Reza Afshari Review
of Ervand Avramian’s book
human rights quarterly 2002
can be judged by entering its prisons
,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in
“The House of the Dead,”
his semi-autobiographical novel
about inmates in a Siberian prison camp.
to fail the Dostoyevsky test.
The increasingly common
“suicides” by prisoners
stem from Iran’s inordinate reliance on
“confessions” in convicting defendants.
Iranian judges treat “confessions”
as the “proof of proofs,”
the “mother of proofs
” and the “best evidence of guilt.
” The use of forced confessions began
in the last years of the shah’s rule,
in the 1970s, but drastically increased
after the Iranian revolution in 1979.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
regarded them as the highest proof of guilt.
I analyzed numerous legal cases
and around 300 prison memoirs
. To obtain such “confessions,”
interrogators in Iran rely heavily
on psychological and physical pressures
. They — like fellow interrogators elsewhere —
scrupulously avoid the word torture
(“shekanjeh” in Persian).
the Iranian Constitution explicitly outlaws shekanjeh.
Instead, interrogators describe what they do as
. Innumerable prison memoirs detail this process.
It can be described as Iran’s version of “
Prisoners are asked a question,
and if their answer is unsatisfactory,
they are sentenced
to a specific number of lashings
on the ground that they had lied.
These whippings can continue
until the desired answer is given
— and committed to paper.
According to a letter circulated
by some 40 members of Parliament
, hallucinatory drugs now supplement
these traditional methods.
In the 1980s and the 1990s,
detainees were routinely shown on
television reading their confessions
, but the broadcasts were mostly
most Iranians concluded that they were staged.
The confessions continue to be used in court, however.
Detainees have a limited number of options
in the face of interrogation.
They can submit,
even before the instruments of
enhanced interrogation are displayed.
They can undergo prolonged agony,
which may lead to death,
— interrogators want a confession,
not a badly damaged corpse
, which can cause political embarrassment.
The detainees can accept a plea bargain and “admit”
to a lesser transgression in return
for release or a lighter sentence.
After the disputed presidential elections in 2009
in which the right-wing populist
prevailed over reformist opponents
— including visitors from abroad —
gave “exclusive” interviews to the regime press
confessing to sundry transgressions,
especially helping foreign powers conspiring
to bring about “regime change.”
Detainees have also agreed to public confessions
and tried to insert phrases that
undermined the whole ritual.
A prisoner — later executed —
declared in 1983
that he had been recruited into the K.G.B.
, the Soviet intelligence agency
upon his arrival in Russia in 1951.
He would have been aware
that anyone versed
in the topic would know the K.G.B.
was created three years later, in 1954.
A former Khomeini follower
said in his public confession in 1987
that he had resorted
to black magic and the occult
to spread cancerous cells
among clerical leaders he opposed.
In 1984, leaders of the Communist Tudeh
who had been arrested
after criticizing Iran’s war with Iraq
, vociferously thanked
for “opening their eyes,
” providing them with books
their previous ideology,
and transforming prisons
and “educational institutions.”
One stressed that the prison wardens
had given them
or lashes of truth.
They confessed to
for adopting alien ideologies
failing to study properly the
history of their country.
They also held themselves
for “treasonable mistakes
” made by the left in the distant past,
such as during the
constitutional revolution of 1906,
which took place long before
they were born.
President Mohammad Khatami,
tried between 1997
and 2005 to pass legislation to prevent
the use of torture in prison.
But such attempts were swept away with
the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2005.
, now embarrassed
by the arrest of his environmentalist allies,
is eager to channel the concerns of reformers
about the use of torture.
He has supported the 40 deputies
who have protested prison “suicides”
and has set up a committee to investigate the death
of Dr. Seyed Emami.
Time will show whether this committee has any teeth.
Following the broadcast of reformist leader
during the summer of 2009-
it was said that the confession was obtained by tortur
e as part of the Iranian regime efforts
to discredit the opposition.
Watch Me Confess!
Ebrahim Nabavi Mocks Confessions
Mohammad Ali Abtahi
is one of Iran’s most lovable clerics,
also known as the “blogging mullah”.
You can get to
know him by watching his appearance
on The Daily Show
. When he was arrested,
many people predicted
that he would be forced
to make false confessions
under physical and / or psychological torture.
This prediction recently came true.
But before it did,
famous Iranian comedian
Ebrahim Nabavi posted
a video on YouTube imagining
what Abtahi’s confession
might look like.
Here is the English translation.
It is worth noting that Nabavi himself
was once arrested and forced to confess.
He soon fled the country and announced
that the confession was by force.
As you can see,
Nabavi had a lot of fun with this clip
and you can too
I Confess – A Tribute to Mohammadreza JalaeipourIn “
The Confessions of Grannie4peaceIn
A Tweeter Posts Her ConfessionsIn “#iranElection” |
His name in Persian:
born January 27, 1958)
is an Iranian theologian, scholar,
the Institute for
He is a former Vice President of Iran
and a close associate of
former President Mohammad Khatami.
Abtahi is a member
of the central council of Association
of Combatant Clerics
(Majma’e Rowhaniyoon-e Mobarez)
, the political grouping to which both Khatami
and the 2009 presidential candidate
(the previous Speaker of Majlis of Iran) belong.
Vice President of Iran for Legal
and Parliamentary AffairsIn office
President Mohammad Khatami
Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari
Chief of Staff of
the President of IranIn office
Mohammad Khatami Succeeded by
Ali Khatami Personal details
BornSeptember 29, 1958 (age 61)
Mashhad, Iran Political party
Association of Combatant Clerics
Alma materIsfahan University
(B.A. in Western Philosophy)
University of Tehran
(M.A. in education)
Abtahi served in various governmental posts,
including the President of Iranian Radio,
Vice Minister of International Affairs
in the Ministry of Culture
and Islamic Guidance,
and IRIB’s representative in Lebanon.
President of Iran
as his first chief of staff.
held the position from
July 10, 1997
to September 1, 2001
On September 2, 2001
to the post of the
Iranian Vice President for Legal
and Parliamentary Affairs.
He was the first cabinet member in Iran
to write a weblog
or have an Orkut account
during his membership
in the cabinet.
He resigned from his post
Iranian Majlis election of 2004,
because of “
differences in political viewpoints
with the parliament’s majority”,
finally, on October 12, 2004,
his resignation was accepted
by President Khatami.
He was followed by Majid Ansari,
a previous representative of Tehran
to the Parliament
and a fellow member
of the Combatant Clerics Society party.
The Daily Show appearance
Seyyed Abtahi appeared
on The Daily Show with John Stewart in 2009,
interviewed by Jason Jones.
Abtahi is often called the
along with Mehdi Karroubi who is referred
to as the iron “shaykh of reforms”
Seyyed Abtahi is active in the blogosphere and
is the first member of an Iranian cabinet
to keep a personal blog.
Arrests and confession
Ayatollah Hassan Abtahi
is the author of
several controversial books about
and political views are very different
from Mohammad Ali’s,
who is a liberal cleric.
was arrested recently for
“suspicious organised activities”.
discussed this in a post
to his blog titled
Why don’t I write about
my father and brother’s arrest?.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi
was arrested on June 16, 2009
during the aftermath
of the 2009 presidential elections
and subsequent protests.
He reportedly made
a videotaped confession
following his arrest,
 in which he stated
that the opposition’s claims
of a stolen election were false
, and that opposition leaders
in advance to misrepresent the vote.
According to the statement,
had taken an oath not to abandon
each other in their support
for former prime minister
as they prepared
to stage a Velvet Revolution
in order to avenge
their defeat in 2005
Iranian presidential election.
According to human rights groups,
by Iranian political prisoners
are almost always obtained under duress.
In response members of his
and other arrested reformists
gathered at his home issued
denouncing his confession,
“not only do we not accept
we also know that Abtahi
said these things due to
a long period of imprisonment
for the purpose of
obtaining a confession.”
In a court hearing,
his wife Fahimeh Mousavinejad,
dismissed her husband’s confession
as false and
“not at all in Mr. Abtahi’s style. .
.. As his family,
we know the way he expresses himself.
Many people have read his blog.
he was using were not his own”.
Abtahi’s photos from the trial
show signs of probable use of torture
during his imprisonment
.Following Abtahi’s record as
the first Iranian cabinet member
to blog while in office,
on August 26, 2009,
he also became
the first known Iranian prisoner
to blog while still at prison
.A few days after that prison blog entry
his website was suddenly taken offline.
In November 2009
, he was sentenced to six years in jail
for the alleged intention
to topple the government.
He has since been freed.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi was
born in Mashhad
. He is married to
(daughter of one of his professors)
and has three daughters,
named Faezeh, Fatemeh, and Farideh.
He is also the nephew of
On 14 October 2013,
Abtahi was hospitalized in Milad Hospital
after he suffered a brain attack.
, Abtahi’s personal doctor confirmed that Abtahi’s health was good.
Content is available under CC BY-SA 3.0 unless otherwise noted.
The following was originally posted here:
A twitter user Talkoholic
, has announced her confessions
to the Iranian state media
and posted them on YouTube.
This “common revolutionary greenie girl”
as she likes to be known as,
tells us that she was inspired to
make the confession after reading
Iran_Translator‘s Green Brief #46.
She hates it when some people
try to control other people’s minds
and recommends this book chapter
by Dr. Robert J. Lifton to everyone.
This video has also been posted on Iranian.com
and has received some comments there too.