Tehran, Iran, Jul. 21 – A diplomat from the
Dutch embassy in Tehran has revealed that political prisoners locked up in
one of Iran’s most notorious prisons were being systematically tortured and
deliberately harassed for their opposition to Iran’s clerical leadership.
The report by Loes Bijnen,
which first appeared in a Persian-language website, provides a shocking
account of the treatment of political prisoners in Rajai-Shahr
Prison in Karaj, a major city west of the
Iranian capital. The website of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Tehran identifies Ms. Bijnen as a second secretary in the embassy’s political
“Going to [Rajai-Shahr Prison in] Karaj is a harsh punishment. When
someone sets foot there, all humanity disappears”, the Dutch diplomat wrote
after making an investigation into the state of the prison.
The report surfaced a day after the ultra-conservative daily Ressalat published a letter from two former prisoners
in Rajai-Shahr Prison, who thanked Prison
Governor Ali Haji-Kazem for his “excellent
treatment” of prisoners. The official news agency, IRNA, put out an interview
with Haji-Kazem, in which he described the prison
as “a model educational centre”.
Efforts to portray Rajai-Shahr Prison in a good
light came in the wake of extensive repercussions of a hunger strike by
political prisoners earlier this month. Angered by the leak of news of the
hunger strike, prison authorities cut off all contacts between prisoners
and the outside world, according to prisoners’ relatives.
The Dutch diplomat’s report, posted on the website Rooz,
sheds light on techniques other than torture used to break political
prisoners. They “are forced to share cells with dangerous criminals such as
murderers, rapists and drug addicts”, she wrote. The diplomat said
dissidents in Rajai-Shahr Prison were kept in
solitary confinement for months at a time.
Ms. Bijnen noted in her report that “mysterious
deaths” were common in Rajai-Shahr Prison. She
mentioned a number of prisoners were treated with singular brutality. Arjang Davoudi, a 49-year-old
engineer, teacher, and poet was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 70
lashes for aiding foreign journalists secretly produce a documentary about
the Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi,
who died under torture in Evin Prison in the
summer of 2003.
The Dutch diplomat described in detail the beatings Davoudi
received in prison and revealed that he was held in solitary confinement
for more than 100 days.
Hojjat Zamani, a member
of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin,
who has received a death sentence, Valiollah Feiz-Mohammadi, and Jafar Aghdami were among other political prisoners being
mistreated, Bijnen wrote.
Bina Darabzand, a
46-year-old man, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for
“demonstrating illegally” outside the United Nations building in Tehran in August 2004. Darabzand had taken part in an anti-government protest
by relatives of political prisoners.
Mehrdad Lohrasbi, a
bookseller, received a 15-year prison sentence for taking part in the July
1999 student-led anti-government protests in the Iranian capital. Bijnen reported that he was beaten systematically by
Another political prisoner that the Dutch diplomat wrote about was Amir Saran, a political activist, who had been
sentenced to eight years in prison. She wrote that Saran had gone on hunger
strike in protest to the June 2005 presidential elections, calling it a
“Why have Western newspapers remained silent in the face of this calamity?”
the Dutch diplomat wrote. “Why do they ignore the unbearable pain of
countless people in Iran’s prisons yet at the same time
write plenty of news about Iran’s nuclear project?”