Iran: Security Forces Rape, Torture, Detainees, Says HRW


Iran’s security forces raped, tortured, and sexually assaulted detainees while repressing widespread protests in 2022 and 2023, Human Rights Watch said Monday. The grave abuses are part of a broader pattern of serious human rights violations to repress dissent.

Human Rights Watch investigated abuses against ten detained people from Kurdish, Baluch, and Azeri minority regions that occurred between September and November 2022. Detainees described being raped by security forces and some said they witnessed security forces raping other detainees. In seven of the cases, detainees said that security forces had tortured them to coerce them into making confessions.

“Iranian security forces’ brutality against detained protesters, including rape and torture, are not only egregious crimes, but a weapon of injustice wielded against detainees to coerce them into false confessions,” said Nahid Naghshbandi, acting Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These methods are also a twisted and despicable means of further stigmatizing and repressing marginalized ethnic minorities.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed the survivors by phone between September 2022 and 2023, including five women, three men, and two children. Three shared medical records that supported their accounts.

In December 2023, Amnesty International released a report that documented that security forces “used rape and other forms of sexual violence” to “intimidate and punish peaceful protesters during the 2022 ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ uprising.” Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Iran have all separately documented Iranian authorities’ use of severe repressive violence in ethnic minority regions.

A Kurdish woman told Human Rights Watch that in November 2022 two men from the security forces raped her while a woman agent held her down and facilitated the rape.

A 24-year-old Kurdish man from West Azerbaijan province said he was severely tortured and raped with a baton by intelligence agency forces in a secret detention center in September 2022. A 30-year-old man from East Azerbaijan province said he was blindfolded and beaten along with other protesters, and he was gang raped with another man by security forces in a van in October 2022.

Human Rights Watch also documented government security forces restraining, blindfolding, and torturing protesters in detention. Authorities beat and sexually assaulted a Baluch woman who witnessed at least two other women being raped in a detention center in Sistan and Baluchistan in October 2022, leaving them physically and psychologically traumatized.

One woman who experienced sexual violence from security forces attempted suicide, while another required surgery for her injuries. A family member of another Baluch woman in her twenties told Human Rights Watch that in October 2022 her relative was raped twice in detention, and after her release she also attempted suicide.

Human Rights Watch previously reported cases of Iranian security forces’ use of torture and sexual assault against men, women, and children, as well as suspicious deaths in detention. The authorities did not provide medical treatment or even basic hygiene supplies to those assaulted by security forces, exacerbating their long-term injuries, and have not investigated these cases or held anyone accountable for these serious violations.

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Iran should continue to investigate these grave abuses as part of its broader reporting on the Iranian government’s serial human rights violations, Human Rights Watch said.

“Accounts of brutal rape and the lasting traumatic consequences of those crimes should mobilize countries to meet the physical and psychological health needs of survivors who have managed to flee Iran,” Naghshbandi said. “They should also mobilize Iranians at home and abroad to push for accountability and justice.”

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