This was last year at the same moment in Iran...
Mr. Amir Javadifar, 24, was a song writer and a technology management student at the Azad University of Qazvin. He liked acting and was an acting student at the Karnameh Institute. According to a person close to him, he was “full of lust for life.” He was distanced from politics and had no political affiliation. He participated and voted in the 2009 election at the urging of people close to him.
On July 9, 2009, Mr. Amir Javadifar was arrested by plain-clothes agents of the Basij Base in Tehran during a demonstration protesting the result of the presidential election and honoring the tenth anniversary of a Tehran University dormitory incident. He was transferred to Police Station 148 on Enqelab Avenue.
According to Mr. Javadifar’s father’s attorney, Mr. Amir Javadifar was in critical condition after being beaten before his arrest. Police agents took him to the Firuzgar hospital the same night at 9:00 p.m. They contacted his father and informed him of his whereabouts. At the hospital they took an MRI of Mr. Javadifar’s head which showed no internal bleeding in his brain. X-rays showed injuries to his elbow, jaw, and nose. He was released from the hospital at midnight and, with the insistance of his family and cooperation of Police Station 148, he was transferred to the Laleh private hospital in Shahrak-e-Gharb in Tehran. He was accepted and hospitalized on July 10 at 2:00 a.m. He was visited by various specialist physicians at 9:00 a. m. and no particular problem was diagnosed based on the X-rays. Specialists released him from the hospital with only pain killers and eye drops that same day at 1:00 p. m. (Sarmayeh Newspaper)
Arrest and detention
On July 10, 2009, Mr. Javadifar, along with his family, was taken by police agents to Police Station 148. Based on a letter by the Basij Base, they took him to the Tehran Prevention Police Base at the south end of Enqelab Square. He had no serious injuries when taken by the security police. After that, every time his family asked about his condition and place of detention, officials avoided any specific response. Finally, they informed his family of his death, 12 days after it occurred. (Sarmayeh Newspaper quoting the attorney of Mr. Javadifar’s father)
On July 25, 2009, an officer went to Mr. Javadifar’s house and asked his father to go to the security police office in Shahr-e Rey. When he went there, they sent him to the Kahrizak Forensics facility where he identified the body of Mr. Amir Javadifar. According to the Sarmayeh Newspaper, his body had been taken to the Kahrizak Forensics facility on July 14.
On July 10, police transferred Mr. Javadifar to the Kahrizak prison. During an interview with ABF, an eye-witness said that Mr. Javadifar lost his life five days after his transfer to Kahrizak when he was being transferred to Evin prison. This cellmate of Mr. Javadifar described the torture of prisoners in detention and the grave condition of Mr. Javadifar as follows:
“[When entering Kahrizak], they searched us, and then we entered the courtyard. They took our names and made us take all our clothes off. We were all naked. They forced us to throw our clothes in a garbage bin. After keeping us naked for 30 minutes in the courtyard, they started beating us. They had thick hoses and batons… It hurt a lot. Around 6:00 or 7:00 p.m., they took us to Qaran [Ward] 1. We were able to grab a piece of clothing, anything we could put our hands on, and put it around our waists. There were already people there. Some of them looked like people [who had starved in] Biafra. They were thin and hungry. There were so many of us. The place was [meant for about] 20 people, but we were about 160. So we couldn’t sit down. We had to sleep standing up. Half of us sat, and half of us stood. We were not allowed to go to the toilet. Each of us passed out numerous times. It was very hot. There was a very small air vent, and at night the smell of gasoline came in. There were no windows. We banged on the door to get air, and instead, we had gasoline through the vent… Detainees asked for water, but we only got one or two glasses of water a day… We got a little piece of bread and less than a quarter of a potato, once each day. During the time we were in Kahrizak, they would storm in sometimes at 4:00 a.m. and push us into the courtyard and beat us with the hoses… The third or fourth day [July 13th or 14th], around 12:00 p.m., they took us to the courtyard. They made half of us crawl on our hands and knees around the courtyard while carrying the other prisoners on our backs. We had to carry them in a circle around the courtyard. The ground was so hot, we were burning. After five minutes, I only saw blood on the ground from other people’s knees and hands… We circled the courtyard maybe twenty or twenty five times. If we stopped, they beat us. Everyone had fractured bones and injuries in different parts of their bodies. The environment was so dirty and hot that any injury got infected immediately. Everyone had infections. [The guards] had to use masks because of the smell… In Kahrizak, several people were unconscious. Officials could see that we may not survive.”
Regarding the grave condition of Mr. Javadifar, this eye-witness said: “A person named Javadifar was thirsty and had trouble eating. We put bread in his mouth in very small pieces to help him eat. He was very weak and couldn’t walk fast. They kept beating him. He told me that he couldn’t see with his right eye. This was on the third day we were at Kahrizak. His eye was infected. We tried to take care of him and put him near the door to get some air.”
According to this witness, when the Kahrizak prisoners were transferred to the Evin prison, Mr. Javadifar didn’t feel good and died during the transfer. Here is what he said: “Javadifar had lost consciousness…. We had to carry him [to a bus]…. He died in the bus. We saw his body in the [Evin] courtyard.”
There was no trial for Mr. Javadifar. He was never tried in any court.
The charges against Mr. Javadifar, as stated on the police pre-typed form, were, “acting against national security, disobeying a police order, propaganda against the Islamic Republic regime, and being hired by foreign media such as BBC, VOA, etc.” According to the eye-witness, detainees, who were arrested in various places, received a pre-copied paper with similar charges in the security police detention center.
Evidence of guilt
No specific and incriminating evidence was provided against defendants who were arrested during the protest on July 9, 2009. According to one of the detainees, the charges were all the same, whether or not the detainees were arrested while protesting. According to an eye-witness, the investigating judge and police agents beat detainees and forced them to accept the pre-typed charges and finger print the form, which also included questions about their jobs, tattoos on their bodies, and travel or intention to travel outside the country.
No trial took place to investigate the charges against Mr. Javadifar and he was denied the right to defend himself. Mr. Javadifar’s father pointed out that his son’s body was unrecognizable due to severe torture and autopsy cuts and said: “I gave them my healthy son. He was able to walk and talk, his face was fine, and he had no problem. Unfortunately, when they unzipped the [bag containing his body] in the coroner's office, I saw his autopsied body, his smashed face, and his injured eye and ear.” (Radio Farda, September 4, 2009)
According to the existing information, no official ruling was issued against Mr. Javadifar. The transfer to the Kahrizak prison — in which many prisoners had lost their lives due to abuse, torture, heat, and non-standard health conditions during recent years — indicated that the judicial and security officials condemned Mr. Javadifar and other detainees without interrogation or trial and deliberately exposed them to serious danger, including death. Officials’ treatment of detainees at the time of arrival; statements by the judicial and security officials in this regard; lack of serious judicial investigation; and the fact that the person in charge of transferring detainees to Kahrizak still holds his judicial position, confirms the officials’ decision to deal with protesters decisively. According to a cellmate of Mr. Javadifar, when detainees of the July 9 protest entered the prison, a Kahrizak official reminded them the following:
“This place is called Kahrizak. Kahrizak means the end of the world. Here, bestiality will soon become second nature for you. No one leaves this place alive.”
Mr. Javadifar’s cellmate emphasized that sending detainees to Kahrizak was not a mistake: “They didn’t say anything about taking students to Evin. Someone came with a list and read some names. It was a soldier. He called a number of people. A minibus took them to Evin. They didn’t ask whether or not we were students, but some had already mentioned that they were students on the forms they had filled out. I don’t know how they selected people.”
The death of several detainees in July of 2009, including the son of a high ranking official of the Islamic Republic, highlighted the appalling detention conditions in Kahrizak. Some officials characterized the sending of protesters, especially students, to Kahrizak as a mistake and the Islamic Republic Leader ultimately ordered the closure of the detention facility. Before television cameras, officials talked about “offering sympathy” and paying compensation to those who were sent to Kahrizak, and the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces encouraged detainees to file complaints against Kahrizak officials. A parliamentary special committee issued a report about this issue.
In a letter to the Head of the Parliament on January 16, 2010, Judge Sa’id Mortazavi, the Revolutionary and Public Prosecutor of Tehran at the time, confirmed the transfer of detainees to Kahrizak and rejected any wrongdoing by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In response to the parliamentary special committee for Kahrizak prison, the Revolutionary and Public Prosecutor of Tehran at the time rejected the criticism about the lack of space in Kahrizak and the resolution of the judge to accept them. He noted that 147 of the 380 detainees arrested in front of Tehran University on July 9, were sent to Kahrizak. He insisted that the decision was made in coordination with officials from the detention center and “the security forces of greater Tehran” who had confirmed Kahrizak’s capacity to hold 400 new prisoners. Jurist Mortazavi emphasized that the transfer order was legal and signed by an official of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tehran. “From a legal point of view,” he wrote, “since this detention center is an official and legal place, [transferring detainees] was not a violation of regulations.”
Months before these statements, security officials intimidated those who— encouraged by the Armed Forces Judicial Organization — had filed complaints against the prison officials with threats of rearrest, sometimes using violence, and made most of them withdraw their complaints.
“Several times, agents of the Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence and the Security Police came and took us away so we would withdraw our complaints. Then, when we wanted to withdraw our complaints, the Judicial Organization’s officials told us not to listen to them and to not withdraw our complaints. We were confused and didn’t know what they expected from us. In my case, they came five or six times. They handcuffed me using the Ghapani style [one hand behind the back and one hand above the shoulder tied together]. A couple of times they talked to me in a car. Sometimes they beat me up. Once they talked nicely to me and said: ‘You cannot file a complaint against the regime.’ Some other times, they took me to a place blindfolded and released me onto the streets. Finally, they kept doing this until I withdrew my complaint. I think they forced everyone to withdraw their complaints. It was the security forces who coerced everyone to withdraw their complaints. Plain-clothes agents took us to our neighborhood’s police station to withdraw our complaints. We could not keep our complaints and [at the same time] walk on the streets [freely].”
Background: Aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections
Election returns from Iran’s June 12th, 2009, presidential election declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 62.63 percent of the vote. Following the announcement, citizens disputing these official results demonstrated in the streets. Text messaging services were disrupted starting at 11:00 p.m. on the night before the election and remained unavailable for nearly three weeks, until July 1st. On Election Day, the deputy chief of Iranian police announced a ban on any gathering of presidential candidates’ supporters throughout the country. The same evening, security forces made a “show of strength,” increasing their presence in Tehran’s public squares to “reinforce security at polling stations.” Officials at election headquarters began reporting results soon after midnight, despite a statement from the Minister of the Interior that the first returns would not be announced until after the morning prayer (around 4:00 a.m.).
Many supporters of other presidential candidates came out into the streets on June 13th, once the results were made public, to protest what they believed to be a fraudulent election. Candidates Mir Hossein Musavi, Mehdi Karubi, and Mohsen Reza’i, Ahmadinejad’s competitors in the race, contested the election, alleging many instances of fraud. They filed complaints with the Council of Guardians, the constitutional body charged with vetting candidates before elections take place and approving the results afterwards, requesting an annulment and calling for a new election. Before the Council of Guardians could review their claims, however, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, congratulated Ahmadinejad on his re-election. In the meantime, many people active in Karubi’s and Musavi’s campaigns were arrested.
On June 15th, unprecedented demonstrations filled the streets of central Tehran, in which an estimated three million protestors participated, according to statements attributed to the mayor of Tehran. As the demonstrations were ending, paramilitary forces attacked the marchers, injuring and killing several people. To prevent such news from being broadcast, the Iranian government expelled foreign journalists from the country and banned news agencies from reporting on the events. Over the next three days, protesters took part in peaceful demonstrations in Tehran. The repression entered a new phase on June 19th after Ayatollah Khamenei’s Friday sermon, in which he announced his support for Ahmadinejad and warned protestors that they were responsible for any disorder and its consequences. Amnesty International stated that the speech gave “legitimacy to police brutality.” The next day and thereafter, police and plainclothes paramilitary groups attacked the protesters. Public gatherings of any kind were declared illegal, and police, motorcycle-riding special units wearing black uniforms and helmets, and plainclothes agents brutally enforced this restriction.
Individuals in civilian clothing, commonly referred to as plainclothes forces, are used in the Islamic Republic to disrupt political and trade union activities, student events and gatherings, electoral initiatives, and protests. Armed with sticks and clubs, and sometimes with chains, knives, batons, or firearms, they emerge when the state decides to suppress dissent. These plainclothes forces move about freely, violently beating protesters and arresting them, while the police passively look on or actively cooperate with them.
There is little information on the command structure and organization of such groups, whose members wear ordinary clothing rather than official uniforms and may be affiliated with the ministry of information, influential political groups, or the armed forces. Following the post-election demonstrations in June 2009, pictures of some plainclothes agents were posted on internet websites. Internet users helped to identify some of them and provided evidence that these individuals were affiliated with the Basij paramilitary groups, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, and state intelligence forces. On September 16, 2009, a deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps of the Province of Tehran confirmed the active and decisive role of Basij forces in the repression of the demonstrations, saying, “Basijis, through their presence in recent events, have blinded the eyes of the conspirators, and they should be appreciated… The enemies of Islam wanted to make the air dusty and to exploit the recent events, but thank God, through the enlightenment of the Honorable Leader we were victorious against this conspiracy.” He also emphasized, “The zealous youth of [the] Basij, believers in the Guardianship of the Jurisprudent, are the second and third generations of the Revolution. They have been successful in this stage and victorious on this battlefield.”
When personal property was damaged during the protests, government authorities and state-run radio and television programs accused the demonstrators of vandalism and justified the repression. At the same time, however, footage posted online showed security forces destroying and damaging property on side streets and in uncongested areas away from the protests. Moreover, in a public gathering in Tehran on October 20th, the chief of Iranian police conceded that police had destroyed and damaged property and accepted responsibility for it.
The precise number of citizens injured, killed, or disappeared in the post-election violence is not known. According to various reports, there were hundreds of victims in demonstrations throughout the country. More than seventy names have been reported. It is said that officials have threatened victims’ family members, demanding their silence and that they refrain from giving interviews. Reports also allege that returning a victim’s body to a family has been made conditional upon their agreement to change the cause of death listed on the coroner’s certificate to that of a heart attack or some other natural cause — thus foregoing the right to file a complaint — as well as the family's agreement not to hold memorial services for the loved one.
According to government statements, more than 4,000 people were arrested throughout Iran in the weeks following June 12th. Many have been held at the Kahrizak Detention Center, where prisoners’ rights and minimum hygiene standards were typically ignored. Numerous reports of violence, including the torture and rape of detainees, have been published. State reports and testimonies confirm that a number of detainees at Kahrizak died in custody due to beatings, difficult and unbearable prison conditions, and torture.
The death of several detainees in July of 2009, including the son of a high ranking official of the Islamic Republic, highlighted the appalling detention conditions in Kahrizak. Some officials characterized the sending of protesters, especially students, to Kahrizak as a mistake and the Islamic Republic Leader ultimately ordered the closure of the detention facility. On January 10, 2010, a parliamentary special committee issued a report calling on the judiciary to prosecute officials from the judiciary and the police responsible for sending the protesters to Kahrizak and mistreating them. It also blamed the events on the ‘illegal behavior” of the protesters and the presidential candidates’ “lie” about electoral fraud.
In a letter to the Head of the Parliament on January 16, 2010, Judge Sa’id Mortazavi, the Revolutionary and Public Prosecutor of Tehran at the time, insisted on the legality of the transfer of detainees to Kahrizak and rejected any wrongdoing by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to him, the report’s criticism about the lack of space in Kahrizak is unjustified. He noted that 147 of the 380 detainees arrested in front of Tehran University on July 9, were sent to Kahrizak. He insisted that the decision was made in coordination with officials from the detention center and “the security forces of greater Tehran” who had announced Kahrizak’s capacity to hold 400 new prisoners. Mortazavi emphasized that the transfer order was legal and signed by an official of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tehran. “From a legal point of view,” he wrote, “since this detention center is an official and legal place, transferring detainees has not been a security violation.”