Human Rights Activists in Iran
Account of Abolfazl Karimi, Young Man Tortured after November 2019 Protests: "They Said they Would Bring in my Girlfriend and Rape Her"
Abdorrahman Boroumand Center
July 21, 2020
Abolfazl Karimi, the young worker arrested during the November 2019 nationwide protests, is serving his 27-month prison sentence at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. Mr. Karimi was sentenced by the Revolutionary Court and the Criminal Court to a total of 27 months in prison and to a 10-million-Tuman monetary penalty. He had five co-defendants in this case, all of whom have been released, and 4 of whom were under 18 years of age at the time of the arrest. Now, Abolfazl Karimi has written a letter, the text of which follows, in which he gives an account of his arrest, interrogation, torture, beatings, and of being threatened with the rape of people close to him. He states in a passage of the letter: “I was interrogated at Evin [Prison]. They said ‘we’ll bring your mother here if you don’t talk’. I said: ‘But what am I supposed to do?’ ‘You have to admit that this weapon is yours,’ they replied. ‘But I will be ruined, my life will be over,’ I said. Then they said: ‘We’ll bring your girlfriend here and we’ll take care of (rape) her.’ I cried profusely and was severely tortured psychologically.” He says that he was only able to contact his family once in two months of detention, and adds: “I was transferred to the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. The days are very difficult here. I think about my mother who suffers from heart disease and has recently had an operation, and has also developed fatty [liver] disease. No one takes care of my mother except me. I was the one taking care of my mother. My father has lost his leg and I was my family’s breadwinner before my arrest. I do not know who has taken care of my family these past few months and who helps out my father.”
According to a report by HRANA, the news arm of the Human Rights Activists in Iran, Abolfazl Karimi, the young laborer arrested during the November 2019 nationwide protests is serving his prison sentence at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary.
Participation in the Protests and Arrest
Abolfazl Karimi was arrested by the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Information Unit forces on November 20, 2019, in connection with the 2019 nationwide protests known as “the November Protests”, and taken to the Information Unit’s detention center located at Evin Prison, known as Ward 2A. Once the interrogation phase was over, he was transferred to the Greater Tehran Penitentiary on January 23, 2020.
On May 3, 2020, for the first part of his case, Abolfazl Karimi was sentenced by Tehran Revolutionary Court, Branch 26, presided by Judge Iman Afshari, to two years in prison, in addition to 4 hours of community service a day for six months at the Municipality, on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security, and propaganda activities against the [Islamic Republic] Regime”. The sentence was reduced to one year and six months in prison as a result of Mr. Karimi not objecting to and accepting the sentence.
For the other part of his case, on July 4, 2020, Mr. Karimi was sentenced by [the town of] Nassimshahr (Akbarabad) Criminal Court, Branch 101, to 15 years in prison on charges of “destruction [of property] and arson, theft, and disrupting public peace and order”. On appeal, the sentence was reduced to 9 months in prison and to a 10 million Tuman monetary penalty.
Regarding the charge of arson and destruction of property, Abolfazl Karimi was accused of setting fire to a Municipality vehicle but he has denied the charge.
Among these individuals, Amir Hossein Ja’fari and Amir Hossein Mahmudpur were each sentenced to three months in prison; after spending six months in incarceration, however, they were released a short while ago from Tehran Province’s Reform and Rehabilitation Center. Ali Pirmohammadi was also sentenced to three months in prison; after spending four months in incarceration, however, he was released a short while ago from Tehran Province’s Reform and Rehabilitation Center. Furthermore, Nima Noruzi was sentenced to three months in prison; after spending 5 months and 17 days in jail, however, he was released a short while ago from Tehran Province’s Reform and Rehabilitation Center. Alireza Hassankhani, the other defendant in this case, was sentenced to three months in prison by the Tehran Revolutionary Court and was released from the Greater Tehran Penitentiary after serving his time. He has also been sentenced to three months in prison by the Criminal Court for the other portion of his case and has been ordered to appear at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary to begin serving said time.
It has been said that Amir Hossein Ja’fari and Amir Hossein Mahmudpur were tortured and beaten in the neck, arms, and forehead by an electric shocker in order to put pressure on Mr. Karimi and to obtain a confession.
Abolfazl Karimi, son of Mohammad, was born on November 27, 2001, and was under the age of 18 at the time of his arrest.
Prior to his arrest, he was a worker at a shoe manufacturing shop located near Tehran’s Sepahsalar Garden, and was his family’s sole breadwinner.
An Account of his Suffering
In writing an account of his suffering and putting it at the disposal of HRANA for publication, Mr. Karimi has provided details of his arrest and the interrogations that were accompanied with torture, beatings, and threats of raping people close to him.
The full text of this account is as follows: “I, Abolfazl Karimi, birth certificate issued in Robat Karim, was arrested on November 20, 2019, by the Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Information Unit agents. That day, I had attended my grandfather’s funeral services, and after the services, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I went to a park close to our neighborhood.
My friends went to buy some cigarettes and I noticed two individuals approaching me from the front and two others from behind. At first, I thought they were robbers and so I ran toward my friends. I was running when the agents fired two shots in the air, as I got to my friends. They fired another shot, and I put my hands over my head.
One of the Revolutionary Guards’ Information agents hit me in the face and I fell to the ground. Another hit me in the stomach and started insulting me. Yet another agent hit me in the head with his weapon, which caused an injury to my head and I started bleeding. They put a bag over my head and put me in a car. About half an hour later we arrived at the Revolutionary Guards Information location in our neighborhood in Akbarabad.
One of the agents gave me the nickname “Karim Savaki” (“Karim who works for the SAVAK”. The SAVAK was Shah’s information and intelligence organization.) and punched me so hard in the stomach that I could hardly breathe. Then they took me to the second floor of the Revolutionary Guards Information building and left me in a room. An agent came in and said: “Go, start talking.” “What should I say?” I asked. “Name, address, and the things that you have done,” he replied. I said: “I haven’t done anything and I don’t know anyone.” The agent who was standing next to me punched me in the side, and then ten other agents came in and proceeded to beat me. I could not see my toes anymore and I did not know what they were beating me with. They beat me for close to an hour until they all calmed down and became silent. One of them said: “Well, go ahead, talk.” I started crying and said: “I swear to God, I haven’t done anything.” And the agent insulted me and said: “Stop lying.”
Then he punched me in the stomach again and said they would beat me again if I didn’t talk. I was begging them to let me go. One of the agents took me to another room and gave me some food and said: “We don’t want to harass and harm you. If you cooperate, we will leave you alone.” Then he said: “We have to go to another room.” “Why?” I asked. Another agent replied: “It’s not your concern; get up and let’s go.” I was blindfolded this entire time. They took me to another room. Another person came in and said: “I am the head of the operations for this group that has arrested you. Was it worth two shots that our agents had to fire twice because of you?” I didn’t say anything. Then he said: “I’ve seen you everywhere, you have destroyed this whole place.” I still did not say anything. Then he said: “Get up.” And he hit me in the head and I fell to the ground. Then four or five people proceeded to beat me. I was crying and saying ‘don’t beat me’. They let me go after ten minutes and left.
Another agent came and said: “Lie down on the floor tiles.” I said: “It’s cold, I can’t.” “Silence! Then die!” he yelled. He left and I sat there with my hands and feet tied until the next morning. Then someone came and said “let’s go”. They took me to the judge on call, who wasn’t there, and then they took me to [Evin] Prison’s [Ward] 2A detention. They stopped the car on the way, and one of the agents severely beat me as much as he could. I was interrogated at Evin Prison for two days. They said “we’ll bring your mother here if you don’t talk”. “But what am I supposed to do?” I asked. “You have to admit that this weapon is yours,” they replied. “But I will be ruined, my life will be over,” I said. Then they said: “We’ll bring your girlfriend here and we’ll take care of (rape) her.” I cried profusely and was severely tortured psychologically. I was in a solitary confinement cell at the Revolutionary Guards Information Unit’s Ward 2A detention center for 50 days. And then I spent 15 days in the general ward. I was able to contact my family only once that entire time, and I was in a very bad mental state. Then from there, I was transferred to the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. The days are very difficult here. I think about my mother who suffers from heart disease and has recently had an operation, and has also developed fatty liver disease. No one takes care of my mother except me. I was the one taking care of my mother. My father has lost his leg and I was my family’s breadwinner before my arrest. I do not know who has taken care of my family these past few months and who helps out my father.
The reason I participated in the November 16, 2019 protests was the increase in the price of gas and food, and given Iran’s economic conditions, I was faced with a crisis. My expenses exceeded my income. My parents’ illnesses and other problems had caused me great distress and so I joined the demonstrations as a person protesting these conditions. However, Judge Asgar Jahangiri, the Investigating Judge at Baharestan [District] Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office, Branch One, had brought serious charges against me such as propaganda activities against the Islamic Republic of Iran regime, destruction and arson of public and government locales, and disrupting public order, all of which I had denied. Since he had also issued bail in the amount of 50 million Tumans, which far exceeded my family’s and my financial capabilities, I have been incarcerated at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary since November 20, 2019, in a suspended state, not knowing what to do. My family’s financial situation is dire, and the problems we have in making ends meet, will result in the disintegration of my family. My sick mother might lose her life under these conditions.
Please look into my situation. Most people are in dire financial situations in our neighborhood. I participated in these protests because of my and my fellow human beings’ difficult conditions. The people who took to the streets with enthusiasm in the November 16, 2019 protests, protesting against the increase in the price of gas and demanding their rights, are now detained at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary facing extremely difficult conditions such as the Corona virus and lack of sufficient means of treatment and staying safe from this deadly virus. With the new year of 1399 (2020-21) [here], many of the detainees arrested during the protests are still away from their homes and their families, undergoing great mental and emotional suffering, and are waiting for help. The authorities have made so many promises so far, none of which have come to fruition. We are suffering from psychological issues in prison simply because we protested and demanded our rights. We expect you, the dear people [of Iran], to support your compatriots and to always stand up to oppression.
Abolfazl Karimi, July 2020, Greater Tehran Penitentiary.”
HRANA had already published a report in February – March 2020, describing this citizen’s conditions and suffering.
November 2019 Nationwide Protests
The November Protests refers to nationwide protests that began on Friday, November 15, 2019, in dozens of cities across Iran after the announcement of an unprecedented increase in the price of gasoline. There were an unprecedented number of protesters in the streets and the demonstrations continued for several days. Mohammad Javad Kulivand, the people of the city of Karaj’s representative in the Majless (“Parliament”), stated that these protests occurred in 719 places in the country. Seyyed Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, the Majless’ National Security and Foreign Policy Commission’s then-spokesman announced the number of people arrested during the recent protests to have been around 7,000. According human rights institutions, hundreds of people were killed during and subsequent to these protests.
HRANA’s complete report of these protests entitled “Aban-e Khunin” (“Bloody November”) can be read at this link.