IRAN: Segideh Qolian, one of Iran’s prominent female activists, has described how prisoners are forced to make confessions — in a letter written from a notorious prison.
Qolian, who was found guilty of acting “against national security” by supporting a strike, has been incarcerated for five years since 2018.
Sepideh Qolian writes a letter from Evin prison
Writing from Evin prison, she outlines the brutal interrogation treatment used on her and other prisoners. Later, state-run television airs their coerced confessions.
In reference to the recent anti-government demonstrations that have taken place across the nation, Qolian writes, “In the fourth year of my captivity, I can now hear the footsteps of liberty from all around Iran.”
“Woman, Life, Freedom can be heard resonating even through the thick walls of Evin prison,” she said.
In prison, Qolian is presently studying law. In her letter, she claims to have seen young captives being interrogated there and tells how Evin’s “culture” wing, where she takes her exams, has been converted into a “torture and interrogation” building.
Her letter reads, “The exam room is crowded with young boys and girls, and the yells of torturers can be heard.”
On December 28, 2022, while she was being transported to the wing for her exam, Qolian explains a scene she saw.
“It’s freezing cold and snowing. Near the exit door of the building, a young boy, blindfolded and wearing nothing but a thin grey T-shirt, is sitting in front of an interrogator,” she describes.
“He’s shaking and pleading: ‘I swear to God I didn’t beat anyone.’ They want him to confess. As I am passing I shout: ‘DO NOT confess,’ and ‘Death to you tyrants,” the letter read.
Sepideh Qolian, who was detained in 2018 for encouraging the strike and protest at a sugar industry in the Khuzestan province of Iran, describes her own detention, questioning, and coerced confession in her letter.
Qolian remembers being questioned by a female interrogator, whom she hoped would be gentler with her than her other male interrogators and that “at least she won’t sexually attack me.”
Her expectations were dashed, however, as the female interrogator “kicked the desk leg and said, ‘You communist w###e, who did you sleep with?” she wrote.
In 2019, Qolian was in Qarchak jail and acknowledged her interrogator while watching the coerced confessions of another captive on TV.
She named the interrogator in a letter that was made public as Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour, an “interrogator-journalist” with connections to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The US Treasury Department penalised Zabihpour in November 2022 for her part in coercing dual nationals and other detainees into making forced confessions that were televised on television.
Later, Zabihpour sued Qolian, who was given an additional eight months in prison as a result of her assertions.
Qolian concludes her letter by calling the ongoing protest a “revolution.” As per the Human Rights Activists’ News Agency (HRANA), at least 519 protestors have been killed so far, including 69 minors, and 19,300 have been detained. Thousands of people are behind bars.
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