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Torturer Who 'Buried Prisoners Alive' Dies in Tehran

October 21, 2021
3 min read
Torturer Who 'Buried Prisoners Alive' Dies in Tehran

Davood Rahmani, better known as Haj Davood, a notorious human rights violator and torturer who served as head of Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj from 1981 to 1984, has died in Iran. News of the prison official’s death and burial at Tehran’s Behesht-e Zahra Cemetery was announced on Wednesday, October 20.

During his reign of terror at Ghezel Hesar, which coincided with Khomeneists’ crackdowns on leftist and opposition groups in Iran, Rahmani had absolute power to torture prisoners. He invented a new form of torture known as the “grave”, in which prisoners were forced to sit harnessed on three sides by sheets of plywood (length of 2 meters and width of 80 centimetres) and wearing a blindfold. These detainees were forced to sit in absolute silence, even while eating, on pain of being pulled out of the “grave” and beaten. It would end only when they were willing to denounce other members of their group.

Shahrnoush Parsipour, an Iranian writer, was one of the people who experienced this in the spring of 1984. In her book Prison Memoirs, she wrote Haj Davood himself told her to get into the “device” – the name he gave these tomb-like boxes – as a form of repentance.

Other prisoners described different forms of abuse in Ghezel Hesar under Haj Davood, including forced insomnia and beatings. Farzaneh Zolfi, a former prisoner of conscience, said she spent seven months of her 2.5 years in Ghezel Hesar locked in the toilet along with 16 other prisoners, without breaks. opportunity for a breather. innovative tortures are not limited to the "device."

Prison policies were designed to divide and isolate the prisoners. At the time Zolfi was held there, 450 prisoners were being held in 40-strong cells. From April 1981 they were allowed certain privileges, such as short breaks, in exchange for forgoing “communal” activities like reading the newspaper together.  Haj Davood has also been accused of sexual abuse of female inmates, viciously beating women with cables and accusing them of trying to tempt the men, and forcing them to confess they were engaged in political activism so as to have an affair.

Haj Davood was removed from post in Ghezel Hesar Prison in July 1964 after the head of the Prisons Organization, Assadollah Lajevardi, who had appointed him, stepped down due to political pressure. Former political prisoner Iraj Mesdaghi reports that Haj Davood and Lajevardi were then reunited in roles at the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor's Office, with the former also working for a time in the administrative department of Evin Prison.

He later returned to his old profession, as a blacksmith building doors and windows, and set up a construction supplies and equipment shop with his sons in the Dulab Sarasiab neighborhood of Tehran.

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