Among many other prisoners trapped within Iran’s Evin prison, Iranian activist Sepideh Qolian penned a letter describing horrible treatment committed upon her and other inmates.
With protests being suppressed across Iran, Qolian’s accounts could shed a light on how the government treats those suspected of inciting unrest.
Since being sent to prison, Qolian recorded her time being tortured into answering interrogators in Evin prison, located in the capital of Tehran. In a letter written by her and several other prisoners, she shared her harrowing experience being shackled by the forceful hand of the Iranian authorities.
Qolian was arrested in November 2018, following accusations of her acting “against national security” during labor protests in southwestern Khuzestan province. During her imprisonment, she was said to have been forced into saying that she was part of a “diaspora Marxist group,” Iran International reported.
In Jan. 2019, her “confession” was aired on state television, alongside those of her fellow inmates. She was also forced to “confess” that she recorded videos and took photos of the protests, sending them to international media, which the government deemed either an “enemy” or as a “hostile” media.
As she was forced to answer to authorities, Qolian recalled that she was physically and mentally tortured by interrogators, and was also subject to lashings.
“It felt as if I had completely lost my volition and consciousness after three consecutive days or even more of being kept awake, being interrogated, and being locked up in a toilette,” Qolian wrote in the letter, which Iran International claimed to have acquired.
“I took the text that had been prepared [by the interrogators] and read from the paper in a half-conscious state. Reading every line felt like the sound of another lash hitting my body and soul,” she added.
When she watched her own confessions play out on television, she saw her own interrogator, Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour — an infamous “journalist-interrogator” in Iranian media — stand as the presenter of the confessions. Qolian later shared on Twitter that the “confessions” were prepared beforehand by Zabihpour to be said live in front of the camera.
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During her time in prison, Qolian studied law and was placed in Evin’s “cultural” wing for her exams. She said that this location was converted into a “torture and interrogation” building, with young prisoners also being questioned there, the BBC reported.
“The exam room is filled with young boys and girls and the shouts of torturers can be heard,” she wrote.
In one such case, Qolian explained what she went through when taken to the wing for her exam in December 2022.
“It’s freezing cold and snowing, near the exit door of the building, a young boy blindfolded and wearing nothing but a thin gray T-shirt is sat in front of an interrogator.
“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.’”
As Iran’s current protests are being put down, around 19,300 people have been arrested, with 519 protesters, including 69 children, killed in the crackdown, the Human Right Activists’ News Agency (HRANA) reported. Many were given the death penalty, with four being hanged after they too were forced to “confess”.
Along with Qolian, other female prisoners joined her in writing the letter, who also shared their own experiences in Evin prison. They told of the lack of proper accommodations and the quarantine of infected prisoners.
Upon hearing the cries of protest, Qolian wrote,
“In the fourth year of my imprisonment I can finally hear the footsteps of liberation from all across Iran.
“The echoes of ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ can be heard even through the thick walls of Evin prison.”