Iran protests: Amnesty International details abuse of protesters
A new Amnesty International report offers the most detailed account of Iranian abuse – and official coversups – during postelection protests.
Iran's security forces have enjoyed a "climate of impunity" during six months of "sweeping repression" to put down mass protests, according to an Amnesty International report released Wednesday that catalogs abuses from rape, killings, torture, and show trials.Skip to next paragraph
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The Amnesty report is the most detailed accounting of abuses – and Iranian officials' attempts to cover them up – so far of the six months of political crisis in Iran.
Since disputed elections on June 12, Iran has been thrown into a political crisis as protesters – who at their peak numbered hundreds of thousands in the weeks after the vote – took to the streets to challenge what they called the fraudulent reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The authorities have resorted to exceptionally high levels of violence and arbitrary measures to stifle protest and dissent," notes the report. Instead of holding state agents accountable for crimes under Iran's penal code, Amnesty says, Iran's courts have been used "as part of a repressive state machinery to allow the security forces to act with impunity."
Iranian officials continue to deny that any of the more than 4,000 people arrested during the unrest were raped. After initial denials of any deaths in custody – and a number of contradictory statements on the issue – officials have since acknowledged three deaths at the Kahrizak detention facility, which was ordered closed in late July for being substandard.
Government-sanctioned abuses have attended Iranian prisons long before the 1979 Islamic revolution, when the pro-West Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi first set up his SAVAK secret police with training from the Central Intelligence Agency and Israel's Mossad.
Prisons in the Islamic Republic have also been prone to human rights abuses, especially during episodes in the early and late 1980s when several thousand regime opponents were executed.
A history of street violence
"There was always this element of [militants] who would come into crowds and be willing to kill people," says Mr. Abrahamian, noting that in clashes last summer plainclothes militants, some of them middle-aged, were caught on film carrying knives.
"That element is still there – and it doesn't necessarily need to be among the Basiji [militia]; they could be thugs that are organized by Ahmadinejad's people," says Abrahamian. "That's the message they are trying to send: If you take part in demonstrations, you risk having your head broken, or being knifed. That may deter some people. But it makes the people who are willing to come out and demonstrate much tougher characters."