans during a protest over the death of a woman who was detained by the morality police, in downtown Tehran, Iran on September 21, 2022

One woman, named only as Maryam, who was arrested and held for two months after removing her headscarf in a protest, told Amnesty she was raped by two agents during an interrogation.

‘He (the interrogator) called two others to come in and told them ‘It’s time’,’ she said.

‘They started ripping my clothes. I was screaming and begging them to stop. 

‘They violently raped me in my vagina with their sexual organs and raped me anally with a drink bottle.

‘Even animals don’t do these things,’ she was quoted by the group as saying.

A man named as Farzad told Amnesty that plain clothes agents gang raped him and another male protester, Shahed, while they were inside a vehicle.

He said plainclothes agents made him and other detainees face the walls of the vehicle, where they were given electric shocks, before sexually assaulting them. 

‘They pulled down my trousers and raped me,’ he said in his testimony.

‘I couldn’t scream out. I was really being ripped apart… I was throwing up a lot, and was bleeding from my rectum when I went to the toilet,’ said Farzad, who was released without charge a few days later.

Another woman, Sahar, also told Amnesty how she was assaulted, and how the experience has left her suicidal. 

She said security forces removed her clothes and touched her in intimate parts while mocking her and threatening her with rape.

‘I used to be a fighter in life. Even when the Islamic Republic tried to break me down, I carried on,’ she told the rights group. ‘However, recently, I think about suicide a lot…I am like a person who waits all day for night-time so I can sleep.’ 

Zahra, a woman who was raped by an agent, also described the psychological toll.

‘I don’t think I will ever be the same person again,’ she told Amnesty.

‘You will not find anything that will bring me back to myself, to return my soul to me… I hope that my testimony will result in justice and not just for me’.

Other victims who spoke to The Guardian newspaper spoke of similar assaults.

Mahdi Yaghoubi, 31, who was arrested in November 2022 during protests in Tehran, told the publication that security officers sexually assaulted him to ‘confess’.

They touched and squeezed my genital parts to put me under pressure to confess,’ he said. ‘They didn’t do that to embarrass me, or rape me. They did that as a method of painful torture. They wanted me to suffer and feel the pain.’

Iranians protest a 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini’s death after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, September 20, 2022

He added that the agents would insult him and other detainees, calling him ‘begheyrat’ (a man with no self-respect) to humiliate and degrade them.

Yaghoubi said he had managed to flee Iran with his sister on the back of a lorry.

Amnesty said most victims did not file complaints against the assault for fear of further consequences, and those who did tell prosecutors were ignored.

‘With no prospects for justice domestically, the international community has a duty to stand with the survivors and pursue justice,’ said Callamard. 

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