Search form

Last updated: 43 sec ago

You are here

Detained Iranian protesters must not be forgotten

According to latest reports, at least 22 people were killed and more than ​3,700 were arrested during the recent public display of discontent in Iran — the largest since the 2009 post-election protests.
Many of those who were arrested are among the younger members of the population, women and university students. In an unprecedented move, the regime forces are also engaged in “preventative” arrests, detaining people who were not involved in the protests, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency and Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of the Iranian parliament.
The preventative measure is most likely an attempt to impose fear. It also provides the Iranian authorities with a “legitimate” pretext to arrest people who are considered to be in opposition to the regime. In addition, the regime is also trying to reduce the possibility of the discontent spreading or another wave of protests erupting.
While some mainstream media outlets may begin focusing less on the domestic situation in Iran, it is critical to continue shedding light on the fate of the detainees following the protests. What will happen to those who are arrested and their families?
By extrapolating from the Iranian regime’s history of how detainees and prisoners are treated, several alarming issues can be raised. 
The Kahrizak Detention Center is one example of how detained protesters are treated. Following the 2009 protests, reports emerged of a specific detention center, Kahrizak, where detained protesters were tortured and raped. Several detainees died there, according to human rights groups. 
The detainees are routinely used as pawns to teach society a hard lesson against protesting. 
Protesters are generally labeled as political dissidents and kept in notorious political jails such as Evin Prison. There would be a lack of due process, and they would be generally denied access to lawyers. 
They will likely face ambiguous charges such as endangering the national security of the government, attempting to overthrow the government, or conspiring with “enemies” and foreigners. Their sentences can range from long-term solitary confinement to execution. The act of insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and chanting “Death to Khamenei” is punishable by death. 
Torture is a classic tactic that the regime uses in such scenarios, according to Amnesty International. 

Regime’s record on human rights means the thousands of demonstrators who have been arrested are likely to face torture, rape and even death in notorious detention centers.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
In addition, the regime will attempt to extract forced confessions by threatening the detainees and their families. In such situations, detainees are normally required to state that they were cooperating with foreign governments, spying and inciting anti-government protests. These “confessions” are videotaped and broadcast to the rest of the world in order to buttress the Iranian regime’s argument that the demonstrations were acts of foreign “sedition,” and that the regime continues to enjoy a high level of domestic popularity.
Some of the detainees are not capable of enduring the atrocities and torture. For example, already one young detainee has died in prison. Not surprisingly, the regime attempts to brush off these kinds of deaths in detention as “suicides” without providing any details. 
As the Iranian parliamentarian Tayebeh Siavashi was quoted as saying by the semi-official ILNA news agency: “This 22-year-old young man was arrested by the police. I was informed that he had committed suicide in jail.”
Some detainees will be lashed in public in order to send a strong message to their peers that demonstrations against the regime will not be tolerated. Family members will be threatened and warned against speaking to the media or writing posts about their situation on social media. 
Two major institutions will be playing crucial roles in this regard: The ministry of intelligence and the judiciary, which are both dominated by hardliners. 
Human rights organizations and the United Nations should closely monitor the situations of these detainees in Iran. The international community should also put pressure on the Iranian authorities to stop its campaign of preventative arrests and release innocent detainees. 
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh