Torture Behind the Walls of Evin’s Wards 2A, 209 & 240 – by Journalist Saeed Pourheydar
May 19, 2011
The following is a vivid snapshot of the unbearable and inhumane physical and psychological torture endured by political prisoners at Evin’s IRGC Ward 2A, and Wards 209 and 240 under the supervision of the Ministry of Intelligence, written by journalist and member of the the Human Rights House of Iran (RAHANA), Saeed Pourheydar. The accounts you are about to read are based on his own experiences when he was twice arrested after the rigged presidential elections and based on hours of conversations that took place with 19 other political prisoners who were also at Evin during his time behind bars. I ask every freedom fighting citizen of the world to read Mr. Pourheydar’s harrowing account of what is happening behind the walls of this notorious prison and other prisons in Iran and act as the voice for the voiceless, for if we turn our back on the grave human rights violations taking place in Iran, we will have turned our back on humanity.
Friday May 13th 2011 – Mehdi Mahmoudnia’s letter addressed to the Supreme Leader Seyed Ali Khamenei, in which he describes the unbearable conditions at Evin and Rajai Shahr prisons and what political prisoners have endured is a reality I have not only witnessed or heard about from prisoners being held in the same ward as I was, but one that I have also experienced first hand.
I was arrested twice after the rigged presidential elections. The first time around, I was held both in solitary confinement and in a cell that accommodated 5 prisoners at the Intelligence Ministry’s Ward 240 at Evin. The second time I was held with 19 other prisoners at Evin’s Ward 350 and the long hours of discussions while behind bars provided me with the opportunity to talk to other prisoners about the psychological and physical torture they had endured at the hands of their interrogators during the interrogation process. These candid discussions about the arrest details, interrogation process, torture and trials were captured in four, one hundred page booklets that I plan to publish in due course.
The following is but a small summary of the discussions I had in the fall and winter of last year with 19 political prisoners arrested after the coup elections, out of the 160 total political prisoners held in Ward 350, capturing the physical and psychological torture they endured. Of the 19 political prisoners I had the opportunity to speak with, 3 were my cellmates, my best friends who were executed, 2 completed their sentences and were released, 14 remain behind bars at ward 350 and 3 received death sentences and are awaiting the execution of their sentences.
What I describe is limited to my personal experiences and that of other political prisoners at Evin, in particular the IRGC Ward 2A and Wards 209 and 240 under the supervision of the Intelligence Ministry.
Although looking back on what occurred is both painful and bitter, I strongly believe that we must avoid look back at history only after we have been victorious and confront reality while it is happening. As a result I have chosen to repeatedly relive these bitter memories in my mind and to speak about them, with the hope that people develop some level of awareness regarding the anguish that the noble, freedom seeking Iranian youth, accused of a “Green” thinking and philosophy, have had to endure while under the clutches of tyranny.
In one of Evin Ward 350′s cells that accommodated three prisoners, I shared a cell with a prisoner whose account of physical and psychological torture would torment anyone with a free spirit. He was 25 years old and had been arrested on unfounded and baseless charges by IRGC agents at Imam Khomeini Airport and transferred to the IRGC ward 2A at Evin, enduring unimaginable physical and psychological torture during 6 months of solitary confinement.
Interrogators urinated on his face. He was beaten severely and whipped on the feet. He was repeatedly tasered with electric shock weapons during his interrogation process and received successive blows to his testicles that rendered him unconscious. Interrogators used pliers to pinch various parts of his body and three went as far as treating his body as if it were a ball, kicking him around so severely that the forensic report even substantiated some of the torture by confirming injuries the skull and a broken nose.
One of the worst forms of torture endured by this beloved friend was when he was raped by IRGC interrogators who used P.V.C. [adhesive commonly in construction] by pouring the liquid PVC adhesive into his anus and pulling the adhesive out of his anus after it had set and dry.
Though he remains behind bars, despite the brutal, inhumane torture at the hands of his interrogators, he refused to succumb to false confessions.
In a three hour conversation that took place on a bench in ward 350, yet another one of our innocent Green colleagues behind bars, described the torture he had endured while at the IRGC’s Ward 2A.
He described being thrown inside a bucket of cold water and being held in solitary confinement for 10 days in a cell that was only 1 meter, 25cm high. In the winter, he was forced to stand outside for hours, naked. His head shoved on numerous occasions inside a toilet bowl, while the toilet was being flushed. He was severely beaten, his clothes removed completely and he was physically molested during his interrogation process. These are only a few examples of the type of torture he endured during his two months in solitary confinement at the IRGC’s Ward 2A. He was transferred a few months ago to Evin’s ward 350 where he awaits his trial.
Other forms of torture include forcing prisoners to sit on the floor naked while interrogators beat them on the back with batons and cables. Many prisoners are forced to stand for hours on end. There are reports that two prisoners lost consciousness as a result of such torture. Prisoners are forced to take psychotropic medication, [prescribed for mental disorders to alter behavior and change the mood] something I experienced personally. They are hung from the shoulder or leg. Their faces and heads are jammed on the arms of a chair during the interrogation process and they are kicked in sensitive areas of the body such as the testicles. Prisoners are forced to sleep on their stomach while two to three individuals walk on their back. There have been many incidents of rupturing of the eardrums due to strong blows to the head, face and ears. Often the prisoners are blindfolded so they are unable to react when being attacked in the face. These are just a few examples of the myriad of torture methods described by a number of political prisoners while being held at Evin’s wards 209, 240 and 2A. Many of these prisoners are currently in Evin’s ward 350 either serving their sentences or awaiting their sentence, their fate still unclear.
The pain caused by physical torture may fade over time, but the effects of psychological torture undoubtedly remain for years to come. Prior to my arrest on February 5th, 2010 , as a result of my heart condition I used to take a Pronol 10mg (beta blocker) tablet daily. Today my only gift from the days spent in solitary confinement and the brutal psychological and physical torture I endured is the two to three Pronol 40mg tablets I take each day and a myriad of other sedatives I was forced to take for months after my release from prison. The negative impact on my psyche has undoubtedly created many challenges in my daily life.
Almost all political prisoners have experienced some form of psychological torture. Even if we assume the impossible, that a prisoner was not exposed to psychological pressure, spending time in solitary confinement is itself one of the worst forms of psychological torture. It goes without saying that if one has not been forced to endure even one hour of solitary confinement, one can never fully understand what it means.
Fake executions, a horrendous form of psychological torture are prevalent at the IRGC’s Ward 2A. Three of the prisoners I spoke with at ward 350 described having been exposed to such torture and one prisoner at ward 350 described how he had been exposed to fake executions on two separate occasions.
Reportedly, prisoners are visited before dawn while in solitary confinement, told that they are unfortunately being executed. They are then blind folded, shackled and taken to the court yard at Ward 2A. Prisoners are then placed on a stool, a noose is hung around their neck and they are asked to utter their last words prior to being hanged.
One friend described that the first time he was forced to stand on a stool, blindfolded with a noose around his neck for 30 minutes while his interrogator explained that they were waiting for the head of the prison, court observer and forensic doctor to arrive before the executing the sentence. After half an hour, they informed him that since the head of the prison had been unable to attend and the sentence must be carried out before dawn, his sentence would have to be postponed for a few days.
Undoubtedly, no one can fully comprehend the psychological state of a political prisoner who has been forced to wait standing on a stool blindfolded, nor can they imagine the anguish associated with waiting for four days in order to be subjected to a similar song and dance.
Four days later they woke him up again, taking him to the court yard at Ward 2A. The noose was once again hung around his neck while he stood on the stool of death. His execution sentence was read to him. He was asked to utter his last words. The stool was removed from under his feet, but the noose around his neck was too long and as he crashes to the ground, the two interrogators on each side of him broke out in laughter and declare: “You were lucky the rope tore this time. You can go back to your cell now until we determine exactly when you will be hanged.”
I am sure you recall the ridiculous show trials in 2010, after the rigged presidential elections and the subsequent false confessions by a number of well known and not so well known figures who were forced to testify against themselves and the Green movement. The manner in which these trials were conducted is a long story and I intend to write about the details such as how prisoners were prepared days in advance and forced to practice days before the trial or how some prisoners were forced to grow mustaches before the trial in another memo.
I am sure you are curious why a number of well known figures were willing to confess against themselves and the Green Movement. One of these prominent figures who had resisted the demands of his interrogators for 2 months, was finally forced to give into their demands, but how?
One day, they went to see this prominent figure’s wife and daughter and took them to prison under the pretext that they were going to see their husband and father. They were asked to remain in a room and wait for the prisoner to arrive.
The room had a glass window that provided a view only from one side. The prisoner was taken in using a separate door and placed in front of the glass window and he is told: “As you can see, we have brought your wife and daughter here. It is up to you whether you wish to speak in court or not.” A this point, the prisoner continued to resist their demands. The interrogator then called his colleague on the phone. “Haji, it looks as though he still thinks we are kidding with him.” He hung up the phone. The door to the room in which his wife and daughter were being kept opened and two largely built, dangerous prisoners convicted of murder enter the room. The interrogator faced the prisoner and said: “You see brother, these two men standing next to your wife and daughter have been convicted of murder and have been sentenced to death. They have been incarcerated for quite a few years and during this time they have had no contact with a woman. You have one minute to think about whether you are willing to go to court and sit in front of the cameras. If not, I will tell them to get busy right here in front of you.” – and this was how the prominent figure was forced to confess against himself and others…
The above mentioned accounts are only three examples of the psychological torture endured by political prisoners held in the IRGC Ward 2A, and Wards 209 and 240 under the supervision of the Ministry of Intelligence. Most importantly, they are the accounts of only 19 of the 160 political prisoners behind bars at Evin’s Ward 309, with each of whom I had the privilege of having discussions for many hours.
It goes without saying that in order to understand the depth of the tragedy and to clearly disclose the gross human rights violations we must take into account the accounts of hundreds of other friends who have lived similar experiences before and after my incarceration at Evin’s Ward 350, not to mention the experiences of those who are incarcerated in the solitary confinement wards at Evin’s Intelligence Ministry’s Ward 209 and 240, the IRGC’s Ward 2A, Rajai Shahr prison and other prisons across Iran.
As a journalist recently released from prison, I testify that despite all the torture, persecution, exile from society and sense of nostalgia, the prisoners of the democratic Green Movement, while caught in the clutches of a dictator, continue to stand firm with dignity inside Evin’s Ward 350. I look forward to the day when all freedom fighters are released and believe that the day when they are all collectively released will be upon us sooner than we think.