Iran: Ahwazi Arabs face torture at ‘black sites’

Following the mass sweeps of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran's Khuzestan province in the wake of a September terror attack in capital city Ahwaz, reports are mounting of horrific torture used against activists detained in secret prisons or "black sites." Anonymous activists on the ground in Khuzestan spoke to a researcher writing for the Canada-based Dur Untash Studies Center, which closely monitors the Ahwazi struggle. Among the cases vividly described is that of Ali Hilichi, who was detained by intelligence agents at the carwash where he worked in Ahwaz in November 2018, accused of participating in recent public demonstrations. He was kept in solitary confinement and subject to torture for weeks before being released at the end of December. His wife said that when he was freed his body was covered in bruises and welts, adding that he could not take a shower or sleep on his back due to the pain from his injuries. He still suffers from nightmares, crying out in his sleep, "Don't beat me…give me water."

Also highlighted was the case of Hassan Bayt Abdullah, from the village of Ka'I Bayt Khalaf Moslem near the city of Susa, who was arrested in October 2015 on charges of "enmity against God" and "acting against national security"—charges commonly used against dissidents. After reportedly being tortured into confessing his "guilt," he was sentenced to 25 years. This month, fellow inmates at the Masjid Suleiman Prison in Ahwaz managed to smuggle a message to Hassan's family to inform them that he had been subjected to horrific torture in front of them. In retribution for his defense of his fellow prisoners, including demands for clean drinking water, he was dragged to the prison courtyard from the overcrowded cell where was kept with other inmates. There, the guards ripped off his clothes, leaving him in his underwear in the freezing winter cold—before tying him by his hands and feet to a crucifix erected in the yard, and beating and whipping him till he fell unconscious. The inmates reported that while beating Hassan, the guards screamed racist anti-Arab abuse at him, with one of the guards telling him the beating was a "lesson for others who dare to raise their voices to us."

Photo: Iran Human Rights Monitor