To Torture A Prisoner Is to Torture Humanity: A Letter From Farzad Kamangar, A Political Prisoner
I, Farzad Kamangar, known as Siamand, have worked as a teacher in the town of Kamyaran [in the Iranian province of Kurdistan] for 12 years. A year before my arrest [July 2006], I started teaching at the Kar-o-Danesh vocational High school. I was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Kamyaran branch of Teachers’ Union in and in charge of its public relations before it was banned by the authorities. In addition, I was a member of the editorial board of “Ruyan,” a cultural-educational monthly published by the Education Department in Kamyaran (this publication was eventually banned by “Herasat” [the intelligence and security organization monitoring public offices]). For a while, I was a member of the board directors of the Bio-Ecological Society of Kamyaran (Ausk), and when the [Kurdistan] Human Rights Organization started its activities in 2005, I signed up to be a reporter for this organization.
In July 2006, I came to Tehran to follow upon my brother's medical treatments. My brother is a Kurdish political activist. I was arrested and immediately transferred to an unknown location. It was a dark and narrow basement with no ventilators; the cells were completely empty, no beds, no carpets, no blankets, nothing. The place was extremely dark. Then they took me to another room. As they were writing down my information, they would ask about my ethnicity, and when I said I was Kurdish, they would flog me all over my body with a hose-like device. They also subjected me to foul language, insults, and beatings because of my religious beliefs [Sunnis Islam as distinguished from Shi’a Islam which is the State official religion] They flogged me to a pulp because of the Kurdish ring tone I had on my mobile phone. They would handcuff me and tie me to a chair and put pressure on my sensitive spots … and they would strip me naked and harass me with a baton or a stick, threatening to violate me sexually.
My left foot was severely injured during the time I spent in this place. Also, I fell unconscious as a result of being repeatedly hit in the head and subjected to electric shocks, and when I regained consciousness, I had lost my sense of balance, and I still get sudden uncontrollable shivers in my body as a result. They would chain my feet and apply shock to different sensitive spots of my body through a small device that could be clamped on to the waist. The pain resulting from these shocks was extreme and horrifying. Later, I was transferred to ward 209 [in Tehran’s Evin prison]. I was immediately blindfolded and taken to a small room just off the entrance hall (ground floor, left hand side, past the room where sentences were carried out). There, I was subjected to assault and battery (punching and kicking). The next day I was transferred to Sanandaj, where they were planning to arrest my brother. From the second I entered the detention center in Sanandaj, I faced insults and verbal abuse and battery. They tied me to a chair in the medical clinic there and left me that way until 7 a.m. the next day. I wetted myself, because I was not even allowed to use the toilet. After much more harassment, they transferred me back to detention ward 209 [in Tehran’s Evin prison]. I was interrogated, harassed, and beaten in the first-floor rooms (the green interrogation rooms).
On August 27, 2006, they finally had no choice but to seek medical assistance for me as a result of the extreme torture to which I had been subjected. The clinic was on the first floor and next to the interrogation rooms. The doctor recorded bruises and clear marks of torture and flogging on my waist, neck, head, back, thighs and feet. For two months in September and October, I was in solitary confinement in room # 43. The torture and harassment were so harsh and unimaginable that I decided to go on hunger strike for 33 days. When they started threatening my family, I tried to commit suicide by throwing myself down the staircase on the first floor to rid myself from torture and [spare my family] to express my objection to the harassment and pressure exerted on my family. I was also held in solitary confinement in a small and stinking room at the end of the hall on the first floor (113) for nearly a month. During this time, I was not allowed contact with my family through visits or telephone calls. During the three months of my solitary confinement, I was not allowed to take recreation. Later, I was transferred to a regular cell (room # 10 in the hallway) and spent two months there. During this time, I was denied visitors or an attorney. In mid-January, I was transferred from ward 209 [in Tehran’s Evin prison] to the Intelligence Office detention center located in Naft [Petroleum] Square in Kermanshah. No charges were brought against me and I had no idea what I was accused of. The detention center was dark and narrow and home to any crime conceivable against the inmates.
They stripped me naked and, after considerable assault and battery, gave me some dirty and stinking clothes to wear, and then kicked and punched me out of the hallway and the detention center to the guarding officer’s room and from there to another hallway that was accessible through a small door. I was put in a very small cell that was, in fact, secret and where no one could hear me. The dimensions of the room were approximately 160 cm by 50 cm. Two small light bulbs were hanging from the ceiling. There were no vents. The cell had originally been a bathroom and was putrid and cold. There was only a dirty blanket available in the cell. The cell was so small that you would inevitably hit your head against the wall when you got up. It was very cold. To breathe, I had to put my face on the floor and take in the air through my mouth from under the door. Every few hours, they would bang on the door or turn the lights on and off to disrupt my sleeping. After two days, they took me for interrogations. Without any questions, they started punching and kicking and insulting and verbally abusing me. Then they took me back to the cell. They would turn the radio up to maximum volume in order to prevent me from resting or thinking. I was allowed to use the toilet only twice in 24 hours. Once in a month, I was allowed to take a shower for a few minutes. Some examples of the tortures that I underwent there are as follows:
“Soccer Game.” This was the expression used by the interrogators. They would strip me naked, and then four or five them would stand around and “pass” me to each other by kicking and punching me. If I fell down, they would laugh and subject me to verbal and physical abuses. They would keep me standing on one leg for hours. I had to hold my arms up and they would beat me every time I got tired. Since they knew that my left foot was severely injured, they put more pressure on that foot. “Quran” recitations were played on the highest volume so that no one could hear my screams. They would slap and punch my face during interrogations. In the basement of the detention center, the stairs were covered under garbage and bread crumbs from the courtyard to the main hallway so that no one would notice them, there was another torture room where I was taken at night. There, they would tie my hands and feet to a bed and flog me on the soles of my feet, my calves, thighs, and waist with a whip known as “Zolfaqar” (the name of Imam Ali’s sword). It was very painful and I could not walk for days. Since it was winter and cold, they would keep me in a particularly freezing room from morning to sunset, supposedly waiting for interrogators, but there would be no interrogation, in the end. In Kermanshah, as well, they used electric shocks; they would apply electric shocks to the sensitive spots of my body. I was not allowed to use toothbrush or toothpaste. What little food there was stale, stinking, and not edible.
Here [Kermanshah], too, I was denied visitors; they even arrested the girl I liked. They would harass and arrest my brothers. Due to the unsanitary conditions in the cell and to using dirty and stinking blankets and clothes, I developed skin problems (fungus), and I was not even allowed to see a doctor. The torture was so harsh that I went on hunger strike for 12 days to object to my conditions. In the last 15 days of my detention, they transferred me to an even dirtier and more stinking cell which had no heating facilities. Everyday, they would abuse me verbally and otherwise; one time they hit me in my testicles so badly that I fell unconscious. One night, they stripped me naked in the basement torture room and threatened to rape me and … I had to hit my head against the wall a few times in order to stop the torture. They would force me to confess to wrongdoings in emotional and relationship … matters. One could constantly hear moaning and groaning from the other cells, and every once in a while somebody would commit suicide.
On March 18, 2007, I was transferred back to ward 209 [in Tehran’s Evin prison] and, though this time I was put in the collective cell (# 121), I was still denied visitors. Still, they would pressure me mentally and emotionally by arresting my family members, preventing visits by them, using foul language, employing verbal abuse, and so forth.
Finally, after months of uncertainty, my file was sent to branch #30 of the Revolutionary Tribunal in June 2007. The interrogators threatened me that they would do all they could to get me a death or long-term imprisonment sentence. They would say that in case I was found innocent and subsequently released, they would take revenge (?!) outside prison. They held an incredible grudge against me as a Kurd, as a journalist, and as a human rights activist. They would not stop torturing me regardless of outside pressure.
The court in Tehran decided that my case could not be adequately examined there and sent my file to Sanandaj. Every time people and human rights organizations said anything in my support and in objection to my detention and the legal justification for my torture, the authorities got madder and increased the pressure. In September 2007, I was transferred to the detention center in Sanandaj, a place that turned into a horrifying nightmare, never to leave me and my life. This was while, according to their own laws, no new charges were brought against me. From the moment I entered that place, battery and mental and physical harassments began.
The News Staff Detention Center in Sanandaj had a main hallway and five separate hallways, and they put me in the last cell of the last hallway. They kept changing my cell until one day the head of the detention center and a few others started hitting me for no reason and took me out of the cell. They knocked me unconscious by hitting me in the head and I fell at the head of the staircase with 18 stairs that led to the basement and interrogation rooms. They had pulled me down the stairs while I was unconscious; I don’t know how they managed to pull me down 18 stairs. When I opened my eyes, I felt a severe pain in my head, face, and sides. As soon as they saw me conscious, they started kicking and punching me again, and, after an hour-long beating, they pulled me back up the stairs and threw me into a small room in the second hallway. Two people beat me until I was unconscious again. I came back to consciousness with the sound of the call for evening prayers. There was blood on my face and clothes. My face was swollen. My whole body was bruised and swollen. I could not move. After a few hours, they forcibly threw me under the shower to clean my bloodied face and clothes. At midnight, a few of the head intelligence officials saw me blindfolded with the wet clothes still on me and my physical conditions deteriorating, and so they were forced to take me to see a doctor outside the detention center, in the central prison, the next morning. I was not able to eat for a few days, due to injuries to my teeth and jaw. At nights, they would leave the windows open so that I would be cold, and they would not give me blankets, so I had to wrap the carpet around me. I was denied exercise, visitors, and phone calls and was subjected to assault and battery in the basement interrogation rooms over and over. I was on hunger strike for five days. They would bang my head against the basement walls repeatedly and take me from the basement back to my cell, kicking and punching me. No charges were brought against me in either Kermanshah or Sanandaj.
The infamous torture method, “chicken kabob,” was employed by the head of the intelligence detention center in Sanandaj on most of the nights that he was on duty. He would tie one’s hands and feet, throw you on the floor, and start flogging.
Cries and moans of other prisoners, mostly young women, were heard and tormented any human soul. They would leave the windows open at nights, and I had to wrap myself in dirty blankets in my cell, because they would wet my clothes in the bathroom after beating me in the basement.
For about two months, I was in solitary confinement in Sanandaj. The Sanandaj court declared itself incompetent [to consider my case] and referred back my case to Tehran. The nearly eight months of solitary confinement and the mental and physical harassment that I had endured during that time had affected my body, my nerves, and my mental health severely. After one night of detention in ward 209 [in Tehran’s Evin prison], I was transferred to one of Evin’s correctional wards (# 7), where inmates commonly use drugs. Since November 20, I have been serving time in the Raja’i Shahr prison, a prison reserved for dangerous criminals such as murderers, abductors, armed rubbers, and so forth.
On November 18th 2007 I was transferred to the Raja’i Shahr Prison which is an extremely dangerous prison where individuals found guilty of murder, kidnapping, weapons related crimes are imprisoned.
23 November 2007 Raja’i Shahr Prison