Feresheh Ghazi, an Iranian journalist and human rights activist, reports on the situation of the detainees and their families, many of whom are still desperately trying to get information about their loved ones. The authorities have claimed that most of the detainees have or will soon be released but there are still many individuals who are missing:
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Despite the announcement by judiciary and Tehran police authorities that most of those who were detainees after the June 12 election protests across Iran have been released, family members of many prisoners still have no news of their children despite intense jockeying between the Revolutionary courts and the infamous Evin prison in Tehran. At the same time, over the past few days a group of individuals who had been released on large bails, were re-arrested and put behind bars. Military agents broke into the houses of these individuals at night and dragged them out of bed and took them away. As a response to the complaints of the household members, they simply said that the individuals were taken to prison to “complete” their files.
Families in Front of the Revolutionary Court and Evin Prison
A Rooz reporter writes that family members of those had been recently detained either at peaceful demonstrations or by plainclothesmen who broke into their houses between 7 and 11pm gathered in front of Evin prison to perhaps hear something about their loved ones behind the prison bars. And while these family members have been repeatedly subjected to insults, humiliation and accusations, they continue to show up diligently across Evin prison to learn something about their missing family members and see the name of their children on the prison list. The practice is that both Evin prison and the Revolutionary Court in Tehran post the list of all the prisoners each is holding on the wall of their building, prompting family members to rush to the scene to see if they can find the name of their missing members on the list.
Detainees Who Are Lost
Some of these family members talk of a short telephone conversation with their missing member, while there are many members who still till today have absolutely no news about the whereabouts of their loved ones as their names have not been listed on the Evin or Revolutionary Court lists. The mother of one of the prisoners tells Rooz, “I have no news of my son since June 15th and nobody responds to my queries or takes responsibility for his absence. This very concerned mother is worried about the fate of her 22 year old son and cries relentlessly, uttering a few words or short sentences in between. She said, ‘They threaten us that if we make a hue and cry they would arrest us as well, while they have been insulting me for days and forcefully push us to go home, while all I want is some news regarding my son,’”
Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have created a joint committee to follow up on the situation with the detainees and those who are reported to be missing and have asked the public to stay in touch with this committee. According to Etemad Melli newspaper’s website until last Wednesday, some 130 individuals had contacted this committee of which 46 said they had someone missing in the family and had not heard any news form anyone regarding them.
Under 18-year old Prisoners
At the same time, while officials have said that all detainees below the age of 18 had been released, reporters point to witnesses who say otherwise. Individuals have gone to the Revolutionary Court asking for news about their 16 or 17 year old children. The father of one missing child said he had no news regarding his 17 year old daughter. He expressed strong anger for official disregard to his queries and said, “Some of my daughter’s friends said they had seen my daughter’s arrest at Tehran’s Baharestan square, but her name is not on Evin’s list or any other list and no one responds to our inquiries.”
The Transfer of 60 Prisoners to the General Ward
Last Monday Revolutionary Court authorities told families with prisoners that 60 detainees had been transferred to the General Prison Ward (where regular criminals as opposed to political prisoners are kept).The families strongly protested this announcement because they said their detained family members had not committed any crime and so must not be in the same rooms or wards where regular convicts are held. These 60 prisoners were arrested during the first two days of the post June 12 election demonstrations and had completed their interrogations, but are still kept behind bars.
Brutal Treatment of Detainees
The manner in which detainees are held and treated has been a serious concern not only for the family members of the detainees but also for the public in general. Most of those who have been released from prison have said that they were physically violently treated while in detention and had received electronic shocks and beatings with batons. They said they were tortured to forcefully “confess” that they had received orders from Mir Hossein Mousavi’s election headquarters or from outside the country to create riots. One former detainee told Farda Persian language radio station said, “detainees who had just been brought to prison directly from the streets were taken out into the hot sunshine and burning asphalt. They clearly displayed the signs of having been violently beaten. They would plead for water. And while there were water tabs within 30 feet, nobody allowed them to have any. They would not allow us to go to the restrooms.” According to this former prisoner, detainees who suffered from burn injuries in particular were put on asphalt surfaces. One young detainee swore that that the Basijees from his own neighborhood took him and threw him into a hot soup pot. He suffered from serious burns and had no skin left on him.
Return of Body Corpses
This news is published at a time when bodies of a number of dead individuals were returned to their family members in the last few days. These family members, who knew nothing about the whereabouts or condition of their missing family members for weeks, buried their loved ones in Behesht Zahra cemetery outside Tehran. Prior to receiving the dead bodies of their children, these family members were concerned precisely about such a possibility, i.e. the death of their beloved ones and their torture, things they openly expressed to Revolutionary Court officials during their visits. In response, officials would treat them harshly and said that legally they were not bound to respond to their enquiries or concerns. While officials in Iran say about 500 individuals had been arrested in the recent post-election turmoil, human rights groups put the figure at 2,000.