The Sexual Assault of at Least 7 Detainees in the Central Prison of Zahedan
by Shahram Mouselchi — 7March2023
The prison officials of the Zahedan Central Prison have threatened five detainees with the charge of “moharebeh,” a verdict that leads to execution, if they speak up about the rapes happening inside the prison.
The oppression, violation, and pressure against the protesters arrested throughout the woman, life, freedom movement by the various judicial branches and surveilling bodies continues in many ways. From time to time, heartbreaking and shocking reports from inside the prisons in Iran are published. These reports inform about the situation of the arrested protestors, the spaces in which they are imprisoned, and the government officers’ treatment of detainees.
The continued reports of oppression are the manifestation of the Islamic Republic’s judicial system’s aim to increasingly violate and place pressure on the arrested protesters and their families, forcing them to submit to the illegal demands of the government’s surveilling bodies. At times these reports circulate in the media, but more often, they are neglected by the media and human rights organizations.
The Iranian regime’s judicial system has issued many heavy sentences for those arrested during the protests as well as the inhumane execution of four protesters who had participated in the nationwide uprisings, namely Mohammad Mehdi Karami, Mohammad Hosseini, Mohsen Shekari, and Majidreza Rahnavard. The regime’s judicial system attempts to portray a gracious image of itself to the collective mind. But behind closed doors, the regime continues the violent oppression and physical and mental torture of political prisoners in general, but for the nameless protestors arrested during the recent uprisings, to an even greater degree.
In their newest report, Baloch Campaign, an Instagram page specifically covering the news regarding the violation of Baloch people’s rights in Iran, informs about the group rape of six young Baloch men who were arrested while protesting, and one detainee from Mashhad in the central prison of Zahedan.
Prior to this news, numerous reports about the sexual assault of female protestors detained in the detention centers of the Sepah’s intelligence branch had been published. This news spread in the media, while the news broadcast Haalvsh had already published a report on the rape of arrested Baloch women in detention centers by the officers of the Sepah’s intelligence branch on February 9th.
The exact number of detained women who have been raped is unknown. According to the arrested protesters, of which most are young girls, the goal behind the interrogation and subsequent rape of these women was to construct a narrative against the employees of the Makki Zahedan Complex. The Sepah intelligence branch’s interrogators insisted that these young girls had had sexual relations with specific political figures associated with the opposition and had also been in contact with armed guerrilla groups such as the Mojahedin, and monarchists.
These young girls had been arrested on University Street in Zahedan after Bloody Friday. In an interview with Haalvsh, one of the rape victims stated the details regarding the arresting and imprisoning of at least three other young girls and said that incognito government officials had besieged them and one other young woman who had come to Zahedan from another city to gather a field report. They separated the women from each other, beat them up, confiscated all their belongings, and imprisoned them in a black van.
Zahedan, which is located in the Sistan and Baluchestan province, has been one of the prominent sites of the protests since the beginning of the nationwide uprising and has been targeted by the central regime’s judicial system and military forces aiming to suppress the uprisings with violence. The Baloch Activist’s Campaign has announced the names of the six detained Baloch protesters who have been subjected to sexual assault: Benjamin Koohkan, 16, son of Hamidreza, Elias Koohkan, 19, son of Hamidreza, Yasin Kobdani, 17, son of GholamAli, Mohammad Darvish Narooi, 19, son of Abdolrahman, Ashaq Rigi, 21, son of Mohammad and Saeid Baranzehi.
In this report, the name of the arrested protester from Mashhad is not mentioned. Up until this point, no information has been available about his situation.
Drawing on the accounts of a source on the ground, The Baloch Activist’s Campaign has written in regard to these seven arrested persons:
At the central prison of Zahedan, the prison officials use heavy physical and mental torture to get forced confessions. If the person refuses to confess the officers attempt sexual torture and assault using a hose. In the past years, reports and news in the voice of prisoners and detained persons about the ways in which the surveilling bodies of the Islamic Republic file fake charges and torture prisoners pushing them to confess to crimes they did not commit have been published numerous times. This source, whose name can not be mentioned due to safety reasons, has also told The Baloch Activist’s Campaign that after the assaults the Baloch prisoners are under extremely tragic physical and mental circumstances. Benjamin Koohkan and Yasin Kobdani are currently in the children’s section of the Zahedan central prison. Since the assault, Benjamin has attempted suicide twice.
The Baloch Activist’s Campaign
Based on this report, after the assault, Benjamin attempted suicide twice by eating washing detergent and gathering and eating large amounts of painkillers. According to The Baloch Activist’s Campaign, the painkillers Benjamin Koohkan has used in suicide attempts had been provided to him to reduce the pain caused by his rape.
Prior to this report, a young woman had told Haalvsh “I was on the verge of suicide. Telling you this feels as if my whole body has been put on fire. I had nightmares every single night. I was so depressed that I wanted to kill myself to feel relieved. Then I thought to myself, why would I destroy myself? I have to resist and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
According to the report published by Haalvsh, besides the person who has spoken up about her experience of the Sepah’s intelligence branch, many other detained protesters who were arrested in the recent uprisings and set free by the detention centers of the Sepah’s intelligence branch, have been struggling with depression and have cut ties with family and friends.
After the news of Benjamin’s sexual assault spread in the media, judicial officials told the family of this young Baloch that the court had issued a verdict of moharebeh for Benjamin. This report also states that the officials of Zahedan’s Central Prison have threatened the 5 other detainees with the same verdict if the news of their rape reaches the media.
On February 22nd, The Baloch Activist’s Campaign wrote that the mother and aunt of Benjamin managed to visit him and announced that he is currently in poor mental and physical condition. The report does not mention the time of his arrest or any other details about these seven detainees.
The bloody oppression of protestors in Zahedan by the regimes’ repressive forces on what has become known as Bloody Friday was widespread and brutal, but only now, months later, is the depth of the crimes committed by the oppressive forces being reported in the media.
The state murder of Zhina Amini (Mahsa), a Kurdish citizen from Saqqez, and the rape of a 15-year-old Baloch girl by officer Ibrahim Koochakzaai, a police officer in the city of Chabahar, has made the people of Baluchestan furious, bringing them to protest in the streets. After the Friday prayer on September 29th, the regime responded to the people’s protest in Zahedan by firing direct bullets. On Bloody Friday, more than 100 people were killed and many more were injured. Fridays marked by rage and blood kept occurring in Khash, Zahedan and Iranshahr.
According to Amnesty International, in Sistan and Baluchestan, more than 100 deaths were caused by the regime’s armed forces who fired direct bullets at protesters. More than 100 people were injured. Among the people killed, there were at least 16 children who were younger than 18. Amnesty International announced that the regime’s attack on Baloch protesters on September 30th is the deadliest genocide since the beginning of the people’s uprising.