In the latest round of horrific and life-altering punishment being meted out by the Islamic Republic of Iran to petty “criminals," six men are currently due to have their fingers amputated by a guillotine machine at Urmia Prison, while a 45-year-old has received 74 lashes for holding a solo protest because he could not afford to buy his daughter a birthday present.
The six inmates facing amputation at the prison in West Azerbaijan are Hadi Rostami, 33, Mehdi Sharfian, 37, Mehdi Shahivand, 42, Kasra Karami, 40, and brothers Shahab Teimouri Ayeneh and Mehrdad Teimouri Ayeneh, aged 35 and 40.
They were all variously convicted of burglary and robbery after grossly unfair trials between September 2017 and November 2019. They were denied access to lawyers and the courts relied on “confessions” extracted under torture, even when defendants retracted them during their trials. One of the men, Hadi Rostami, said he was forced – at the point of physical and mental collapse – to sign a blank piece of paper to which Iranian police later added the details of the charges.
The men are all sentenced to “have four fingers on their right hands completely cut off so that only the palm of their hands and their thumbs are left.”
Amputation of the fingers or toes is a recognized punishment under the laws of the Islamic Republic. In addition to being grotesque and needlessly cruel, maiming convicts is thought to exacerbate both crime and poverty in Iran because the victims are often the sole breadwinners for their families and rendered unable to work. According to the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, the Iranian authorities amputated the fingers of at least 129 people in the past 20 years.
On November 25, according to information obtained by Amnesty International, the six men in Urmia learned the local prosecutor and prison officials were preparing to carry out their sentences.
Diana Eltahawi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East, said: “The Iranian authorities are yet again readying their tools of torture to deliberately mutilate and traumatize people through unspeakably cruel corporal punishments.
“Amputation is judicially-sanctioned torture and a serious crime under international law. We call on the Iranian authorities to immediately quash the amputation sentences, abolish all forms of corporal punishment, and grant effective remedies to victims.”
News of the men’s imminent amputation came just days after a worker and labor rights activist, Davoud Rafie, was subjected to 74 lashes in Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary on November 23.
The 45-year-old former car manufacturing worker was arrested, beaten and sentenced for “insulting a government official” after he held a peaceful protest in front of the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare on March 5, 2018.
The demonstration by Rafie and his young daughter fell on the day of his daughter’s birthday; Rafie wished to express his anger at the economic and political policies of the Iranian authorities that had left him unemployed and unable to sustain his family, or even to buy his daughter a present. For this simple act of self-expression he was sentenced to 74 lashes by Branch 1170 of Tehran Criminal Court in July 2018.
The flogging was carried out in the presence of the head of the prosecutor’s office for District 10 of Tehran, and a second official who counted the lashes until they reached 74. Rafie sustained visible injuries on his back, which stopped him from sleeping, and he continues to suffer from pain
In the past two decades the Islamic Republic has had at least 2,134 individuals flogged, including 17 children. Amnesty has also demanded that the authorities “grant Davoud Rafie and all other victims of such torture effective remedies, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and guarantees of non-repetition. In the case of Davoud Rafie, this must include the quashing of his conviction and the clearing of his criminal record.”