“As a witness in both cases of physical, sexual assault, and physical torture, I am willing to testify anywhere…” – Those words were written by human rights defender and longtime prisoner of conscience in Iran Narges Mohammadi, in an open letter smuggled outside her prison cell.
Mohammadi was responding to comments by the Islamic Republic of Iran’s foreign minister, Amir Abdolahian, in an interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN on March 2, 2023, during which Abdolahian shrugged off widespread allegations of women protesters and detainees being subjected to sexual violence and assault by government forces.
UN human rights experts have condemned the killings and crackdown by state security forces in Iran on protesters following the death in state custody of Jina Mahsa Amini, shortly after she was arrested for her alleged inappropriate hijab.
The UN experts have also called for an end to “gender-based and sexual violence, excessive use of force, torture, and enforced disappearances.” Read a few public accounts of sexual assault by Iranian women survivors here, here, and here.
In his interview with CNN, Abdolahian did not explain why, after more than 500 protesters including children were killed by Islamic Republic state forces, not one Iranian official has been held accountable for the killings and systematic human rights violations—while tens of thousands were arbitrarily imprisoned for protesting against state repression.
“I testify from inside the prison to the existence of torture and assault,” wrote Mohammadi, who is taking grave risks to her personal safety by speaking so candidly from inside Tehran’s Evin Prison, notorious for its decades-long imprisonment of political prisoners.
The [false] human rights claims of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic are raised while the people of Iran witness extensive and repressive government policies and human rights violations.
It is obvious that Amir Abdullahian’s claims are false, and there is no need to provide evidence or provide documentation. Executions, tortures, arrests, and heavy prison sentences have taken place in front of the eyes of the world. Still, the government recklessly lies even in the UN headquarters to deceive the world’s public opinion.
The basis of the system [of the Islamic Republic of Iran] is oppression, lies, and deception, which have made the conditions of society difficult and [verging on] collapse.
During the past few months, detainees have been brought to the women’s ward of Evin Prison and have been subjected to physical, sexual assault and physical torture, and we have witnessed the physical effects left on them.
The last of them is Mrs. Mahvash Shahriari, a poet, writer, and a member of the Iranian Baha’i community, who, being 70 years old and serving 10 years of imprisonment, was again arrested without any reason or legal proof and suffered imprisonment, mental torture, and even torture for five months in solitary confinement of the 209 Ward [controlled by the Intelligence Ministry].
As a witness in cases of physical, sexual assault, and physical torture, I am willing to testify anywhere.