Jailed Nobel Laureate targets sex abuse in Iranian prisons

Imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate and activist Narges Mohammadi is urging support for a newly launched campaign targeting sexual abuse of activists and protesters detained in Iranian prisons.

“Sexual harassment, assault and rape serve as instruments of torture, intimidation and coerced confessions by governments seeking to suppress popular protest movements,” she wrote in a Tuesday Instagram post calling for victims to “share personal stories.”

Mohammadi’s post referenced widely reported accounts of torture at Kahrizak Prison in the 1980s, in which “some officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran admitted to sexually abusing prisoners and detainees,” her statement said.

Located in southern Tehran, Kahrizak Prison again drew attention for the alleged torture and rape of detainees following the June 2009 post-election protests.

Mohammadi said the practice of tacitly approved state-led sexual harassment and rape of activists and protesters in Iranian prisons continues.

“The perpetrators and those who authorized such atrocities have never faced accountability,” she wrote. “Instead, individuals who speak out and expose sexual harassment within the Islamic Republic have consistently faced prosecution and punishment.”

Rape and sexual violence as a means of suppressing dissent within Iran’s prison system has been documented by numerous news outlets and international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others.

Officials in Tehran have denied the practice occurs within its prisons, and the government has repeatedly denied requests from international rights groups to gain access to the facilities or alleged victims as part of third-party investigations.

Mohammadi, 52, who has already received three court sentences for speaking out about harassment, is set to stand trial for the fourth time on June 8, 2024.

Thirty-six female political prisoners at Tehran’s Evin Prison issued a statement on Monday demanding that Mohammadi’s latest trial be conducted “publicly and with the presence of witnesses and individuals who have experienced harassment, abuse, and sexual assault, as well as independent media.”

Mohammadi was a leading light for Iran’s nationwide, women-led protests sparked by the September 2022 death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini, which grew into one of the most intense challenges to Iran’s theocratic government. Amini had been detained for allegedly not wearing her headscarf to the liking of authorities.

Currently serving a 6.5-year sentence for her human rights work, Mohammadi has been imprisoned multiple times, according to the London-based Persian-language broadcaster Iran International.

In December, an Iranian court added 15 months to Mohammadi’s current prison sentence for allegedly spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic, according to her family.

In October 2020, Mohammadi was released early from the 10-year prison sentence she received on charges stemming from her human rights work.

Some information is from The Associated Press.


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