Fars News reported today that seven to ten policemen involved in the Kahrizak prison abuse cases have been arrested. Police Chief Brigadier General Ismail Ahmadi Moqaddam announced the arrests, but also argued that the magnitude of human rights violations were “exaggerated and magnified in the media.” The timing of the arrests and General Moqaddam’s statement seem to be timed to take the sting out of any accusations of human rights abuses during the upcoming negotiations.
General Moqaddam’s statement contains a disturbing implication: can human rights violations such as rape, torture and murder actually be exaggerated? How would a person go about exaggerating them? The general, however, may have been referring to the number of abuse cases which were reported by various news outlets. Arguing that fewer people were tortured than was originally reported is never a valid defense (as many Americans have become familiar with of late). The number of people who are subjected to government torture simply isn’t an excuse.
A recent New York Times article highlighted the treatment of one prisoner, who later fled to Turkey. Ibrahim Sharifi was arrested on June 22nd, and taken to the bloody Kahrizak prison facility. Mr. Sharifi says he was repeatedly beaten over the course of four days. On the fourth day, Mr. Sharifi told a prison guard that,
“he should go ahead and just kill me if he wanted to,” he said, breaking into tears. “Then he called another guard and said ‘Take this bastard and impregnate him.’ ”They took him out of the cell to another room where they pushed him against a wall that had handcuffs and two metal hooks to keep his legs open. The guard pulled down his underwear, he said, and began raping him.
“He laughed mockingly as he was doing it and said that I could not even defend myself so how did I think that I could stage a revolution.
“They wanted to horrify and intimidate me,” he said, weeping.
Human Rights Watch has vouched for the story’s veracity, and says Mr. Sharifi’s statements are consistent with other reports coming out of Iran. The absolute horror of this account suggests that the number of people who have been subjected to this type of treatment is meaningless. People who debate the issue based on amounts are either missing the point or trying to obscure it by playing a blame game.
Iran seems to be attempting to use these arrests to take the sting out of any accusations made by opposing parties during the upcoming negotiations. It should not be allowed to blunt a confrontation over its human rights abuses by arresting low-level participants in the post-election government abuse scandal.