Iranian women in a demonstration over compulsory hijab and the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, October 2022

Iran’s security forces have raped and tortured protesters during the “Woman. Life. Freedom” demonstrations, according to Amnesty International.

Amnesty’s 120-page report, “They Violently Raped Me”, is based on the testimonies of 45 survivors: 26 men, 12 women, and seven children who were subjected to rape, gang rape, and/or other forms of sexual violence by intelligence and security forces. The youngest victim was 12 years old.

Sixteen detainees were raped: six women, seven men, a 14-year-old girl, and two boys aged 16 and 17. Six of them – four women and two men – were gang-raped.

See also Iran Protests: “They Gagged Us With Our Hijabs” — The Abuse and Rape of Detainees

The other 29 suffered grabbing, groping, beating, punching, and kicking of breasts, genitals and buttocks; enforced nudity, sometimes in front of video cameras; administration of electric shocks, insertion of needles, or application of ice to men’s testicles; forcible cutting of women’s hair and/or dragging them violently by their hair; and threats to rape survivors and/or their relatives.

Rapes and other sexual violence were frequently accompanied by other forms of torture, including beatings; floggings; electric shocks; administration of unidentified pills or injections, denial of food and water; and cruel and inhumane detention conditions. Security forces also routinely denied survivors medical care.

The rapists included operatives from the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij force, the Ministry of Intelligence, and different branches of the police force.

No Recourse for Survivors

The Iranian regime has not charged or prosecuted any officials over the assaults. Amnesty’s Secretary-General Agnés Callamard explained:

Iran’s prosecutors and judges were not only complicit by ignoring or covering up survivors’ complaints of rape, but also used torture-tainted “confessions” to bring spurious charges against survivors and sentence them to imprisonment or death.

Victims have been left with no recourse and no redress: only institutionalized impunity, silencing, and multiple physical and psychological scars running deep and far.

Farzad, gang-raped in a van of police special forces, recounted:

Plainclothes agents made us face the walls of the vehicle and gave electric shocks to our legs….They tortured me through beatings…resulting in my nose and teeth being broken. They pulled down my trousers and raped me….I was really being ripped apart…I was throwing up a lot and bleeding from my rectum.

Maryam, gang-raped in a Revolutionary Guards detention center, was told by her attackers, “You are all addicted to penis, so we showed you a good time. Isn’t this what you seek from liberation?”

“I Don’t Think I Will Ever Be The Same Person Again”

The large majority of survivors said they did not file complaints after their release from detention, fearing further harm with the judiciary as a tool of repression.

Six survivors presented torture marks or complained about abuse to officials while in detention, but were ignored. Three raised formal complaints, but were forced to withdraw or stopped pursuing them after repeated threats by security forces or months of inaction by the prosecution.

An official document from October 13, 2022, leaked and published in February 2023, confirms that authorities covered up complaints of rape made by two young women against two Revolutionary Guards operatives. The Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran advised the classification the case as “completely secret”, gradually closing it “over time”.

Survivors speak on the ongoing psychological damage. Sahar says:

I used to be a fighter in life. Even when the Islamic Republic tried to break me down, I carried on. However, recently, I think about suicide a lot….I am like a person who waits all day for night-time so I can sleep.

Zahra, raped by a police special forces officers, echoes:

I don’t think I will ever be the same person again. You will not find anything that will bring me back to myself, to return my soul to me….I hope that my testimony will result in justice and not just for me.