Witness’s name and surname: Fatemeh Khoshroo
The place about which she is testifying: Khorramabad
Witness’s status: Injured, arrested, subjected to sexual torture
Type of testimony before the Tribunal: Public
16 November, Prior to the demonstrations, I was living in Turkey for almost one year with my fiancé, who is a US citizen and a member of the US Army. One week before the demonstrations, I returned to Iran to visit my mother as well as to follow up a surgery.
On 16 November, I heard noises coming from the street because our house is located close to the main square of the city. I knew that demonstrations may occur due to the hike in the price of gas. For that reason, I went out of the house. People had assembled at the Imam Shahr Square of Khorramabad at about 10 in the morning.
It was a small crowd of mostly men. There was a bus stop there. Women were sitting in front of the bus station’s chairs. Shopkeepers and others were mostly standing on the footpath. About 100 – 200 persons were standing or sitting in the middle of the square. They were holding placard saying, “we don’t want 3000-toman gas.”
When I arrived there, I saw a couple of policemen patrolling on their motorbikes. After ten minutes, I saw more policemen arrive and all of them divided into groups and (stood) in front of banks. They were carrying handguns.
There were a number of Basijis and Sepahis among the protestors who insisted that we stay on the street until 12 in the noon and then go home to see what decisions are made. I proposed to go to the office of the representative of Vali Faqih (the ruling jurisconsult). Half of the crowd came with me. We saw the Basij and Sepah plainclothes men at the Haji Bridge. Their weapons were concealed under their uniforms. Regular policemen were also there. The plainclothes men were carrying wireless devices in their hands and were filming us. One plainclothes man came forward and filmed a woman who was beside me. I touched his chest with my hand and said: “You have no right to film her.” He put his hands on his waist and said: “Do not force me to do this.” I saw a weapon under his clothes. We came to Farhang Intersection. They said that the representative of the Vali Faqih was not there, and we should go to the Governorate.
When we moved, I saw plainclothes men at Haji Bridge carrying arms under their clothes. Those plainclothes men blocked the road and said they will not allow us to go any further from there. But they could not stop us, and we continued on our way. The security forces also walked side by side with us. The Guard forces were standing on the rooftop at the Governorate Square. There was a cameraman also there in the same uniform as the Guards men. They were wearing uniforms that looked like the guerrilla uniforms. They had shields in their hands and black safety helmets on their heads. Some of them were carrying batons and some firearms. Their weapons looked like Kalashnikov but with perhaps a smaller diameter. Policemen were also in the Governorate Square. The policemen did not do anything at that moment; they were just onlookers. It seems that the responsibility of this job was given to the Sepah and Basij.
I did not see firing at the people myself as I was arrested at an early stage. Our city was divided in two parts: in one-part, young men and the general public had come to the Radio & Television and staged a sit-in there. The crowd there was probably ten times of what we had. The skirmishes there continued until the night. Firing had occurred there too. The police had shot a young man of 24, who is now paralyzed from the lungs down. After my arrest, when they took me to the Security Police center, a woman said: “They arrested me on 16 November. I saw the police openly firing at people. One woman was shot in the leg; a boy was also shot in the leg. Most plainclothes officers carried pepper spray, batons, and Colts; they beat up the people with batons and weapons.” She had seen both the police and the plainclothes men firing at people. Other women, who joined us later at the detention center, said that the police did a lot of firing and beating.
We were sitting on the ground in front of the Governorate when a plainclothes officer hit, with his baton, a young man who was telling me that he was a post-graduate and unemployed. I do not know what was at the end of that baton. When he hit the forehead of that young man, blood squirted in the air like a pipe from which water comes out with pressure. I was shocked and heard the shout of a woman at that very moment. I turned back to see who had cried, I saw that a number of plainclothes officers had seized a woman. One was removing her shawl another was removing her overcoat. They were spraying her with pepper spray. That woman was shouting, “let me go.”
On the other side, there were other kids being beaten up. I heard twice the cries of other women. I quickly came to my senses and began to run. One caught my head from behind and they started to beat me up. They sprayed my face. They used a Taser. They pulled my hair. I just kept shouting. They suddenly opened my legs. I thought they wanted to drag me on the ground. One of them kicked me on the pelvis. I screamed and fainted. I was twisting around with pain. Then they threw me in a car. I just kept saying, “I am going blind. I am going blind.” The one who was at the front took out the spray and sprayed it in my mouth. Then I began to suffocate and threw up in the car. I believe those plainclothes men were the Sepah officers because when they arrested me, they took me to “Hazrat Abbas” detention center of the Sepah. After my arrest, I saw some of the same plainclothes officers whom I had seen in the crowd among the Sepah officers of the detention center.
The officers who arrested us were all armed and carried Colts. Even the woman who carried out our body search carried a weapon on her waist. They blindfolded me and threw me in a room. Its floor had sand and cement and was extremely cold. Then they brought in four other women. But before they threw me in this room, I saw that they had also brought the same woman whom I had seen screaming and being beaten up. They had brought her without clothes. I mean that they had torn all of her clothing into pieces; she was only in a top and pants.
Before they brought us to our cell, we were in a room that was very small. Two or three men were standing there. Two women came and asked us to remove our clothes as they wanted to search us. I protested and said how could we do it in the presence of those men. They gave a men’s shirt to the woman whose clothes they had torn to pieces. Then they went out and brought a chador for her. She said: “You tore up my clothes, now you expect me to remove my top and pants in front of these men?” We started to protest. In reply to those protests, that woman slapped us hard a couple of times. Ultimately, one of the male officers told his colleagues: “Let us go.” When the men left, that female officer told us contemptuously to remove our clothes.
They asked us to remove all of our clothing, even our underwear. That woman told us repeatedly to sit down and to open our legs so she could see if we were concealing something in our genitals. Then that woman and another woman, who was her companion, touched and inspected all of our body, even our private parts. When we did not cooperate with her, she would hit us and say: “Open up. Open your legs. You may have concealed something there.”
When they arrested us, we were four women and many men. Initially, they started with us. We were required to stand up facing the wall. At the time of questioning, they would constantly abuse and call us names. They would hit us on our head. They would hit us with fists. They would loudly threaten us: “Yah, now when we take (you) to such and such place and do that thing to you, you will speak like a nightingale.” All night they took each of us two or three times for interrogation.
All of our blood pressure had dropped. The nails of one girl had become completely blue and the oxygen of her blood had fallen. One of the women who were the ambulance staff had brought a mask for her. They said that it was their duty to examine the women who had been beaten up so much. Their bodies have wounds. They should receive drugs and painkillers. My heart rate had gone up and I could not breathe. I was in a really bad condition. But the prison officers did not let them do their job. There was someone there. I do not know if he was a doctor or not. He wanted to give us medication. But when we saw that the ambulance staff was not allowed to attend to us, we panicked and said that we did not want any medication from him.
We were held by the Sepah Intelligence for about a week. As they did not have enough space, they sent us to Security Police and from there to women’s prison of Khorramabad. There, two arrested women were added to our lot. We were kept there for about a week. They took us for interrogation every morning around 9 or 10 and brought us back after sunset.
As soon as I was brought to the prison, I requested medical care several times but the prison physician refused. He said that he had received a letter stating that we were prohibited from receiving visitors, from making phone calls, and no medical care was to be given to us. The prison physician who examined our bodies asked: “What did they hit you with that your body has become so black and blue and so lacerated?” I said I did not know. They had beaten us up with whatever they could get hold of. None of us six women were allowed until that time to make telephone contact with our families. After I was able to speak to my family on the phone, they told me that: “Wherever we went – hospitals, police stations – we gave them your name and made inquiries. They said they didn’t have such name in their list.” I believe I was able to speak to my family, on the phone from women’s prison, 20 days after my arrest.
My family knew that I was a part of the protests, but they did not know where I was. They even visited the court. There, the husband of an imprisoned woman told my mother that her daughter was in women’s prison. After that, my mother went every day to the judge and to the prison. Ultimately, they told her that her daughter was prohibited from receiving visitors and from making phone calls. They said that as long as the Sepah does not give orders to the judge, they could not give her any information about her daughter.
The Khorramabad women’s prison does not have a political wing. It has two blocks of cells: one general block and one revolutionary. They threw us in the revolutionary block which contained all narcotics criminals. It was very small and had no space. All of us slept on the prison floor. All beds were occupied. Not even a single space was available. Conditions there were extremely bad. Even the water with which we washed our faces and bodies was not hygienic. Cockroaches and worms came out of the water pipe and touched our heads and faces. Our block was exactly in front of the toilets. Strong toilet smell pervaded our block. All of us became very sick on the very first day. I caught influenza in the first few days. No medication was given to me, even for the influenza that I caught in the prison. Although I suffered from influenza, they took me every day for interrogation with the Sepah Intelligence. They had threatened all of us six women who were arrested in the protests with rape. When one of us was taken for interrogation, the others worried until she returned.
Several times when they were bringing me back from interrogation to prison, the officers of the general prison saw the traces of assault and battery, and black and blue spots on me and said that they would record it in my file. The female Sepah Intelligence officer said that this woman (me) was a special accused person. The guard officer twice recorded this issue of assault and battery in my file. Subsequently, however, the Sepah Intelligence officers did something – I do not know what- and the officers of the general block did not dare say anything or record anything after that.
After 18 days, they took me blindfolded, handcuffed, and fettered out of the Khorramabad prison. They said that they were transferring me to Tehran for specialized interrogation. They put me in a solitary cell in Tehran which was located in a large hall full of cells next to each other. The next morning, they took me to a place inscribed with “Evin Public Prosecutor.” There they untied my blindfold and told me to get off. They handcuffed me. I entered the hall of the Public Prosecutor’s Office accompanied by the female officer. I saw that they had tied a large number of young men to chairs. A man who was probably holding my file went to the judge and came out, without me seeing the judge and talking to him. They transferred me from there to Evin’s detention center 2A and put me at the disposal of the Sepah’s Intelligence Department. I was in a solitary cell the entire time I was at 2A. It was so horrible there that I wished time and again that they would send me back to the Sepah of Khorramabad, that they beat me up but not keep me there. It was so hard upon me that I wished many times that I were dead.
The first day that I was there, they said that they could not keep me there; they may detain me for 6 days or may keep me there for 60 years. There was a glass kiosk where they would put me, and the interrogators would do the questioning from outside the kiosk. On certain days they would ask me to stand up facing the wall. When they wanted to beat me up, they would ask me to stand up facing the wall. When they did this, I would know that I would be beaten up that day. They would play (the recorded) crying of my mother, the voice of my father, the voices of my brothers for me to hear. They had played the sound of my mother crying for one whole day; she pleaded all the time to tell her where her daughter was.
They would say, “You know better yourself why you are being beaten up. Make a confession and get away with it.” I said that I did not know anything. The truth is, I really did not know what to confess until one morning a female prison guard told me to get ready. She was taking me to the interrogator who wanted to speak to me. The interrogator said: “Madam, we have realized that you are innocent indeed. We apologize to you for all the harassment you received here. We have phoned your family and they are now at the door; you are free to go with them.” Then the female prison guard said: “Come, let us go in this room. Take off your prison clothes and given them to me. I will give you the bag behind the door containing your own dress which you can put on. This really made me happy. But when I entered that room, I saw that it did not have any camera. I was very scared and thought why this room (contrary to all other rooms in the prison) did not have the camera. I suffered so much stress that I could hardly breathe. Then I saw the door open and five stout men like giants entered the cell. I had no clothes on my body and had given it to that woman to bring my own clothes to put on (I was completely naked). All those men had covered their faces. My interrogator also came with them. The interrogator whose voice I always heard but never saw his face was also there. He too had masked his face. Then those five men started touching my body.
They had surrounded me from all sides and each of them touched one part of my body. They did not speak at all. Whatever the interrogator said, they did his bidding. The interrogator would name my sexual organs and ask them to touch it there, to finger it there. He would tell one of them to squeeze my breast. They would hold my hand and touch it to their genital organ which they had taken out after unzipping their pants. They squeezed me all the time. They would insert their hands in my genitals.
Then the interrogator said to me: “This is just the beginning. When these five are finished, I will ask the next five men to come in.” The interrogator had a baton in his hands. He would drag it over my body. He would say: “Do you like this?” He said very dirty words to me.
Then the interrogator told two of those men: “Make her lie down on the floor.” At that point, I fell to his feet and said: “For God’s sake I made a mistake, it won’t happen again. Whatever you tell me I will do it. Just do not do this to me. For God’s sake.” Whatever the holies I remembered, I invoked them. I do not know how long it lasted. For me it was an eternity, as if the time had ceased to exist.
I only remember that I screamed and pleaded. I told him: “I would do whatever you want me to do. You only tell me what you want me to do.” He then stopped and ordered them to let me go. He said: “I told you all this time to cooperate with us. This is your own doing. You put up resistance. That is what you wanted.” Then they brought me to my cell and came after me the next day. They showed me the photograph of my fiancé with the United States Armed Forces. They asked me to cooperate with them so they could lure my fiancé to Turkey, kidnap him and bring him back to Iran. They threatened that if I refused to do it, they would arrest my parents and my family.
Likewise, they asked me to make a confession in front of the cameras. It took three days before I was able to say whatever they wanted me to say in front of the camera. They told me to say that the US forces had sent me through my fiancé to create disturbances in Iran, that they had given me money to distribute among the people to bring them to the streets. They told me to say that the Americans had given me money and promised residence in America. I said everything they wanted me to say in front of the camera. I did not do it willingly, I did it under duress. I accepted to make this forced confession in front of the camera as I was afraid that sexual harassment may happen again, that all those men might rape me.
When they obtained my confession, they did not come after me until I started a hunger strike. I believe I did not eat anything for ten days and my condition deteriorated so much that I could not see anything in front of my eyes. Then they took me to health service and attached serum to my body. The interrogator came again and asked why I was doing it. I said I wanted to go back to my city. I was so angry that I snatched the serum, half of which had gone into my body through my hand. I said I wanted to die; I did not want to live. One week after my hunger strike, they sent me to Khorramabad. Before leaving cell 2A, they asked me to write that everything in the cell was good. That no one from interrogators to security guards had hurt me. I wrote down this too under duress. After my release from prison, I told Judge Mojtaba Salgi that I was physically tortured and sexually abused in the prison. The judge replied: “It has nothing to do with me.”
In Khorramabad I was with the Sepah for three to four days and after that with the Security Police. Then they sent me to public prison for women. Ultimately, they released me on bail after two weeks. They told me, when I was with the Sepah, “If you cooperate with us, you will receive a one-year sentence. You will serve it a couple of months and then you will get out. But if you do not co-operate, we will give you a 10 to 15-year sentence.” After nine months, they sent me to Turkey. They said that I must go to Turkey and when I return my court hearing will be held. Then they gave my file to the Revolutionary Court. When I was in Turkey, they handed out a sentence in absentia of one-year imprisonment and 74 lashes. This was conditional on my cooperation with them.
My passport, my ID card, my residence permit for Turkey, even my educational diplomas, all of it, was in the hands of Sepah. During those nine months, I had no idea at all as to what to do. They contacted me. Every time they contacted me a private number would show on the phone. They told me: “Come to Tehran on such and such date. We want to give you your documents. This man (my fiancé) has come to Turkey. You must go back to Turkey. Bring this man with you to Istanbul on the date we will tell you.” When I went to Turkey, they regularly brought my parents to Sepah. When I was in Turkey, a bunch of people came to my house and threatened me. One car followed us at all times.
My father phoned me several times and told me to cooperate with the security forces of Iran. I would know that his voice was on speaker. Subsequently, my father told me that he was dragged to Sepah and was forced under threat to make that contact. I received several phone calls from a Sepah line threatening that: “We will give $100 dollars to Afghans or Yemenis to take your head off your chest. We will not let you come back alive. We will make your mother wear black mourning clothes.” I continue to receive their threats.