The Use of Sexual Violence against Protestors in Iran

The Use of Sexual Violence against Protestors in Iran

AUTHOR: Annika Kannen

Summary: In response to the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement, Iranian authorities used extensive

force, including sexual violence to intimidate protestors and extract confessions. The article outlines

the systematic use of sexual violence against protestors by telling the story of Fatemeh, who survived

sexual abuse following her detention at a protest.

As many of us heard in the news at the time, in September 2022 national protests broke in Iran out following the death of Mahsa Amini, who was killed for not complying with veiling laws. The protestors challenged gender-based discrimination and violence by their government under the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom”. The movement was met with extensive force by the Iranian authorities, often violently punishing protestors. This included cases of rape and sexual violence.

In March 2023 Amnesty International first published a statement condemning these actions and continued investigating these cases. In December 2023 a detailed report was published, describing the experiences of some of the many men and women who were victims of sexual violence at the hands of their government. Sexual violence was used as a method of torture by many Iranian intelligence and security forces, including the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of Intelligence, and

various bodies of law enforcement. Rape and sexual violence were utilized to “crush the spirit of protestors” and to force protestors to sign confessions. Amnesty International was able to document the cases of 45 survivors. Still, it should be assumed that there are many more since multiple survivors reported to us being detained with groups of up to 50 people and some, if not all, of them, were also subjected to sexual violence.

Fatemeh was one of the women who allowed her story to be relayed by a mental health professional to Amnesty International. She was attending one of the protests with friends when agents appeared on motorcycles and started arresting people in the crowd. They also arrested Fatemeh, who was handcuffed and blindfolded before they took her to a school building. She was held in a classroom, with other women. All of them remained blindfolded for the majority of the time. She remembered people asking for food and water, to which the agent told them to “eat their own feces”. There in this room, she was gang-raped several times. She remembers hearing the other women around her, even if she could not see them most of the time. After she was dropped off at a remote location as her detention was finally over, she was hospitalized and had to have surgery to repair the damages she suffered during the rape. Months after she was released, she still worried about security forces following her.

Many of the victims were not released. In the cases of Mehdi Mohammadifard and Javad Rouhi, they did sign confessions after being subjected to rape or other forms of sexual violence, as well as other methods of torture. Based on this confession they were sentenced to death. The Supreme Court overturned their sentence in 2023 and at the time of the publication of the report, Mehdi Mohammadifard was waiting in prison for a retrial. Java Rouhi died in August 2023 in custody under suspicious circumstances. It is important to note that while this post focuses on sexual violence and rape, those were not the only methods used to torture the detained protestors. Sexual violence Is highlighted here because, in addition to punishment for protesting and intimidation to stop protestors from continuing their activism, it is meant to humiliate the protestors.

Only very few of the survivors reported their experience and were dismissed by prosecution authorities. This only underscores the need for international attention to stories like this. If survivorsare not granted justice by their government, it is our responsibility to pay attention and demand justice.


Iran: “They violently raped me”: Sexual violence weaponized to crush Iran’s ‘Woman life freedom’uprising – Amnesty International Iran: UN expert’s report to the Human Rights Council provides further evidence of widespread

violations in Iran – Amnesty International