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Death is My Business: A Look at the Death of Citizens in the Custody of the Islamic Republic

February 17, 2023
Omid Shams,  
Sima Behbahani
35 min read
Death is My Business: A Look at the Death of Citizens in the Custody of the Islamic Republic

"After being captured, a Muhareb’s (Enemy of God’s) repentance will not be accepted and his punishment is the same as the Quran said. Killing in the most brutal way. ...Tazeer (flogging) must tear the skin, pass through the flesh and break the bone." Mohammadi Gilani, head of the courts of the Islamic revolution, Johmouri-e-Islami newspaper, September 20, 1981.

Mahsa (Zhina) Amini's death in the custody of the morality police put the issue of the death of citizens in the custody of the Islamic Republic at the centre of public’s attention for the umpteenth time. With the rise of protests as result of Amini's death and the subsequent arrest of nearly 20,000 protesters across the country, numerous reports of the death of detainees, and the suspicious deaths of prisoners immediately after their release, have raised more serious questions. Is torture and the ill-treatment of prisoners part of a systematic and deliberate strategy in the Islamic Republic? How was this strategy designed? What are the motivations behind it? In what political and ideological structures was it initiated and how is it implemented?

For this article, we examined several cases of deaths of prisoners and especially protesters during detention, as well as deaths of prisoners shortly after their release. The cause of most deaths recorded during detention and immediately or shortly after can be divided into three main categories based on the testimony of the detainees’ cellmates or those who saw the bodies:

1) Deprivation of treatment and medical services, and 2) Direct infliction of extreme and excruciating physical injuryC) Direct infliction of extreme and excruciating mental and emotional harm.

The cause of death of prisoners soon after release is suicide, in most cases, due to the conditions suffered by prisoners during detention or the fear of returning to those conditions. Since the government does not allow any independence investigation and actively destroys and distorts evidence, the details of these conditions cannot be determined with certainty. But according to numerous reports, documents and evidence about the inhumane condition of Iran's prisons, it can be at least claimed confidently that the vast majority of Iranian prisoners are exposed to all kinds of inhuman and humiliating ill-treatment on a daily basis, which could easily push them to the verge of a total nervous breakdown and suicidal thoughts.

All three of the forms of abuse listed above are violations of the right to freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, an article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its conventions, to which Iran is a signatory. If any of these forms of abuse lead to death then they are also a violation of the right to life.

We have also examined the reports of torture in prisons during the past several decades and, by comparing cases, testimonies and the government's reactions to allegations of torture in its detention centres, we have identified a pattern indicating a systematic, widespread and deliberate use of torture in Iran's detention centres. Our research shows that torture is a widespread and normalized practice among all branches of the security, law enforcement, military and paramilitary forces, which is used in a systematic manner against both political and non-political prisoners and has different but specific reasons and motivations.

Motivations behind the institutionalization of torture in Iran’s detention centres

The first and most important motivation for torture in Iranian prisons is to obtain a confession to close a case, indict someone and end the investigation. Security officials pursue forced (and generally false) confessions because of the confession-oriented system of Iran’s judiciary on criminal, police and security investigations, in which a "confession" is preferable to any other type of evidence. Consequently, evidence collection, forensic and scientific investigations have no place among the security and law enforcement agencies’ investigative techniques.

By torturing a suspect and obtaining forced false confessions, security officials save themselves the effort of careful and impartial investigation, collecting evidence and building a case, all while observing laws and regulations and overseeing the individual’s right to privacy and their presumption of innocence, as guaranteed in Article 11 and 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 37 the Iranian Constitution, Article 177 of the Iran’s Code of Civil Procedure and Article 4 of the Iran’s Code of Criminal Procedure. In other words, instead of undertaking professional detective and police work and going through the lawful process for which law enforcement officials should be trained, and punished in case of violation, these officials torture and force suspects to accept scenarios that the agents have created in their minds and, upon obtaining false confessions, officials declare the case closed. Our research shows that this is a common procedure in all branches of police, security and intelligence agencies of the Islamic Republic.

Another motive for deliberate, systematic and widespread use of torture is to create a sense of intimidation and terror in society. The Islamic Republic uses torture as a deterrent against its citizens. The Islamic Republic wants society to believe that government agents brutally torture citizens who are accused of committing a crime. This notion institutionalizes a public fear of law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies. Totalitarian governments feed on their citizens’ fear.

The third motive for torture, which is exclusive to political prisoners and opponents of the Islamic Republic, or any citizen who is considered a threat to the entire system, is the public display of breaking a person's resistance and crushing their personality and dignity; to dehumanize the person. This motivation is a combination of the previous two, namely obtaining false confessions and intimidating society. Torturing political opponents with the intention of obtaining false confessions and broadcasting them publicly is not, contrary to popular belief, to change the minds of society about the victim or their political movement, but rather it is a message to society that the government can crush any resistance. Society’s heroes can be forced to say whatever the government wants. And its own message can be spoken by the mouths of its opponents to the ears of the public.

One of the reasons for the spread of this criminal misconduct among security agencies is, first, the immunity of torturers and their commanders, especially if the victims are political prisoners. Another reason is the institutionalized corruption at all levels of the judicial and security system of the Islamic Republic, which welcomes the quick termination of cases by any means necessary. Another reason is the Islamic Republic’s own inefficiency in overseeing its executive and security institutions and the lack of effective mechanisms for holding these institutions accountable. But the most important reason for the institutionalization of torture in the Islamic Republic is the systematic promotion of cruelty and dehumanization of the accused as "enemies of the people" or “enemies of God” through the Islamic Republic’s gargantuan propaganda apparatus.

"Technical Interrogation", the code name for torture

The use of severe physical torture on non-political prisoners is common beyond political prisoners, too; it is a normalized practice among Iran’s Criminal Investigation Police, also known as the Agahi. This branch of the police force, which is responsible for dealing with criminal, cyber and financial offences in non-security cases, is known for using a variety of methods of physical torture.

"Technical interrogation" is the euphemistic name for the medieval techniques used by the Agahi to obtain confessions that are almost always false. In a report on the Central Detention Centre of Agahi Police in Tehran, the Human Rights Activists News Agency described some of the techniques commonly used, quoting victims:

"From hitting [victims] with cables, ball bearing chains, and batons, to hanging [them] from the ceiling like a chicken on a skewer... by hanging them, they dislocate the victims’ shoulder... They break hands and legs and even fingers and toes of victims with metal pipes or thick sticks. This type of interrogation and torture is deemed as technical and specialized as interrogation by the judicial authorities... The most famous method in recent years in Tehran was tying the victim to a thick tree in the main yard of the detention centre. They call it ‘the talking tree’. They handcuff the victim’s hands from behind to this tree and the person's hands are stretched so much that the tendons of his hand are torn and he becomes unconscious, then they pour cold water on his head and punch and kick him so many times that he would even confess to committing incest with his mother and sister.”

On April 21, 2007, in a rare move, ISNA news agency published a detailed article entitled "Deadlock, the end of six years of pursuing a torture case", which described the "technical interrogation" of a custodian of one of Ramhormoz mosques suspected of "pigeon theft" by the police. The victim said:

"They tied my big toes together with a thin thread, then put me on the ground while my hands were handcuffed. Then I noticed a heavy weight on my neck, someone was sitting on my neck and pressed my head down so much that I felt that all the vertebrae in my neck were about to break, I was crumpled on the floor. While my head and hands were on my knees, they brought a long cylindrical stick, passed the stick over my right elbow and took it under my right leg and placed it over my left elbow. Then they lifted me up and placed both sides of the stick on the tables, and thus I remained hanging in the air. Gravity was pulling me down and my neck was breaking from the pain, my hands were about to be severed at the elbows and wrists [...] I thought it wouldn't take more than 20 to 30 minutes, I was just asking God for help when they opened my eyes, and the agent asked me to put my fingerprint on a piece of paper, but I couldn’t feel my finger, so they did it for me, and thus I confessed to a crime I never committed."

This unprecedented article is important because it is perhaps one of the first times that an official news agency has reported on the use of torture in a police detention centre with the intention of obtaining false confessions, with the same details that human rights organizations had reported many times before, and confirming its occurrence by quoting Ali Asghar Jafari, the chief of Iran’s Agahi Police. Jafari also admitted that 152 cases of beatings were recorded in 2004 alone, and 102 cases in 2005, which shows the appalling extent of this practice in just one law enforcement agency. The article also showed that there was no effective mechanism to prevent these crimes as. in the worst case, these agents are simply transferred from the Agahi to other departments of the police force. Jafari himself said that 408 officers guilty of such misconduct were punished only by being transferred from the Agahi to another department.

Regarding the reason for the widespread use of torture among law enforcement and security forces, Jafari resorted to a shocking justification: "Unfortunately, the neglected issue is the confession-oriented nature of the [judicial] system, which, despite the presence of witnesses and forensic evidence, relies on the confession of the suspect, and in these circumstances, if a professional criminal refuses to confess, do you see any other way for the police?"

Jafari’s statements show a terrifying level of ignorance among senior officials of the Islamic Republic about the state’s responsibilities to its citizens under Iran’s own constitution and its international obligations, regarding the absolute prohibition of torture. And they corroborate our argument that torturing suspects in Iran makes the work of judges and detectives easier by extracting false confession by any means necessary. Officers consider confession to be the fastest way to close a case and torture to be the easiest way to get a confession, and judges support this process because it relieves them from the trouble of time-consuming examination of technical documents and forensic evidence.

The use of torture to obtain confessions in the police force is considered so normal that, on September 29, 2007, Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, then commander of the police force, officially referred to the use of torture as a standard procedure and said: "In the Agahi police, we have been strict about physical [torture] methods and have said that officers should only use textbook methods for obtaining confessions and that physical methods should be completely abandoned."

Contrary to these statements, not only did this practice never stop, but in the Agahi’s main detention centre in Tehran alone, four deaths of prisoners due to torture have been recorded in recent years.

In July 2008, two brothers named Abbas and Amir (Hossein) Tavakoli Barazjani were arrested on charges of resisting arrest. Amir Tavakoli died on July 28, 2008, in Tehran’s Shapour Detention Centre. The forensic reported recorded that there were bruises on Tavakoli’s body but these were considered to be “unrelated to the cause of death” which was listed as a pulmonary haemorrhage. The forensic report cautiously stated: "If there was no crime committed during the judicial investigation, the said death was due to an internal disease." But the death certificate recorded the cause of death as "unknown".

On March 3, 2018, the family of Mohammad Raji, a Gonabadi dervishes arrested on February 20 during protests and transferred to Tehran's Shapour Detention Center, was informed that Raji had passed away. Police officers had told Raji’s family that he died as a result of "blows sustained during interrogation."

On February 13, 2021, the media reported the death of Mehrdad Taleshi as a result of torture in the same detention centre.

On April 7, 2022, Milad Jafari, a 25-year-old young man, was arrested by Shapour police officers on drug-related charges. In response to the family's inquiries, officers denied thathe was being held. But the Kahrizak morgue later contacted the family and informed them that Jafari had died due to a fall from a height during his arrest. The family, however, saw multiple bruises all over his body.

The death of prisoners in the detention centres of the Agahi police has also been reported beyond Tehran and across Iran.

In August 2009, Gholamreza Bayat, a young man from Kamyaran, who was arrested on the charge of possession of alcoholic beverages, died due to torture in an Agahi detention centre.

On June 2, 2018, Rahman Ghorbani, a former political prisoner, was arrested and transferred to a police detention centre in the city of Khoy. Three days later, his body was handed over to his family.

On July 31, 2018, Seyyed Ali Hosseini died only a few hours after being arrested by Agahi police officers in Urmia.

On August 30, 2019, Javad Khosravanian was arrested for unknown reasons and transferred to an Agahi detention centre in the city of Khorrambeed in Fars province. On September 5, the media reported that he had been killed during torture, citing his family.

In addition to the prohibition of torture in Article 38 of the Constitution, in Article 578 of the Islamic Penal Code, it is stated: "Any civil servant or judicial or non-judicial agent who corporally mistreats and abuses an accused person in order to force him to confess, in addition to qisas (retribution) and diya (compensation), shall be sentenced to six months to three years’ imprisonment; and if it is done under someone’s order, only the person who has issued the order shall be sentenced to the aforementioned imprisonment; and if the accused person dies as a result of the abuses, the principal to the murder shall be sentenced to the punishment provided for a murderer, and the person who has issued the order shall be sentenced to the punishment provided for the person who has ordered a murder.”

Nevertheless, none of the mentioned cases of torture and death of prisoners have led to independent and effective investigations by the government and judicial punishments of the perpetrators.

In search of a neck for their noose

The confession-oriented nature of Iran's judicial system encourages even the less political and ideological branches of the police force to systematically use torture to obtain confessions and, at the same time, protects these forces from prosecution.

And it is inevitable that this confession-oriented approach has a much greater impact on the performance of Iran’s more politically sensitive security and intelligence organizations. Due to their political and ideological nature of their operations under the Islamic Republic, these organizations are more eager than the ordinary police to magnify threats and to give a show of strength by fabricating scenarios against detainees. They also enjoy impunity more than other government institutions. Since their main task is to suppress dissidents and activists whose activities are recognized and protected as fundamental rights even in the framework of the flawed constitution of the Islamic Republic, torture is the main or perhaps the only tool available to force such figures to falsely confess to “legally” punishable crimes under the purview of security organizations, and which fit their ideological agendas, such as espionage, terrorist activities, blasphemy, and so on. Obtaining false confessions through torture is the principal strategy of these institutions – to "criminalize" the opposition.

In recent years, numerous instances of fictitious scenarios, implicating detainees and concocted by security agencies have been revealed, in which agents brutally tortured innocent detainees forcing them to make false confessions.

Creating these scenarios and extracting these confessions partly served the purpose of closing cases swiftly and thereby reducing pressure from senior officials. But they were mainly put in place to dehumanize dissidents and to establish a fabricated narrative about the so-called evil forces behind every dissenting voice.

Among the most famous examples, which have been confirmed by officials as scenarios fabricated by intelligence agents or judicial authorities, are the cases of Majid Jamali Fashi and others accused of assassinating nuclear scientists, the case of torture and espionage charges against environmental activists, and the case of Molavi Abdul Ghaffar Naghshbandi.

The torture of prisoners by security and intelligence agents to obtain false confessions to fit fabricated scenarios has led to the death of many prisoners. The death of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer who died in custody in Iran, is one tragic. The testimony of Kazemi's mother, and Shahram Azam, the emergency doctor of Baqiatullah Hospital who visited Kazemi after she was transferred from prison, clearly indicate the severe and horrific torture of this female reporter:

In his testimony, Shahram Azam describes the signs of torture:

"A wide tear. They had thrusted an object into her genitals area. You’d look at the patient and you’d think, this is not a young girl who suffered this calamity, this is a fifty-four-year-old woman. You can’t possibly imagine what could’ve happened? Around her right eye was completely bruised; [she had] torn toenails, a broken finger. I do not know. Her nail may have been cut off as a result of a blow, the nail was bleeding. Her hand had only one fingernail... her toenails, her feet were in terrible condition... the soles of her feet were destroyed. The toenails were loose and hanging.”

Zahra Kazemi's mother has said the following about seeing her daughter's body 12 days after hospitalization:

"Her thigh was as black as my veil. The back of her hand [referring to the right forearm] was black. ... there was a wound under this eye [referring to the right eye], when I saw her, her big toe was bandaged. Her hands were bruised.” Both testimonies described identical injuries which leaves no doubt that Kazemi was tortured. Indeed, she was brutally tortured to agree to play a role as a witness in a scenario created by Saeed Mortazavi, then Tehran’s prosecutor, against his political rivals the reformists. Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaght, the former director-general for Press and Foreign Media of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, explained this scenario as he heard it from Mortazavi:

"Mr. Mortazavi said: This lady admitted that she was a spy for the US and the UK, and in addition to spying, she took the cover of a photojournalist, and was here to see whether the reformists had efficiently spent the $1 million that the CIA paid them."

The torture of Kazemi was similar to the reports of the torture of Armita Abbasi, a protestor arrested in recent demonstrations, who according to CNN was repeatedly raped, perhaps with the aim of forcing her to accept the government's allegations about leading protests and "contact with foreign agents" in her confessions.

Torture and murder of prisoners as an extra-legal punishment and a tool for producing terror

Physical and mental torture of prisoners in the Islamic Republic sometimes takes on more public aspects. Prisoners are sometimes paraded in public, beaten and humiliated, a clear example of torture, and which shows how the government uses severe physical and mental suffering as a preventative measure to terrify its own citizens. Such practices show that the Iranian government does not shy away from torturing people in public and is capable of much more cruelty behind the walls of the detention centres.

This practice is especially used against political prisoners with the double purpose of secretly eliminating them. Long-term detention of political prisoners in solitary confinement, deliberate obstruction of medical procedures, exposing political prisoners to attack and rape by dangerous inmates, forced transfer of political prisoners to mental hospitals and the use of electric shocks and injection of addictive and psychoactive drugs, are all part of this systematic program of extra-legal punishment and extermination. It is a gradual plan to destroy political opponents. For this reason, the approach of Iranian security and intelligence organizations can only be compared with that of Belarus and Syria after the beginning of popular uprising in these countries, where the government uses the tool of torture not to obtain confessions, but to punish and kill the protesters. Both countries have close relations with the Islamic Republic – and Syria’s machinery of suppression was even designed and established by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The pattern of such practices – which were first established by the regime of the last Shah in the 1960s, against protesters at that time – were revived in a systematic manner after the 2009 protests with the Kahrizak disaster and were repeated without exception with each wave of protest ever since that time. Severe and continuous beatings, keeping detainees in intentionally overcrowded spaces and denying them access to even minimal health and sanitary facilities, deliberately preventing injured detainees from accessing medical care, and finally, rape and sexual torture; this consistent pattern of extra-legal punishment has sent protesters to their deaths in 2008, 2016 and 2018, and is now being repeated in the suppression of recent protests with shocking results.

What normalizes these brutal tortures is the all-out effort of the government's propaganda apparatus to dehumanize its opponents, to portray them as inhuman evil forces that deserve to suffer, and to fill supporters of the government with hatred towards these social and political groups. A similar strategy can be clearly traced in the anti-Semitic propaganda of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

The government's reaction to reports of torture

Just as the deaths of prisoners of the Islamic Republic follows a fixed pattern, the government's reaction to these deaths, which is based on criminal concealment of evidence in all cases, has a clear pattern.

In almost all cases, the government actively intervenes to destroy evidence. Without going through legal procedures and obtaining the permission of the parents of detainees, the state hastily buries the bodies of dead prisoners or does not allow a victim's family, members of the media or independent bodies to see and examine the body. The cause of death is almost always announced as suicide, poisoning, stroke, or underlying conditions or diseases. In cases where a total cover-up is not possible due to the extensive disclosure of the details of a death, the state tries to prevent the full disclosure of the truth as much as possible. For example, regarding the death of Zahra Kazemi, since the fact that Kazemi was killed due to cerebral haemorrhage could not be concealed, the government tried to at least conceal the details of what happened by fabricating a scenario on "a blow that led to a fall and brain injury".

In such cases, a prisoner's associates, medical staff, family or any other person who has information about the death, are forced to remain silent or even to publicly confirm the government's narrative.

Finally, those who break their silence and testify about torture or mistreatment of prisoners will inevitably face revenge and punishment. Shahin Naseri's death in prison is one of the most telling examples of such reprisal. Naseri, who testified about Navid Afkari's torture by the Agahi police, was sent to prison in Tehran and later died suspiciously in the prison in 2021. In the audio file that he published before Afkari's execution, Naseri stated: "After hearing my statement with the filthiest words imaginable, the judge said that you are interfering in a security case. I will force these officers to file a complaint against you for slander, and I will evaporate you."

The common reaction of the government in other cases is total denial and to prevent any independent and effective investigation. Judge Mohammad Mossadegh's reaction to the revelation of the Evin Prison CCTV footage by the Adalat Ali hacker group, last year, which showed the brutal beating and severe mistreatment of prisoners, is the epitome of the reaction of the Iranian judicial system to abuses that have killed dozens of prisoners every year. Mossadegh called these images "Zionist filmmaking" and denied their authenticity. Such statements from a member of the judges' panels investigating the case of the Kahrizak incident shows why torturers and the perpetrators of the murder of prisoners in the Islamic Republic enjoy full immunity, and to this day and after the death of hundreds of prisoners, no investigation that meets the criteria of an independent and effective investigation has been carried out.

Legal dimensions of torture and deprivation of life in detention

During the Pahlavi era, Iran became a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Islamic Republic continues to be a member of this international agreement, and the implementation of this agreement has been approved by Iran’s parliament, which makes it primary legislation. And while the government has verbally reserved the right to derogate from some of its provisions, or has threatened to leave, it is officially committed to implementing this international agreement.

Iran's membership in brings certain responsibilities within the framework of international human rights law. Regarding the prohibition of torture, there are fundamental similarities between all international and regional legal theories, to such an extent that it can be seen as a principle of customary international law. The prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading ill-treatment, along with the prohibition of extra-legal punishment, are considered absolute human rights. The right to life is often referred to as an absolute right, although very limited exceptions are allowed, and for this reason, it cannot be compared with the right to freedom from torture and extra-legal punishment, which have no exceptions whatsoever. Absolute rights cannot be suspended, qualified, or limited under any circumstances. These rights do not allow any temporary exemption from (or derogation) under any circumstances. Unlike limited or qualified rights, absolute rights also do not allow the principle of the balancing of rights, balancing the right of an individual against the right of others, or one right against another.

Deprivation of life, torture and government responsibilities

Facing the issue of torture and deprivation of life in detention, the government has three responsibilities. Negative responsibility, positive responsibility and procedural responsibility.

Negative responsibility: the government should not violate these rights. It means that no person should be tortured or subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Also, the government should not take the life of a person in custody who has not been sentenced to death. Positive responsibility: The government must protect these rights, meaning it must protect the life and health of the people it has in custody and prevent the violation of these rights by its employees through establishing "effective" criminal penalties. It should also intervene promptly and effectively if it receives reports of torture. And finally, no person should be handed over to a country or government or institution, body or organization where there is a strong possibility of torture.

Procedural responsibility: The government has a responsibility to conduct an effective investigation if it receives a report of the alleged breach of these rights.

Effective research criteria: 1) An investigation must be carried out by an independent body meaning that the investigator must not be a stakeholder to the subject matter of the case. 2) The victim or their family must be informed of the investigation process and allowed to participate. The limits and amount of this participation depend on the law. 3) Research must be done within a reasonable period of time, and prolonging an investigation with the aim of weakening the public’s interested is a violation of the independence and effectiveness of the investigation. 4) Being effective means that an investigation must identify all wrongdoing and all perpetrators and lead to the prosecution and punishment of the guilty, the implementation of measures to prevent a recurrence of the crime, and the reporting of the investigation to the public.

The Mahsa Amini revolution and the protesters who died in custody

The following information about the deaths of protesters in detention, or shortly after their release, only reflects a small part of the real scale of the victims which must be many times that of the published names. Independent and field investigations inside Iran are impossible right now, of course, and the government's systematic effort to destroy evidence, intimidate and silence witnesses and arrest and punish those who are documenting human rights violations make the efforts that are pursued hazardous and incomplete.

In almost all recorded cases of the deaths of prisoners, security agencies have not allowed the victim's families to see the remains of their loved ones. Also, in almost all cases, officers have conditioned the return of remains on receiving a commitment from a family to accept official claims as to the cause of death. In some cases, families have not even been allowed to bury a loved one body based on their religious beliefs. None of these deaths has led to independent and effective investigations, or to the identification and prosecution of the culprits. In many cases, the government even tried to escape from the charge of murdering detainees by staging accidents or abandoning bodies outside detention centres. This issue is also reflected in the statements of Mohammad Mehdi Karami, the protester who was executed; he had told his family that when he was detained, he was beaten so badly that he was unconscious, and government agents thought he was dead and threw his "body" somewhere outside the Nazarabad court. When they were about to leave, they realized that he was still alive, so they took him back into detention.

Other cases include:

  1. Nika Shakarami: 17-year-old from Khorramabad, was arrested by security agents on September 20, 2022, and her severely injured body was found on October 2, 2022 in the Kahrizak morgue. According to Nika's mother and aunt, a member of the Revolutionary Guards had confirmed her arrest and interrogation. Also, CNN has traced Nika protests to the place where, according to witnesses, a large number of protesting women were arrested.
  2. Ismail Dezvar: A resident of Saqqez was arrested during protests in the city, and on October 9, 2022, plainclothes officers transferred his body to Shafa Hospital and asked medical staff to register the cause of death as a traffic accident. According to Hengaw, the person in charge of the medical staff told them: "This person was brought to hospital without vital signs and his death cannot be a traffic accident under any circumstances, and I can say with certainty that he was killed under torture." The officers then buried the body at night and forced the family to announce the cause of death as a car accident.
  3. Mohammad Abdullahi: 36 years old, from Ilam, was arrested during the protests on October 12, 2022 in front of the governor's building. He died after several hours of torture. According to Hengaw, one of Abdullahi's relatives, who viewed Muhammad's body, said: "Bruise marks were obvious on Muhammad's whole body, and his head was gravely injured owing to a major physical attack." Before handing over the body, security officers obtained a statement from Mohammad's father that he died of natural causes.
  4. Ramin Fatehi: A resident of Sanandaj, he was arrested on October 14, and on October 22, Sanandaj Intelligence Office announced the death of Ramin Fatehi to his family. The cause of death was announced as suicide. These agents threatened that if the family did not cooperate, they would bury the body in one of their own cemeteries around Qorve city at night. A member of Fatehi's family told IranWire that the agents, after obtaining a written commitment, emphasized that in addition to not reporting the death to the media, the body should be buried immediately and at night, and that a funeral ceremony should also be avoided." A family member of saw signs of severe beating on Fatehi’s body.
  5. Emad Heydari: An Arab civil activist from Malashia, who was arrested on the eve of nationwide protests, died in Ahvaz intelligence detention centre on October 6, 2022. Mr. Heydari's family members told that his remains would handed over on the condition that no funeral and mourning ceremonies would be held.
  6. Hamed Baji Zehi Brahui: One of the participants in the Zahedan protests, he was arrested at his father's house on October 2, 2022, by the Revolutionary Guards, and his body was handed over to his family on October 25. According to Halvash, one of the witnesses reported the signs of several bullets on his body.
  7. Ali Bani Asad: A 20-year-old Arab citizen from Ahvaz was arrested by intelligence agents on October 12 on suspicion of carrying weapons. His body was handed over to his family on October 19. The officers announced the cause of his death as "kidney failure". His family told HRANA that he had no illnesses and was arrested in perfect health. The family took over the body on the condition that no funeral ceremony would be held.
  8. Saman Ghaderpour: 37 years old, from Oshnavieh, was arrested during protests in Tehran and was killed on September 29 after torture by security agents. Officers announced the cause of his death as cardiac arrest, but according to Hengaw, Saman's uncle saw the marks of injury on his face. The officers threatened that a funeral should be held in coordination with the Oshnavieh Intelligence Department and no one, not even his mother, had the right to see the body.
  9. Behnaz Afshari: 23 years old, she left home on October 25 to participate in student protests, but on October 27 her body was handed over to her family in the Kahrizak morgue and the cause of death was announced as suicide from an overdose. The family was not allowed to view the body in full. Agents also washed and shrouded the body without the presence of the family. According to the BBC, the family saw his face for a few seconds: "It was covered in blood and there were cuts from his ear to his neck". The agents told the family that CCTV footage of Behnaz entering the hotel had been deleted.
  10. Saman Rahmani: 26 years old, from Takab and a resident of Tehran, was identified by security agents while writing slogans in one of the streets of Tehran on November 12 and was beaten to death after his arrest.
  11. Omid Hassani: 22 years old, from Sanandaj, was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards on November 17 and died after a few hours under torture. According to Hengaw, the officers transferred Hassani, who had no vital signs, to Tawheed Hospital in Sanandaj, but they did not allow medical personnel to take pictures of the Hassani’s body, who had been brutally battered in the head and neck.
  12. Amir Javad Asadzadeh: 36 years old, from Mashhad, was arrested by Basij forces on November 18 while writing slogans on a wall in Pirouzi Boulevard in Mashhad. The Basij forces took him to Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad and beat him until the morning, and then left his half-dead body near Haft-e-Tir police station and left. Officers filed a case against him and send him to the detention centre, but he lost consciousness in less than two hours and eventually died due to brain trauma.
  13. Yalda Aghafazli: 19 years old, from Tehran, was arrested on November 4 and released on October 26, but on November 11 her body was found in her bed, with empty pill boxes next to her. The cause of her death was initially declared as suicide, but later the judicial authorities declared the cause of death to be "overdose of methamphetamine drugs". "They beat me so hard you can't even imagine, but I did not express remorse," she told one of her friends in an audio recording upon her release.
  14. Hyman Aman: 26 years old, from Bukan, was arrested by government forces in Bukan on November 18 after being shot. His lifeless body was handed over to his family on November 23.
  15. Atefeh Naimi: The 37-year-old protester, a resident of Karaj, had not been in contact with her family since November 20, and finally, on November 25, her body was found in her apartment with a blanket pulled over her head and a hose connected to a gas valve near her mouth. Her brother told IranWire: "A homicide detective who arrived first at the scene, stated with his thorough observations that it was not a suicide, without knowing my sister's background. The security agents tricked the family and buried her body without their presence.
  16. Arshia Imamgholizadeh: 16 years old, from Hadi Shahr, who was arrested for knocking a cleric’s turban off and spent 10 days in Tabriz juvenile prison, committed suicide a few days after being released. Officers later raided his father's house and confiscated electronic devices. They also went to Arshiya's grandfather's house several times and warned that the news of the suicide, after being released from prison, should not be covered by the media and the funeral ceremony ceremony should be held quietly. "If you speak out, something bad will happen to you," they told the family.
  17. Hamed Salahshur: 22 years old, from Izeh, was arrested on November 25 and killed on November 30. Officers buried the remains in secret and without the family's knowledge.
  18. Abbas Mansouri: 18 years old, from Shush, was arrested on November 16 for distributing chocolates and "Woman, Life, Freedom" leaflets. He was buried in December 13. Local sources told IranWire: "It is not clear what exactly happened, some people said that he committed suicide after his release due to severe mental and physical torture, and others say the story of his release is false. On December 11, intelligence office called his family to receive his body. Abbas's family has been threatened by security forces to declare Abbas's death a suicide.”
  19. Shahriar Adeli: 27 years old, from Sardasht, was arrested on November 22 during a rally celebrating the defeat of the Iranian national team, and was released on December 3 after being severely tortured. He died on December 8 due to internal bleeding. The pictures of his lifeless body published on social networks show severe bruises.
  20. Mohammad Haji Rasoulpour: He was arrested on November 23 in Bukan, and on December 19, after a week of hospitalization in the ICU of Gholipour Hospital in Bukan, he died as a result of severe injuries caused by torture.
  21. Shadman Ahmadi: 33 years old, from Dehgolan, was arrested on the morning of December 8 by Dehgolan intelligence agents on charges of leading protests in this city. Less than four hours later, the news of his death was delivered to his family. The chief justice of the city stated that the cause of Ahmadi's death was "suicide in the building of this judicial institution". But in the video of his body being washed, the whole body is seen covered with bruises and injuries. A source close to the family told IranWire: "Not only was his left wrist broken, but his skull was also cracked and the place where a hard object hit his head was clear and visible."
  22. Mehdi Zare Ashkezari: 31 years old, from Ashkezar, who was arrested for participating in the protests, was released on bail on December 11. He fell into a coma hours later and died in the hospital 20 days later. In the video that he took moments after his release, the marks of assault on his face and body are evident.
  23. Iliad Rahmanipour: A 17-year-old protester from Firuzabad, disappeared on November 29. Three days later his body was found near the city's bus terminal, with disposable glasses and pills scattered around him to give the impression of suicide by alcohol poisoning and drug overdose. Iliad's aunt told IranWire that, when his body was found, "his face was also bruised, so we think he was beaten." His family remains under pressure from security agents and they have not spoken about the situation even with other family members.
  24. Milad Khoshkam: 27 years old, from Shiraz, disappeared on November 9 and his broken body was handed over to his family on November 13. Officers told the family that he threw himself from a bridge. But it is not clear why the family was informed six days after his death. Milad's family told Radio Farda that he participated in all the protests and took pictures and videos. The agents did not return Milad's phone to hisfamily, and they also made the return of the remains conditional on his death not being reported to the media.
  25. Aida Rostami: 26 years old and from Gorgan, she was a general practitioner who clandestinely treated injured protesters. She disappeared on December 12 after leaving the house of an injured protester, and the next day her body was handed over to her family, who claimed that she died in a car accident and ordered the family to bury her immediately. An informed source told IranWire: "Her family was told by the medical examiner that they were ordered not to reveal the real cause of Aida's death. But they insist their daughter did not die due to an accident, and that the authorities killed her."
  26. Mohammad Lotfollahi: a resident of Sanandaj, was injured by the Revolutionary Guards on October 26 and then arrested. He was buried on October 27, under a heavy presence of security forces. According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network, "bruises were seen on the neck of Mohammad Lotfalahi, but it is not yet clear whether he died due to the severity of his injuries or torture within a few hours of detention."



Southwestern Iranian Province Faces Critical Emergency After Heavy Snowfall

February 17, 2023
Akhtar Safi
2 min read
Southwestern Iranian Province Faces Critical Emergency After Heavy Snowfall