Covert testimonies reveal sexual assaults on male and female activists as a women-led uprising spreads

They’d make a choice the ladies who have been beautiful and suited their urge for food …

… then the officer would take one among them from the mobile to a smaller, personal room.”

“They’d sexually attack them there.”

CNN Particular Document

Covert testimonies divulge sexual attacks on female and male activists as a women-led rebellion spreads

By means of Tamara Qiblawi, Barbara Arvanitidis, Nima Elbagir, Alex Platt, Artemis Moshtaghian, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Celine Alkhaldi and Muhammad Jambaz, CNN

November 21, 2022

Haje Omeran, Iraq (CNN) — A trickle of other folks passes via a typically busy border crossing within the mountains of northern Iraq. “It’s a large jail over there,” one Iranian girl says, gesturing to the hulking gate that marks the border with Iran’s Islamic Republic, which has been convulsed by way of protest for over two months.

A portrait of the founding father of Iran’s clerical regime, Ruhollah Khomeini, looms in opposition to a backdrop of rolling hills studded with streetlights. Snatches of vacationers’ muted conversations punctuate an eerie silence.

Worry of indiscriminate arrest has made many reluctant to chance the adventure. Probably the most few who move say the noose is tightening: protesters gunned down, curfews within the border villages and middle of the night raids on properties.

In hushed tones, they discuss of feminine protesters specifically, and the horrors they are saying some have persisted in Iran’s infamous detention amenities.

Iran’s executive has closed the rustic off to non-accredited overseas reporters, incessantly shuts down the web and suppresses dissidents’ voices with mass arrests. An excessive local weather of worry prevails in Iran because the crackdown intensifies.

One Kurdish-Iranian girl, whom CNN is asking Hana for her protection, says she each witnessed and suffered sexual violence whilst detained. “There have been ladies who have been sexually assaulted after which transferred to different towns,” she mentioned. “They’re scared to speak about these items.”

Iranian protesters set their headscarves on fireplace whilst marching down a boulevard on October 1, 2022 in Tehran, Iran. Getty Pictures

Girls have performed a central function in Iran’s rebellion because it ignited two months in the past. The slogan “Girls, Lifestyles, Freedom” reverberates via anti-regime demonstrations in its unique Kurdish (Jin, Jiyan, Azadi) and in Persian (Zan, Zendegi, Azadi). This can be a nod to the 22-year-old Kurdish girl whose dying sparked the protests — Jina (Mahsa) Amini used to be believed to were brutally crushed by way of Iran’s morality police for incorrect hijab and died days later.

The rights of girls have additionally been on the middle of discussion amongst Iran’s clerical status quo for the reason that protests started. Some clerics and politicians have known as for the stress-free of social regulations, whilst others doubled down, conflating the feminine protesters with what they name “unfastened ladies” who have been simply pawns in a plot hatched by way of Western governments.

In fresh weeks, social media movies have emerged allegedly appearing Iranian safety forces sexually assaulting feminine demonstrators at the streets. Experiences of sexual violence in opposition to activists in prisons started to floor.

With media get right of entry to inside of Iran critically constrained, CNN went to the area close to Iraq’s border with Iran, interviewing eyewitnesses who’d left the rustic and verifying accounts from survivors and resources each in and outdoor Iran. CNN corroborated a number of reviews of sexual violence in opposition to protesters and heard accounts of many extra. No less than any such brought about serious damage, and every other concerned the rape of an underage boy. In one of the circumstances CNN exposed, the sexual attack used to be filmed and used to blackmail the protesters into silence, consistent with resources who spoke to the sufferers.

Iranian officers have now not but answered to CNN’s request for remark at the abuses alleged on this file.

Armita Abbasi, 20, bore the entire hallmarks of a Gen Z-er. Her edgy hairdo used to be dyed platinum blonde and he or she had an eyebrow piercing. She wore coloured touch lenses, and filmed TikToks together with her cats from her front room.

The rebellion modified her lifestyles, and Iran’s safety forces seem to have subjected her to one of the worst in their brutality.

After the protests started, social media posts underneath Abbasi’s title was charged with unrestrained grievance of Iran’s regime. It’s unclear if she participated within the protests. But, not like maximum Iranian dissidents within the nation, she didn’t anonymize her anti-regime posts.

A protest in Abbasi’s homeland of Karaj which has been a flashpoint within the national rebellion. IranWire

She used to be arrested in her homeland of Karaj, simply west of Tehran, just about a month after the onset of the demonstrations. In an October 29 commentary, the federal government claimed she used to be “the chief of the riots” and that police found out “10 Molotov cocktails” in her condominium.

It used to be an ominous commentary that appeared to suggest that Iran’s justice device would reserve a harsh punishment for the 20-year-old. But it surely additionally served as a denial of a chain of leaked accounts on Instagram that had brought about uproar on social media within the days since her arrest, and which grew to become Abbasi — like Amini and Nika Shahkarami earlier than her — into a logo of Iran’s protest motion.

The contents of the leaked accounts — conversations between medics on Instagram’s personal messaging provider — prompt that Iranian safety forces tortured and sexually assaulted Abbasi.

On October 17, Abbasi used to be rushed to the Imam Ali clinic in Karaj, accompanied by way of plainclothes officials, consistent with leaks from that clinic. Her head were shaved and he or she used to be shaking violently. Within the accounts, the scientific workforce getting to her spoke of the horror they felt once they noticed proof of brutal rape.

An insider at Imam Ali clinic showed the veracity of the ones leaks to CNN. The supply requested to stay nameless for safety causes.

“When she first got here in, (the officials) mentioned she used to be hemorrhaging from her rectum… because of repeated rape. The plainclothes males insisted that the physician write it as rape previous to arrest,” wrote one member of the scientific workforce in one of the crucial messages.

“After the reality was obtrusive to all, they modified the entire script,” wrote the medic. CNN can ascertain that 4 to 5 medics leaked the messages to social media. They all mentioned they believed she used to be sexually assaulted in custody.

“To make it quick, they screwed up,” that medic added of the safety forces. “They screwed up and so they don’t understand how to position it in combination once more.”

In its commentary, the Iranian executive mentioned Abbasi used to be handled for “digestive issues.” Medics on the Imam Ali clinic mentioned the declare didn’t tally with the indicators Abbasi exhibited. Abbasi used to be additionally handled by way of a gynecologist and a psychiatrist, which the medics mentioned used to be additionally inconsistent with the federal government’s account.

CNN has offered the leaked accounts of Abbasi’s accidents to an Iranian physician outdoor Iran who mentioned the indicators as described indicated brutal sexual attack.

“She used to be feeling so dangerous we concept she had most cancers.”

– A medic who witnessed Abbasi’s accidents in clinic

The leaks level to a extremely secretive procedure closely managed by way of Iranian safety forces. One medic mentioned on social media that police avoided workforce from talking to Abbasi, and that the clinic management’s account of her scientific situation stored converting. When CNN known as the Imam Ali Medical institution, a workforce member mentioned they’d no report of her, in spite of the federal government’s acknowledgement that she used to be handled there.

In line with the leaked accounts, safety forces got rid of Abbasi from the clinic via a rear front simply earlier than her circle of relatives arrived to look her. “My middle which noticed her and couldn’t loose her is using me loopy,” wrote one medic.

Abbasi is lately being held in Karaj’s infamous Fardis jail, consistent with the Iranian executive. CNN has been not able to succeed in her or her members of the family for remark.

Ahead of Hana used to be arrested, she were warned that ladies in Iranian prisons have been “being handled very badly.” Her mom won a telephone name from her neighbor — a high-level professional in Mahabad jail within the nation’s northwest — urging her not to let her daughters out in their house “underneath any instances,” Hana tells CNN.

Hana says she used to be undeterred. She joined the protests and, like many different feminine demonstrators, she spun round and danced as she waved her headband within the air earlier than burning it, in what has develop into a ritualistic function of the national protests.

When she used to be arrested, Iranian police mentioned they noticed her torching her shawl in surveillance pictures, she says.

Hana says she used to be held in a detention heart at a police station in Iran’s northwestern town of Urmia for twenty-four hours.

In contrast to maximum of her fellow activists, Hana fled Iran. For days, she and her uncle’s circle of relatives adopted a bunch of Kurdish smugglers as they weaved throughout the border area’s mountains. Just a handful of protesters have embarked at the perilous adventure. That’s for the reason that Iranian facet of the border is closely militarized, and safety forces incessantly shoot-to-kill those that move, and smuggle items, illegally.

Hana now lives together with her kinfolk in a mountain the city in Iraqi Kurdistan. Her jet-black hair tumbles right down to her waist. A white shawl is wound round her neck at the day CNN speaks together with her. It covers a crimson mark the place a safety officer compelled himself on her, she says, and violently kissed her.

Outdoor the tiny interrogation mobile the place Hana says the policeman assaulted her — assailing her with guarantees of freedom as he hinted closely at calls for for sexual favors — a struggle had damaged out, distracting the policeman.

“They’ll threaten (the lady) now not to speak about the abuse, who did it to her, who insulted her, and who sexually violated her.”

— Hana

She recounts how a lady were corralled into every other interrogation room as her teenage brother demanded he sign up for her to ensure not anything “used to be going down to her.” Hana describes the police beating the boy with batons. He lay at the flooring, wounded and having dirty himself all the way through the thrashing, she remembers. In the meantime, his sister used to be screaming within the interrogation room. Hana says she believes the lady used to be being sexually assaulted.

Her feminine cellmates instructed her they’d been raped within the police station, she says. When Hana’s interrogator returned, Hana says he resumed making undesirable sexual advances on her. However inside mins, her father had come to bail her out, saving her, she believes, from the worst.

Different ladies weren’t so fortunate, she says. Lots of the ones held on the station have been denied bail and disappeared right into a labyrinthine jail device which incorporates secret detention facilities in army bases, consistent with resources and rights teams. Kurdish rights teams have again and again reported that loads of other folks were forcibly disappeared within the Kurdish areas of Iran, and feature documented proof of secret detention facilities in army bases.

Video: Watch CNN’s interview with a ladies who tells how she persisted sexual attack in an Iranian prison. 06:31

Many of the reviews of sexual violence reviewed by way of CNN for the reason that protests sparked by way of Amini’s dying started got here from the west of the rustic, the place huge swathes of the area are predominantly Kurdish. All the way through this investigation, CNN has spoken to resources in quite a lot of flashpoints of the rustic’s protests, together with rights teams and activists related to the Kurdish-majority spaces, activists in common touch with feminine detainees in key prisons, akin to Evin jail in Tehran, and a Baluchi activist community hooked up to the southeast Baluch majority of the rustic.

Along the government’ in style detention of protesters, the media blackout within the nation has worsened. The stigma connected to sufferers of sexual violence provides every other layer of secrecy to what’s unfolding.

In spite of the trouble of investigating those claims and the dangers run by way of sufferers who file them, CNN has realized of eleven incidents — now and again involving a couple of sufferers — of sexual violence in opposition to protesters in Iranian prisons and has corroborated just about part of them. Nearly all befell within the Kurdish spaces.

In a single case, CNN won the audio testimony of a 17-year-old boy who mentioned he and his pals have been raped and electrocuted in detention once they have been arrested within the protests. Testimonies heard by way of CNN recommend that the sexual attack of the underage boy used to be now not an remoted incident.

“They introduced 4 males over who were crushed, screaming intensely in every other mobile. And one of the crucial males who used to be tortured, used to be despatched to the ready room the place I used to be,” the boy instructed CNN. “I requested him what all that screaming used to be about? He mentioned they’re raping the boys.”

A safety guard overheard the dialog in regards to the sexual attack, the boy mentioned, and then he proceeded to torture him. The boy mentioned he then used to be additionally raped.

“I requested him what all that screaming used to be about? He mentioned they’re raping the boys.”

— A 17-year-old boy in Kurdish-majority Iran

World rights teams Human Rights Watch and Amnesty World have additionally mentioned that they recorded a number of cases of sexual attack in prisons for the reason that onset of the protests in mid-September.

The pinnacle of the Kurdistan Human Rights community, Rebin Rahmani, instructed CNN that two ladies in detention, with whom he spoke, have been threatened with the rape in their teenage sisters as a way of pressuring them into giving a compelled TV confession. In a type of incidents, safety forces introduced the lady’s teenage sister to the interrogation room and requested her if she used to be “ready” to allow them to rape her sister, he mentioned, mentioning the lady’s account. The girl gave in and made the confession, she instructed him.

CNN trusted resources and survivors inside of Iran risking their freedoms and lives to file the sexual violence. In Armita Abbasi’s case, her it seems that brutal rape is not likely to have develop into public wisdom if the medics had now not leaked the main points to the click and to social media.

“I’m now not looking to unfold worry and horror,” wrote one medic from Imam Ali clinic in a social media submit. “However that is the reality. Against the law is going on and I will’t stay silent.”

Correction: This newsletter has been up to date to take away a connection with a grievance about protesters allegedly made by way of Zeinab Soleimani, the daughter of the past due common Qassem Soleimani, the authenticity of which might now not be independently showed by way of CNN.

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