Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Close-up: Islamic regime's rape victims?

Much of the information coming out of Iran is in the form of footage uploaded to the Internet without the benefit of any description or explanation. Each installment in the Close-up series provides an in-depth analysis of a single video or a series of videos covering one event.

A video posted on several YouTube channels on April 6, 2010, purports to show victims of rape in a prison of the Islamic Republic, according to descriptions and titles accompanying the video.

The video
This clip is from Unity4Iran's YouTube channel, although others have also posted it. (Viewer discretion advised)

The incidence of rape in the Islamic Republic's prisons has been widely reported, although the judiciary has yet to prosecute anyone for such crimes. Victims have described being raped by security forces, sometimes with bottles and batons.

Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi famously accused the regime's security forces of numerous cases of prison rape and declared that he had compiled evidence which he would gladly submit to a special investigative committee of the Majlis. No such committee ever summoned Karroubi, but a three-man judiciary panel, which included former Intelligence Minister and current Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, hastily rejected the complaints and recommended that Karroubi be prosecuted for making false allegations. Karroubi has yet to be charged.

After this video was uploaded to the Internet, a great number of posts on Twitter, FaceBook, various blogs, etc, alleged that it showed two victims of prison rape. The Voice of America's Newstalk show reported on Tuesday night, April 6, that it showed a scene from the notorious Kahrizak prison (Please click here for VOA Newstalk program. Go to 51:30 mark).

The circumstances
The language spoken by everyone in the video is unaccented Farsi, which may indicate it was filmed in Tehran.

The cameraman points his camera down, for the most part hiding the faces of a group of young men tending to two individuals lying on the ground. This suggests that the cameraman does not want security forces to discover the identities of the people in the video. This would probably not be the case if they were already in prison.

No one is wearing prison-issue plastic slippers, though this does not preclude outright the possibility that the people in the video are in detention.

The locale is well-lit. Shadows indicate that the light source is directly above. No windows are visible. A staircase leads up, but none can be seen going down. These facts suggest that the scene is being filmed in a basement.

Four young men are bent over Injured Individual 1, while only one stands next to Injured Individual 2.

Injured Individual 2 speaks on several occasions, but Injured Individual 1 cannot be heard on the clip. One man appears to be stemming the flow of blood from Injured Individual 1's pubic area. His underwear has been pulled down to his knees.

Injured Individual 2 has a torniquet around his upper thigh. There are several puncture wounds on his thigh, but he is no longer bleeding.

The young men are treating the injured individuals with bottled water, Kleenex, gauze, and antiseptic. Rudimentary as the supplies are, they would probably not be freely available in the detention centers and prison cells where rape has taken place.

The locale appears clean and there is no sign of blood. The individuals were probably injured elsewhere.

The discussions are often garbled, but the following can be heard in the video:

'Bring water.'

As the cameraman approaches Injured Individual 2.
Injured Individual 2: 'Don't film my face.'
Cameraman: 'No, no. Not your face. Rest assured.'

'Don't be afraid.' The voice sounds farther away and is perhaps directed at Injured Individual 1.

Inaudible woman's voice. Men and women would probably not have been held in proximity to one another in a prison.
'The ambulance has arrived.' Suggesting someone had called for an ambulance and that the people in the video were waiting for it. This does not conform to a prison situation, where prisoners would probably be first taken to the infirmary. Kahrizak prisoners were visited by a doctor only once a week, whatever their dire conditions, according to accounts that surfaced after the death of Doctor Ramin Pourandarjani.
'Don't take them out.' Probably referring to the injured, indicating that the danger is outside, and that the current locale is a temporary shelter or hiding place.
'One of you, come in.' Probably directed at the emergency workers.

'Who's got the key to this?' This is said after two faint thuds, perhaps the sounds of someone attempting to open a door. Prisoners would probably not have keys.
'F*** your mothers... Your mothers are dogs...' An angry young man, probably expressing his anger at those responsible for the injuries.
A woman shrieks out some inaudible words.

'Is it just these two?' Probably the emergency worker. The man's fluorescent jacket with a logo on the back is visible. The uniform and logo resemble those of emergency workers of the Islamic Republic's Health Ministry.
'Yes, just these two.'

Injured Individual 2: 'Don't take me.'
Emergency worker: 'Why?'
Injured Individual 2: 'Don't take me. They'll come and capture me.'
This last exchange strongly indicates that the individual is not in a prison, and actually fears being arrested if he is taken to a hospital. During the post-election protests, there were numerous reports of security forces arresting injured people in hospital emergency wards.

It is impossible to make an absolute determination, but the evidence strongly suggests the video was not filmed in a prison. Because of the cameraman's efforts to hide faces, the desire to hide from authorities in the locale, and particularly the last exchange, it is almost certain that the individuals were injured by the regime's security forces.

It is equally impossible to determine whether one or both individuals were raped. Injured Individual 1's bleeding pubic area, however, seems to support the possibility of some form of sexual assault.

A friend of this blog has offered the hypothesis that the locale is the basement of a university dormitory after a raid conducted by security forces.


  1. I don't stop to tell you often enough how very much I appreciate you. Thank you so much for everything you do.

  2. Thank you for this presentation. A friend wondered if the bldg location could one of the Tehran dorms with the men students caring for the two injured. All wore athletic shoes, didn't they? Were you able to tell if the floor itself was strewn with debris (glass)?

    Again, thank for your excellent work, every time. You perform an incredible service.

  3. Thanks you so much for yur analysis.
    RE: 3rd still photo above, "One man appears to be stemming the flow of blood from Injured Individual 1's anus. His underwear has been pulled down to his knees."

    It looks like the person's knees are facing upwards. If so, wouldn't this be a woman?

    - Catherine

  4. Thank you for your kind words.

    Catherine, I have changed my description of Injured Individual 1's wound, based on your comment. The injury does indeed appear to be in the pubic area.

    However, there is practically no way that this person could be a woman in that state of undress, out in the the open, among men.

  5. The person genital is called private area not public area.

  6. Thank you for your comment.

    The word I use is 'pubic' not 'public.'

  7. The individuals could have been injured in the course of some non-political illegal activity, such as:

    -accident involving illegal substances (authorities could give a drug test or smell alcohol on their breath)

    -gang fight

    -violence due to drug dealing

    -revenge over illicit sexual relations

    -violence against them if they were observed having illicit relations

    There are innumerable possible explanations. Why is that the political one is the first and only that leaps to your mind?

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. And to the anonymous above. Your comments clearly reveal your devotion to freedom of speech and respect for opposing and alternative ideas. So the future looks bright for iran -- NOT.

  10. All opinions are welcome in the comment section. However I decided to remove a comment that was posted above in response to 'Behnam' because it resorted to a stream of profanity. I'm not shocked by such words and enjoy a well-placed insult every once in a while, but I've found that such rants generally diminish the quality of exchanges on other sites and divert attention from the real issues. I know that the subject matter on this blog may provoke great anger, but I invite the reader who responded to 'Behnam' to reformulate his comment, which I will gladly keep.

    In response to 'Behnam':

    Because the Islamic regime has shut down media outlets, arrested journalists, clamped down on the free exchange of information on the Internet, created a climate of fear, etc., we have to make do with the tools that we have. This means that we must sometimes analyze facts and evidence, some of it circumstantial, within the country's current context in order to reach the best conclusion that we can. Behnam, if you think that misinterpretations are occurring, you should blame the situation on the regime and its goons.

    That having been said, I don't think that I've misinterpreted this video.

    Beyond the evidence in the footage, it is also important to ask, Why did someone feel it was important to film this scene? The general mood in the video is despair, shock, and anger. The cameraman acts sympathetically towards everyone present, including those who are injured. He keeps their faces hidden, speaks kindly to Injured Individual 2...

    His intent is not to humiliate the injured individuals. A sympathetic cameraman would not add to the public shame of someone injured because he had had 'illicit sexual relations,' as you hypothesize.

    It also seems that his intent is not to show how tough everyone is or how 'cool' the injuries are. Drug smugglers or gangs would hardly film their own distressful situation. Not good for business or street cred.

    Of all your carefully meditated proposals, the first one is the most laughable, though not particularly funny given the circumstances. Behnam, you say that the individuals could have been injured as a result of an 'accident involving illegal substances (authorities could give a drug test or smell alcohol on their breath).' What do you mean by accident? Are you suggesting that the individuals tripped and repeatedly fell on their syringes or opium pipes? Or by accident do you mean that the authorities gave them a revolutionary new drug or alcohol test that involves stabbing their thighs and groin? Perhaps you mean that the authorities methodically tore into and punctured the bodies of these individuals to punish them for using drugs or alcohol. How is this better than being battered for political reasons?

    The cameraman's intent is probably to simply document, as thousands of others have done in Iran.

    The protagonists in the film appear to be hiding in the locale and Injured Individual 2 is scared of being taken away by the emergency worker. This strongly suggests the individuals are afraid of the authorities. Barring criminals activities, which I seriously doubt for the reasons I gave above, I have to assume some 'political explanation,' especially given the context and the record of the Islamic Republic.

    Now, could you please tell me, Behnam, why the first and only explanation that springs to your mind involves criminal activity and sexual misdeeds on the part of the victims?

  11. Trust me the rate of rape in Iran is far far less than your country. Dont play funny game with us, we know the truth. How much they paid you to molest the Image of Iran.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. This video is the aftermath of police shooting plastic bullets and airguns at the students. It was recorded in the Nursing building (Darmangah) of the university (Shahid Beheshti U) where the students took cover. There were others who were shot in the arms or chest and back and these 2 guys with pants pulled down were shot in the hip and butt. The yellow liquid used with the gauze is Iodine. Iodine is used to disinfect shin wounds and is not used for any internal injury or for human anus. You can clearly see the gauze and Iodine applied to hips, waist and upper legs and thighs of the victims where they were shot. Ambulance arrived and as you can hear in the tape the injured guy says ( Mano nabarin ) meaning he doesn't want to be taken by the ambulance because they would arrest him if he checks in a hospital. I happen to have 1st hand information about this video and that day because I saw the Basig kids bused in and they carried airguns(15 and 16 year olds) and shooting with airguns at the protesters.

    There are also Rapes in Iran, but they don't rape and leave U in twos with pants down where someone can video it.