IRAN: Ten days of anguish, abuse inside Tehran's prison archipelago
July 3, 2009 | 8:31 am
All 33-year-old Ali-Reza wanted to do was stop pro-government Basiji militiamen from beating up a man lying on the ground. Instead the engineer said he wound up in the clutches of the capital's security archipelago, where he was himself beaten for days.
The east Tehran resident's story is among the tales of abuse and detention surfacing from Iran's weeks-long crackdown against dissidents and protestors in the wake of the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a vote marred by allegations of massive vote-rigging.
Ali-Reza said he was near Tehran's Fatemi Square on June 13, a day of riots and unrest just after the election, when he spotted the plainclothes Basiji fighters beating a man "in a very bad way," he said.
"Do not beat him!" he protested to the Basijis.
But instead of laying off, the militiamen came after him. "They started to follow me," he said. "I ran and changed my direction, but in a dead-end street they caught me."
He said they began pummeling him. "The started to beat and beat and beat me, with their batons, feet and cables."
They stuffed him into a van with other young men and women and took them to a holding cell near Horr Square, where they were all beaten for more than two hours, he said.
"You voted for Mousavi," one of the Basijis told them, according to Ali-Reza. "Beating you is our right. We can even kill you."
The Basiji called each other by honorifics, like Haji or Seyed, never by their real names.
For two days the captives were held in the facility, fed only bread and sugar.
But Ali-Reza said his treatment improved after he was handed over to the regular police. At one point a Basiji interrogator was about to break the fingers of a 24-year-old man, but the police stopped him, Ali-Reza said.
After days at the police detention facility, he and others were moved into Tehran's infamous Evin Prison, where they were no longer subject to as much abuse, but crammed into horribly overcrowded conditions.
"Our place for sleeping was nothing," Ali-Reza said. "There were too many people forced to sleep in one place and the toilet was very dirty."
During interrogations he and others were presented with pictures and video footage showing them at demonstrations and asked to answer questions about their political views and lives.
After 10 days, Ali-Reza was freed. His family had to put up the deed to their house as collateral, and in a month he's scheduled to appear before a judge at a branch of the Revolutionary Court.
The ordeal has made him more angry and contemptuous of Iranian authorities. He remembers watching as young men lay bleeding and injured on the ground and no one came to help them.
"Now I know whom I hate," he said. "Now I know how they are wild, are not human. They do not believe in anything. They just close their eyes and beat you until they kill you."
-- Los Angeles Times
Photo: An undated image of the halls of Tehran's Evin Prison. Credit: AFP