Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Promoting tolerance and justice through knowledge and understanding
Victims and Witnesses

“Do You Know the Sentence for Drinking Booze in Islam?": A Teenage Boy's Flogging

M. Z/ABF Interview
Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
April 20, 2016

I was born on February 27, 1980 in Karaj. I pursued my education and spent my life there, in Gohardasht neighborhood.

Flogged For Having a Girl Friend and Drinking

When I lived in Iran, I was arrested frequently for different absurd accusations. Once, after a night in custody, I went to the court and the judge issued a ruling. When the authorities began a crackdown on social corruption, a bus was placed at Gohardasht Second Street. On each side of the street there were some officers who would pick pedestrians randomly for no reason and tell them “come here, get in the bus”! Then they took them away, fined them twenty to fifty thousand Tomans and freed them. I, myself, was arrested and fined for wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt or a sweatshirt with a printed design of an English newspaper. For these offenses they charged us in the court. In practice, there a case would be brought in front of the judge who would read it and issue a ruling. You wouldn’t know on what basis they sentenced you.

Two of the times I was arrested the judge sentenced me to receive lashes. The first time I was sentenced to receive 40 mandatory lashes for an alleged illegitimate relationship and the second time I received 71 to 74 lashes for drinking alcoholic beverages.

In late winter 1996, when I was 16, I received lashes for the first time. That day I went to a friend’s house with my friends after school and we gathered around. Actually, we did that a lot, I mean, we’d go to our friend’s place if there was no one in the house, and we’d gather around and party. However, it was not the kind of party where we would dance; we’d just play cards and drink alcohol.

That day we were about twenty people, and, if I’m not mistaken, five of us were girls, one of which was my girlfriend. About 3 or 4 p.m. one of my friends who had just arrived said “there are some officers in the alley and they followed me”. Back then there were no bottled alcoholic drinks and we always bought homemade alcoholic beverages. When my friend informed us about the officers, we got rid of the alcohol bags and the girls, who were in shorts, changed their cloths and we all left the house and went to the yard but it was late and we had no way to escape because the house was in a dead-end street. Before we could find a way to escape, the officers kicked the gate and before we opened the door, we saw some officers in green uniforms easily climb the rooftop, walls and the door, rush into the yard and open the gate for the rest of the officers.

When the officers entered the yard they said “Sit, sit down, I’m telling you to sit down, bastard.” They treated us very badly, they kicked us and didn’t even let us talk.

Only one of the officers who had entered the house wore plainclothes and I knew him. He was my friend’s uncle. Captain Najafi was mostly bald and had red hair and worked at Social Corruption section.

I think the officers were at the house for twenty or thirty minutes, then they took us to the alley without blindfolding and handcuffing us.

In the alley, a neighbor who was a sixty-year-old woman shouted “I called them, I called them”. Back then, if someone called the police and reported a party they would come and arrest the people at the party.

They had two patrol cars with police logos to transport us, the cars had three lines of color like a flag, the upper and lower lines were green and the middle one was white with the police logo.

They separated the boys from the girls, pushed all the boys into the trunk of one of the cars and closed the door and transferred us to Gohardasht forth street to the Monkarat and Combat Social Corruption office. When we entered the courtyard of the Monkarat and Combat Social Corruption office they lined up everyone in the corner of the yard. Someone came forward and said “Why is your hair so long?” slap! “You plucked your eyebrows?” Slap! They just slapped us. I tried to keep my head down so that they wouldn’t notice me, because if we glanced at them or if they didn’t like our looks they would slap and hurt us. Still they slapped me immediately and asked if I drank alcohol.

Although we all had drunk alcohol, none of us confessed because if we did, they’d sentence us to receive about 74 lashes.

After a while they sent all of us boys to a detention center. I always remember the place. We first passed a door to enter the detention center; we entered a small area where a soldier was sitting. We passed another door and entered a hallway which consisted of 5 solitary confinements on one side near the bathrooms and two large rooms at the end of the hallway one of which we were sent to. There were some gray blankets for soldiers in the room, and some other blankets were lying on the floor. Some parts of the floor that were covered with cement were empty and there were four or five other detainees there other than us.

On the same day they sent us to the room in the courtyard for interrogation. There was a hanger in the room, and a desk and a chair where the interrogator was sitting.

First, the interrogator said “Sign here.”, “What is it that I have to sign?” I asked. “I’m telling you to sign here,” he said. “I should know what I’m signing,” I said. He didn’t even let me read it. I sneaked a look at the sheet a few times but didn’t understand anything. The paper was written on by them. After I signed the paper, the interrogation started. “What is the relationship between you and this girl? Whose home was it that you were invited to? How many people were there? How do your friends know you? Do you know all of them? Do you take drugs? Do you drink alcohol?” During the interrogation, the interrogator wrote all of the answers on the paper himself and in the end of the interrogation he gave it to me to sign.

If I’m not mistaken, the interrogation took ten minutes. During this time there was only one interrogator in the room and when the interrogation finished they took me back to the same cell.

One of the detainees, who had been there before, was released on the first day. Because we were not allowed to call our parents, one of the guys gave him a number quickly and told him to call his family to come for him. After being released, the boy called my friend’s parents and informed them about our arrest. His parents went there the same day and managed to free him on bail until the day of his trial. After he was released, our friend called our parents and informed them.

It was cold that night and we had no place to sleep, therefore, all four or five of us slept tightly on our jackets.

The next day, 3 of my friends and I, who were friends with the girls, were taken for interrogation at noon. There were two interrogators in the interrogation room. One of them was sitting and the other one, who had interrogated me the day before, was standing on the other side asking questions: “What’s your relationship with this girl? What did you do? Did you have sex? How long have you been dating? Do your families know that?” I denied everything and said that we had just dated. If I had said that we’d been dating for a while or we wanted to get married, they would have pestered us and wouldn’t have let it go. This interrogation lasted for fifteen of twenty minutes as well. The next morning, we were transferred to the court.

The interrogators treated us very roughly during both interrogations; with a frown and their head held down. If I didn’t understand a part of the interrogator’s question, he would hold his head up and look down on me in a way that I will never forget. In fact, this look meant “You should listen to what I’m asking; you should understand what I’m saying and you don’t get to ask questions”! If he was irritated by the smallest thing he would insult us.

In those two days, they gave us three square meals. We weren’t allowed to take a bath, and in order to go to the bathroom we had to call the soldier standing there to open the door for us and let us go to the bathroom.

Early in the morning on the third day, they handcuffed us two by two with metal handcuffs and took us to the General Court of Azadegan, Karaj in two Toyota Cressidas along with three or four soldiers. Our families were also in the court and we could finally meet them outside the court for the first time in two days.

The trial started and all of us entered the court along with the girls. There were a couple of chairs around the room and the judge, a secretary, and, if I’m not mistaken, another person were all present in the court other than us.

The judge was a cleric and since there were too many of us, he didn’t talk much; he just read the case and didn’t let us talk. He asked “Did you throw a party?” and right when one of the guys started to say that it wasn’t a party the judge looked at him and said “Who asked you to talk?”

In the trial the judge condemned us to pay thirty thousand Tomans penalty for throwing a party, and also condemned me and three other guys who had girlfriends like me to receive forty mandatory lashes for having illegitimate relationships. The girls were also condemned to receive forty lashes for the same accusation which was a suspended sentence.

Back then I was too young and naive and didn’t know what to do. We didn’t hire a lawyer because we didn’t think the judge would sentence us to receive lashes. Besides, our families’ financial situation was not good enough to hire lawyers for us.

Nevertheless, the judge issued a ruling and we all signed it and the order was going to be executed the next day in the court basement where the sentence implementation took place. That day, our families paid thirty thousand Tomans and presented the bill to the court in order to release us. My friends and I, who were sentenced to flogging, were released until the next day by offering five ID cards on bail for each of us.

The next morning, we went to anti-vice [Monkarat]office and from there, they transferred us to the place where the sentences are implemented

The anti-vice office was a basement about sixty meters. Inside was a table in the form of a sawhorse with two chairs on which we had to lie prone in a way that our knees would lie on the floor with our stomach on the table. There were three people to carry out the sentence including a man named Akhundi, who was the one who was supposed to carry out the sentence. Akhundi was short, fat, and about forty years old. When I entered to get punished, Akhundi told me “Hold your hands together under the table.” Then he started flogging me without taking my clothes off. He held his hand up and backwards as far as he could and threw it down and hit me.

I was badly hurt by the first lash and let go of my hands. In that moment Akhundi kicked me and said “hold your hands tightly”. I was flogged from under my neck to my knees and after the tenth lash my back was completely numb but the last ten lashes were painful again.

Then they had me sit down on the chair for about ten minutes to get well. Then they said “goodbye”. The whip was torn with a combination of strings, cables, and leather straps. I didn’t shed a tear during the execution but blood came out from two wounds in my back.

Then I went home. My mother cut a piece of meat and fat and put it on my back for about three hours to heal the bruise quickly and lessen the pain from the flogging.

In summer 1998, I was sentenced to flogging for the second time. My friends and I partied and had alcoholic drinks. It was past 1 a.m. when my friends and I left the party. We were walking in Dariush, Gohardasht when we got arrested by three police officers.

They asked us “Have you drunk alcohol? Let us smell your breath. Well you are drunk indeed!” Without handcuffing us, they put us in the car. The car was moving when I said to them “I’m begging you to stop; is there any way that you don’t take us there?” One of them answered “No, there is no way.” In the end, like in 1995, they took us to the Gohardasht Forth Street Anti Vice [Monkarat] office. They sent us to the detention center and interrogated us the same night.

A soldier came for interrogation and took me to the interrogation room without handcuffing me. I sat very politely in the interrogation room and the interrogator who apparently just got woke up and was sleepy started the interrogation. He asked “Have you drunk alcohol?” I said no I haven’t.” He said shut up. In this interrogation the interrogator wrote down everything I answered and in the end gave me the papers to sign. After five minutes of interrogation they took me to the detention center again. The next morning, they handcuffed me and took us to the general court of Azadegan, Karaj.

In the court, when we entered the room the judge, who was in plainclothes, asked “Do you agree that you drank alcohol?” We said no. He said “According to this paper they arrested you drunk last night.” We said “No they are wrong. We didn’t drink alcohol.” The judge said “Do you know the sentence for drinking booze in Islam?” He issued a ruling for each of us to receive 71 to 74 lashes for drinking alcoholic beverages and carried out the sentence the same day. The court session lasted 20 minutes and this time the judge allowed us to defend ourselves. In the end, we gave our families’ phone numbers to them to call them.

For executing the ruling, they transferred us to the Monkarat and Combat Social Corruption office. The sentences for underground corruption were carried out in the corner of the yard. A thin old man with a gray beard, who was about sixty years old, was standing there to carry out the sentence along with Akhundi, the same person who executed the flogging sentence on me. After taking my clothes off, except my pants, they made me lie down on a large table, handcuffed me to the legs of the table and the old man started flogging. He did the first forty lashes which were very painful and Akhundi did the rest. The strikes started from the back of my neck to my knees. The whip was made of a stiff hose which was torn.

I was released after the punishment. My brother-in-law, who was apparently called and told “The sentence is going to be carried out today; come here and take him home”, was waiting to take me home. When we arrived home, we saw that my back was completely black and blue.

University Studies, Student Uprising, and Expelled Before Graduation

In October 1998, I was able to go to Azad University of Gohardasht and continue my education for a B.A. in the field of industrial management.

After the tragedies at the university dorm in October 1999, I was arrested with one of my friends in a park in Gohardasht Seventh Street. That day, people had demonstrated and chanted slogans about the tragedies of the university dorm for a few hours in the same park we were arrested. The demonstration ended at about 6 P.M.

That day, I went to a park in Gohardasht Seventh Street with two of my friends, one of which was a girl. My friend and I were sitting on the curb in the park and the girl was sitting on a swing. In the afternoon when it got dark, some people came from the back, handcuffed and blindfolded us and said that we were arrested. I asked “Why? What did we do? I didn’t do anything; you have no right to arrest us.” He said “Shut up, you’ll know.”

They picked us up and took us to a place I didn’t know. However, I felt like we were going to Gohardasht prison. I think the car was a black Benz because before getting arrested, I saw a black Benz driving there continually.

When we got there, they hung something around our necks and took a picture of us without blindfolds. They blindfolded us again quickly, transferred us to another room, gave us prison clothes and transferred us to separate solitary confinements.

The solitary confinement I was in was very small and dark. The floor was paved with mosaic and there was a platform for sitting on which I slept. In less than half an hour, they came for me and told me to go for interrogation.

There was a table and a chair in the interrogation room; I sat on the chair with the interrogator in front of me. I wasn’t blindfolded during the interrogation and I could see the interrogator. He was a young handsome and clean man with straight hair that he had put up; he had stubble and talked politely.

That night, they came hourly to take me to the interrogation room for interrogations, eight times in total, until morning. The duration of the interrogations was about twenty minutes, except the first one, which, if I’m not mistaken, took 45 minutes, and only one person interrogated me.

All the interrogation questions were repetitive. When I said that I was a university student the interrogator said “Bravo! That’s even worse. What kind of group are you affiliated to? Were you involved with these activities? Why were you there? Why were you out? Who do you work with? Who do you interact with? Do you have a student group in the university? Have your college friends joined any groups? Are you related to the people who committed sedition? Do you know any of your friends or other students who are involved? Why were you involved in this?” I was extremely scared, because I had heard that if anyone is guilty of a political crime, he is in big trouble.

When the last interrogation session was over, they told me “From now on every time something happens, you must turn yourself in to Shahid Madani police station.”

When the last interrogation session was over, they told me “From now on, every time there is chaos and every time something happens, you must turn yourself in to Shahid Madani police station in Jahanshahr.” After that, I signed and fingerprinted everything I had written during the interrogation, and was transferred to the solitary confinement.

The next day, they came to the cell early in the morning and blindfolded me and transferred my friend and me to another place. I didn’t know where we were going to be transferred to; I just figured out that we walked a long way and reached a new place. They repeated the same words as the night before and said “Whatever happens you should come here and turn yourself in, otherwise we come to your house.” Then they freed us and it was at that time that I realized we were transferred to Shahid Madani police station for the second time.

Being released, I returned home and after talking to my family, I realized that they were looking for me everywhere all night long. They had called everyone and they went to Social Corruption office since they thought I was there, but they were told that no one by my name was there. In fact, my family was informed about my arrest through the girl who was in the park with us.

After being free I never turned myself in to Shahid Madani police station, although there was chaos in Gohardasht several times and they didn’t come after me either. Moreover, although the University was informed about my arrest, I didn’t have any problems there and I could go back to the University after being released again, but unfortunately, in 2002 when I had to pass only 27 more credits to graduate, I was expelled from the university due to conflicts between Mr. Ahmadi, the head of University security, and me.