I Was tortured
for saying the floogging must end in the Islamic Regime
The Tehran regime says it is getting out of the nuclear weapons
industry. But, as one victim tells Marie Woolf, it is still in the torture
11 December 2004
The treatment of Arash Nassouri was brutal. "They hung me upside
down and handcuffed me with a bar under my knees," he says. "They
started kicking and punching me ... beating me in every part of my back,
my stomach, face, everywhere. My backbone was broken. But the pain was
worst when they hit my face. My nose was already broken, my teeth were
broken. Every time they hit my face there was a lot of pain. I was ready
to say anything."
Mr Nassouri still walks with a profound limp, and is awaiting his second
operation to mend a seriously injured back, which is the legacy of his
torture. Six years after his horrific ordeal, he still takes nine different
tablets a day to treat pain and depression.
Now 33, Mr Nassouri, who has gained political asylum in Britain, still
attends weekly counselling sessions to try to come to terms with the experience
he says ruined his life.
The British Government is adamant that torture is never justified. In
its recently published report on human rights, it said "torture is
abhorrent and illegal and the UK is opposed to the use of torture under
So it is surprising that the Government has argued for the admissibility
of evidence in UK courts which has been extracted under torture abroad.
The UK's ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, was dismissed after he
spoke out publicly about the authorities' routine use of torture, including,
allegedly, boiling people to death.
The decision, upheld by the appeal court, is to be appealed against again
to the House of Lords by human rights lawyers who argue it in effect condones
use of torture by foreign powers.
Amnesty International has accused the Government of "giving a green
light to torturers" by supporting the admission of such testimony.
While the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, where
Mr Nassouri is being treated, said using testimony obtained in foreign
torture chambers was not only tainted but unreliable.
"Why should you believe somebody who has told you something because
he was in such pain? He just wants the pain to stop," said Sherman
Carroll, director of public affairs. "If you permit such testimony
to be used in UK courts you are encouraging torture to be used."
While a 27-year-old civil engineering student, and active in university
politics, Mr Nassouri was seized and taken blindfolded to an unknown location
in Tehran by members of the official security services. He was tortured
by interrogators who accused him of being a member of the mujahedin and
of plotting against the Islamic regime.
"When I was on the floor, I asked him (the interrogator) to wipe
the blood because I could feel the blood in my mouth. My tongue was touching
broken teeth. My head was throbbing with pain and I could feel my eyes
swell up. I could feel my nose was broken. The interrogator said I should
not be worried about my vanity because people had go to war defending
collaborators like me," he said.
Tears come to his eyes as he slowly and methodically recounts the torture
sessions he endured, along with threats against his wife and family.
"I was taken into a room blindfolded. The interrogator was called
Sayed. He said, 'we know everything about you. Tell us everything about
your group and your contacts and who is funding you.' But I had not done
anything that was wrong. Our group was not illegal. I was not anti the
regime. I was in favour of reform," he says. "Later they said
they had arrested my wife as well and she was being treated in the same
He puts his hands beneath his knees as he demonstrates how he was held
in the "juojeh kebab", a notorious torture technique, where
he was handcuffed in a crouching position and hung from the ceiling upside
down before being beaten.
"They told me to sit on the floor and they brought a metal bar.
They put it through the handcuffs under my knees," he said. "I
was hanging from the bar and they started to beat me."
The group he was a member of was a pro-democracy opposition group, which
sought reform of the Islamic system. They held debates and meetings and
"We hadn't done anything illegal. We criticised Islamic punishment
and reforms to the judicial system," he said.
In 1998, he was summoned by the headof the university,who told him the
intelligence services wanted to interview him.
"I said, 'OK, I haven't done anything wrong, I will talk to them.
I was afraid at first but I thought I would be safe because the head of
the university was aware of it," he said. "I got into a car
and I was blindfolded. Before I was blindfolded I noticed that the car
doors had no inside handles."
That was the beginning of a terrifying ordeal, in which Mr Nassouri was
accused of being a collaborator and a saboteur along with other torture
victims whom he heard calling from other "cells".
The beatings were designed to make him confess to crimes that he had
"I pleaded with them not to hurt me any more. After about 10 minutes
I started screaming that I would tell them anything that they wanted to
The "confession" led to several months' detention in two Iranian
prisons and a suspended seven-year prison term. A raid by the security
services, convinced him his life was in danger, so he paid traffickers
to smuggle him out of Iran.
of respective sources