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Tyranny & Human Rights Abuses backgrounder

Rape as a Weapon in Iran’s Prisons

Rape in Iran is far more than lust; it is a tool of the state, weaponized aspect of the country’s security apparatus. Iranian authorities are crippling dissidents of any kind physically, mentally, and emotionally through rape to deter citizens from questioning the government. Share this:

Rape as a Weapon in Iran’s Prisons

Horrific Stories of Abuse

Saeeda Siabi was 21 years old when she was arrested in 1981 along with her husband and fourth month old son.

She and her husband both grew up in politically active families and saw the imposition of a clerical system in Iran as harmful, especially after witnessing the new regime’s brutal repression against any opposition.

After a week of intense torture, the prison guards threatened Saeeda with rape and brutally went through with it multiple times, even in front of her baby. She spent four and a half years in prison undergoing such treatment.

A year after Saeeda was first detained, a non-politically involved 23-year-old female social worker was arrested in Tehran and underwent similar torture and degradation. She was asked about political affiliations and to give names. This woman was a virgin and was forced to submit to oral and anal sex during interrogation.

She described the experience, “I had never been close to a man before. I didn’t understand what was happening to me, I was terrified. I’d heard that if women were raped in prison, they would never be released. When it was over, I kept vomiting and couldn’t stop crying…”

She said she went from being a confident, fearless woman to the virtual opposite, even unable to have physical contact with male relatives.

Sexual Torture to Stifle Dissent

There was a massive wave of rapes against political dissidents after Iran’s June 12, 2009 presidential election when millions of Iranians protested the results. A teenager using the name “Reza” was arrested with 40 other boys at an opposition demonstration. Reza was then raped in front of the other boys. When he reported the incident to his interrogator, the interrogator raped Reza to teach him to keep quiet. In another instance, several women were rounded up and accused of being part of the Green Movement. One of the individuals detailed how after being taken to an interrogation room, a man in the security forces started touching her inappropriately. She begged him to stop, saying she is a virgin, but the man replied, “‘No, you are not a virgin anymore.’” The man then raped her and urinated on her entire body. Afterwards, he put cigarettes out all over the woman’s body and began whipping her.

On January 27, 2015, Iranian security forces arrested Naghmeh Shahi Savandi, a citizen journalist, for her Facebook activities. The state wanted a confession and tortured her until she finally gave one. As part of the interrogation, Naghmeh was threatened with rape, and when she was finally released, her friends and family all asked if she was raped, not if she was okay, indicating that Iranians understand how widespread rape is for political prisoners.