Shabnam Madadzadeh, 29, serving a five year prison service, was held for six years in some of the most infamous prisons of Iran’s criminal justice system. She secretly sent letters from her cells, and through them, drew attention to the conditions she and thousands of other women faced.
Paton writes, “She called the on UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran to visit Raja’i Shahr and Gharchak prisons, where she was held. Madadzadeh’s plight as a prisoner of conscience was raised by international NGOs and the US State Department before she finally escaped to Europe.”
Like other prisoners inside Raja’i Shahr and Gharchak prisons, Madadzadeh was forced to watch the execution of fellow captives, while living under the threat of death and sexual violence. She was also tortured while in the custody of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
“In every moment, second by second you can feel death. The interrogators talk about execution every day and every day you think you are going to be executed,” Madadzadeh told IBTimes UK during a telephone interview.
Madadzadeh lived in a room at Raja’i Shahr that she described as a “corridor”. 200 women also lived there, they had the use of only two toilets, and unsanitary drinking water. The lights were never turned off, thus depriving the inmates of sleep between brutal interrogation sessions.
“When I was under interrogation I was physically tortured too. Five or six men surrounded me and as they were questioning me they beat me, pulled my hair and hit my body,” she said.
“Her interrogators hoped Madadzadeh would renounce the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an opposition group in Iran outlawed by the Mullah’s regime and which advocates the overthrow of the Islamist regime.
She explained the worst punishment she could receive was to be sent to solitary confinement, but that it was the stories of sexual abuse in the prison which led her to realise she needed to speak out against her jailers,” writes Paton.
Madadzadeh said, “Inside there were girls who were raped by the guards. These girls and these women don’t have anyone to help them or to hear them and [the guards] easily raped many of them.” She adds, “I can still see the face of a girl who told me she had been raped six times by a guard. It was horrible. My heart broke with her and when I was listening I would just cry because I was in prison and I could do nothing for them.”
That’s when she decided, “…you should be the voice of these women, because this the way to support these women and to fight the regime.”
Arash Mohammadi, 25, states that men also face the threat of sexual violence in prison. He recently arrived in Europe, like Madadzadeh, and he described living “constant nightmare” in which he faced prolonged and vicious beatings and was threatened with rape.
“The interrogations would last 12 hours, there was a rack that I was put up on and then I would be tortured with beatings and also shocked with electric shocks. There were three interrogators; one to ask the questions while the other two carried on the beatings. “Sometimes I would pass out and they would splash water on me until I gained consciousness again and then they would resume.”
Mohammadi was subjected to eight days of 12-hour-long interrogations, and told he had to denounce the PMOI. Both Mohammadi and Madadzadeh used the beatings to strengthen their resolve against the Iranian government.
“I believe all of these women were victims of the regime. Without any basic rights for any of the prisoners,” Madadzadeh said. “Especially for women in Iran. They don’t have any rights and they are still without safety or people to help them.”