The whole world has been under shock and awe ever since the contested election of the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, over his more
(relatively) progressive contender Mir Hossein Moravi. Images of the militia – bassidjis – beating protesters down to the ground and the very
mediatized murder of Nera, a young student who could not even be called an activist, has shed a light on a regime that was known as oppressive
and religiously fundamentalist, exposed a danger due to its nuclear arm chase, and a general source of unrest for all western diplomatics
worldwide.

If the detention center of Evin had also sent an electroshock wave through civil rights and human rights associations all over the world for its atrocious treatment of political prisoners, the recent suicide of a prison warden affiliated to the Kahrizak detention center is attracting the attention on one more facet of this obscure and backwards regime. Until then, Kahrizak was not at the forefront of human rights advocates, since it contained mostly criminals and those violating the staunch enforcement of Islamic law (prostitutes, juvenile delinquents, gamblers…), those called arazel-e obash, “scum”, not protected by the halo of political activism. Scared of seeing their work tainted by representing the interests of deliquents, the system implemented in Kahrizak was hardly documented. That was until 26 years old Ramin Pool Andarjani, one of the prison’s doctors, committed suicide.

An aerial view of the Kahrizak prison site

Was it suicide, as the authorities claimed, or homicide, a theory placed forward by the family of the deceased? One thing is for sure, the atrocities played upon the prisoners on a daily basis would take a toll on any human being. Supposedly the toughest detention center, closer to a concentration camp than a regular prison, the cruellest kapos were in charge. In Andarjani’s case, it was a just a question of bad luck: halfway through performing his military service duty, Kahrizak became his assignement.

 

Yet Kahrizak has not just come to light. Iran is familiar with public executions and has never shyed away from proving the population they would go as far as necessary to keep the regime in order. In 1998, 19 “criminals” detained in Kahrizak were taken to Tehran and publicly executed, in front of television cameras. This was unprecedented in Iran where, even at the times of the Iraq war, the tendancy was to compromise with western countries and keep a low profile. Before Ahmadinejad’s arms race, Iran was barely a bleep on a radar compared to the other local hotspots such as Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Yasser Arafat’s second Intifada in Palestine. The fate of Kahrizak’s detainees was collateral damage to the Islamic Revolution that destituted the Shah of Iran in 1983. Ever since, Ayatollah Khomeiny plays his own cards regardless of diplomatic and democratic rules. But during the Green Revolution, regular protesters, students, civilians, ordinary people with no record of political activism or disruption of social order were suddenly driven to Kahrizak and mixed with criminals, receiving the same treatment. Some kapos understood this as a way to teach the “soussouls” (daddy’s boys) a lesson in the difficulties and consequences of activism. It also exposed Kahrizak to a light it was never supposed to be brought to. Up to 76 people were shoved together in a container with no holes and fed rotting garbage.Over 200 of those new prisoners ended up in critical condition in the hospital.

Local journalist Babak Dad updated his blog with horrifying detailed information on the torture and rape inflicted to the detainees. It was
in during one of those sessions led by the kapos that the son of a renowned scientist who was yet close to the regime in place, Mohsen
Rolamini, died. As far as the authorities are concerned, the young man died of a “viral infection”. For journalists and former detainees, he
succombed to torture and ill-treatment. The doctor assigned to the prison surely knew all the sordid details attached to Kahrizak – and
took them with him to his grave.

Advertisements