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Iranian Student Told ‘Thank God You Are Still Alive’

A Basij militia member watches over a Tehran demonstration in June.
A Basij militia member watches over a Tehran demonstration in June.

Two prominent human rights organizations have called on the United Nations to appoint a special envoy to investigate human rights violations in Iran since the country’s June 12 presidential election. Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said they have documented “extensive violations committed by state-sponsored forces” since the election, including “the unlawful use of lethal force against peaceful protesters, lengthy solitary confinement, and coerced confessions.” The organizations also called for an investigation into “numerous allegations of torture and rape of detainees.”

In all, more than 4,000 people were detained in connection with postelection protests, and about 400 are believed to still be in custody.

Ebrahim Sharifi is a 24-year-old student who worked for Mehdi Karrubi during the presidential campaign and participated in the protests that came after incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad was declared the victor in the June 12 election. On June 23, he was detained by security forces and claims that he was raped while in custody, allegations that Karrubi cited when he criticized the authorities for abusing detainees. He was released on June 30. (Read more about Sharifi's case here.)

Sharifi then told Karrubi what had happened to him. When he attempted to complain to Tehran prosecutors and to the judiciary about his treatment, he found himself instead being interrogated.

After he made his allegations public, Sharifi says he was harassed and threatened by officials. Following threats against his family, Sharifi went into hiding and fled Iran. He described his ordeal in a conversation with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda broadcaster Mohammad Zarghami.

RFE/RL: When and under what circumstances were you arrested?

Ebrahim Sharifi: After the election, [on June 23] I was returning home from the Italian consulate [where I took Italian courses], and someone called me, saying: “Excuse me.” I went toward the person who was calling me and someone grabbed me from behind, tied my hands, and blindfolded me. He pushed me to the floor of the car. They took me somewhere -- I was blindfolded.

Ebrahim Sharifi
RFE/RL: Why did the judiciary report after Iranian media published accounts of prison rape by a man identified as "E.S." -- meaning you -- that there was no trace of an arrest of anyone by that name?

What else do you expect them to say? From the first day, when Moghadami [a representative from Tehran's prosecutor's office] started interrogating me, I came out of the office of Mehdi Karrubi and [told Karrubi]: “They're taking this issue in a direction to say that I took money from you or that I have become a pawn in political games.”

RFE/RL: Did they tell you why you were arrested and what the charges against you were?

Sharifi: During the entire time that I was in prison, I wasn't even interrogated. They only asked me my name -- and that was when they were about to release me.

RFE/RL: You said on the day you were arrested they pushed you into a car. What happened afterward? Where did they take you?

Sharifi: They took me to a location where I couldn't hear the sound of cars anymore. They took me out of the car and pushed me to place where I could hear only the sound of my own breathing and the breathing of others. They made me lie on my stomach. I don't know whether I fell asleep. I think it was in the morning when I heard the cry of a woman. She was shouting and saying: "Don't do it; don't hit me." I don't [remember] exactly.

RFE/RL: Do you know which detention center it was?

Sharifi: I have no idea what detention center it was. My hands were tied, and I was blindfolded.

RFE/RL: So you were blindfolded the whole time and your hands were tied?

Sharifi: Yes. They would untie my hands from behind my back and tie them in the front only when they gave me food.

RFE/RL: When did the rape take place?

Sharifi: The fourth day, when they said they were going to execute me -- it was a mock execution they subjected us to. I protested and said: "What is this? If you want to execute me, just do it. Why do you play these games?" Someone kicked me in the stomach and I fell on the ground. He kept kicking me in the stomach. Then he told someone: "Go and make [him] pregnant." He kept kicking me. I was throwing up blood and my stomach was injured. He pulled me to another room and tied my hands to the wall.

RFE/RL: You've said that you are not sure whether you were raped by the guard or whether he used an object.

Sharifi: I think that a person did it, but I can't be sure whether it was done by that individual or whether he used something. Judge Mohammadi [of the judiciary] asked me: "Why didn't you tell him to stop?" I said that I wasn't capable of thinking or saying anything.

RFE/RL: What did you feel?

Sharifi: I think I lost consciousness because I was throwing up blood and also because of…you know. That person made an obscene comment to me. He said: "You can't even protect your thing, how do you intend to stage a velvet revolution?"

RFE/RL: Did you disclose that you were raped after being released?

Sharifi: I didn't want to make the rape issue public. After I was released and went to the police [to file a complaint]; they told me not to pursue this case. They said: "It was the work of the Intelligence Ministry; let it go. You've been released; you should thank God you're still alive."

I finally could get a letter from the doctor's office because there were still injuries on my back and stomach. I talked to one of my friends and he suggested I should talk to the clergy or Karrubi. I went to see Karrubi. I didn't want to reveal the rape issue, but I had tears in my eyes when we spoke and he said that he felt that I wasn't telling him everything, that I was hiding something. He asked all the people who were in the room to leave us alone, he then spoke to me, quoted from the Koran.

He asked me if [the rape] had happened and I answered "yes" and started to cry. He hugged me. He had tears in his eyes, and he was very upset. After Moghadami interrogated me -- it was a month and a half after the rape -- I went to the doctor's office. There they told me that after one month no traces [of rape] were visible anymore. But an official from the judiciary told me that they can even determine the size of the object that was used. He said: "That’s our job."

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