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.