Human Rights Violator: Davoud Rahmani


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First Name and Last Name:

Davoud Rahmani

Background:

Haj Davoud Rahmani was born in 1945 on Shahbaz Street (17 Shahrivar) in the east of Tehran.(1) Before joining the Revolutionary Committee in the early days of the revolution, he worked as an iron smith in that neighborhood. (2) Later, due to his acquaintance with Asadollah Lajevardi, prosecutor of Tehran at the time, he was appointed as the head of Ghezel Hesar Prison. In the summer of 1984 and after the removal of Asadollah Lajevardi from his post due to political pressure, Davoud Rahmani was also removed and later went back to his previous profession in Tehran. Some unverified stories suggest that Davoud Rahmani is presently ill and confounded to his home.Titles and Positions Held:

Summer of 1981 to July 1984 – Head of Ghezel Hesar Prison in Karaj

Witness Accounts of Alleged Violations and Crimes:

  1. 1. General Tortures:

The time during which Haj Davoud headed Ghezel Hesar Prison is known as the “Years of Terror.” Between summer 1981 and July 1984, Haj Davoud Rahmani was the head of Ghezel Hesar Prison by order of Asadollah Lajevardi, Head of the State Prison Organization. During that time, he had absolute power in inflicting torture upon the prisoners and employed multitudes of methods for torturing those imprisoned. Some of such methods, such as the graves or devices, were unique in their manner and wide spread nature. (3)

In 1983, Haj Davoud invented the torture method known as “grave” (or Judgment day—qiyamat, bed—takht, coffin—tabut, box—ja’beh, device—dastgah). In this method, the prisoner was to sit continuously and without contact with other prisoners while harnessed on three sides by sheets of plywood (length of 2 meters and width of 80 centimeters) and wearing a blindfold, remaining in absolute silence—even while eating no sound was to be emitted from hitting the silverware to the plates. The length of this wearisome torture was dependant on the resistance of the prisoner. It would end when the prisoner would stop resisting and announce willingness to express his disgust towards his group or friends. The stronger willed prisoners were subject to this torture method for so long that many of them lost their mental balance and health forever. Throughout the entirety of the torture, loudspeakers broadcast religious sermons, call to prayer, and Koran recitation and later on interviews with people who had given in. The goal of this torture was to control the attention of the prisoner and his movements and through those, his will and thoughts. While the sense of hearing of the prisoner is saturated with the broadcasted material, his other senses are completely limited and under the control of the torturer.

Shahrnoush Parsipour, Iranian writer, was one of the people who experience Judgment Day in the spring of 1984. In her book, Prison Memories, she writes that Haj Davoud himself told her that she must go to the “device,” which was a name Haj Davoud had given to the beds because he considered them a human making device or a tavvab making device:

In each grave there was a prisoner, with Chador and blindfold, facing the wall. The first prisoner was sitting with some distance from the wall, around 20 centimeters. The next prisoner, at the bottom of the grave, was sitting around 2 meters away from the wall. This pattern continued all the way to the end of the wall and so, the prisoners made a zigzag pattern with respect to one another.” (Parsipour, P. 298)

Haj Davoud’s inventive torture methods do not end with the “device.” Farzaneh Zolfi, (4) one of the witnesses of Justice For Iran, spent seven months of her 2.5 years of detention in Ghezel Hesar in the toilet along with 16 other prisoners and without the opportunity for a breather. During her first 1.5 years at Ghezel Hesar, she was in ward 4 and later in ward 8 of the “single” ward. Single ward had 12 cells with three beds in each. At the time Farzaneh was held there, 450 prisoners, roughly 40 people per cell were staying at that ward without the possibility of a breather or leaving the cell aside from three times a day for the purpose of going to the bathroom. (5) In April 1981 some options were given to the prisoners of Ward 8 such as the right of having a breather and opening of the cell doors. In return, the prisoners lost the right to have joint breather or read newspaper together, or as Haj Davoud called it, any “commune” activity.

On April 9 of the same year, Farzaneh and about 16 others were moved to Zeer Hasht (6) for charges of having group activities. There, they were forced to stand on their feet for 36 hours. A tavvab or pasdarwould keep watch behind them and would kick them if their knees would buckle or their bodies would touch the walls. After 36 hours without sleeping, the 17 prisoner, clad in chador and blindfolded, were moved to a toilet. Haj Davoud called this location “Cow House” or “Water Edge Ward” and it was comprised of three toilet stalls and a narrow hallway. The seventeen prisoners are quarantined in these toilets for 7 months without access to even the minimum news that they received before through newspaper or the television broadcasts. They were not granted the rights to a breather and were given one blanket for sleeping and barely any food. The direct presence and role of Haj Davoud in the torture of prisoners is a fact that separates him from other heads of prisons. After 7 months, these prisoners are moved to Gowhardasht Prison.

According to Mahmoud Khalili, (7) a supporter of the Fedaian Khalq Guerilla Organization held at Ghezel Hesar, between 1983 to spring of 1984, prisoners were in a completely defensive mode due to the culture of violence governing the prison. Majority of such violence were directed at female prisoners—in particular the “device” torture method was initially exclusive to women and only expanded to men later on. He says that one of the schemes employed by two of his friends who were subject to the “device” was that they would pick specific days and on those days, would break the rule in a way (like extend their legs or make sound while eating by banging silverware to the plate) so that the tavvab would report them to Haj Davoud and he in turn pulled them out of the “device” and beat them. In this manner, they would kill a few birds with one stone. First, they would leave the device and be relieved from the deafening sound of the speakers. Second, they would be beaten and in a way get their muscles stimulated and pulled out of numbness, as if to workout. And finally, they could relieve some of the mental pressure they were under by screaming while being beaten. According to Khalili, Haj Davoud considered this torture to be 80% Judgment Day and had on numerous occasions promised them to show them the 100% Judgment Day. (8)

  1. 2. Sexual and Verbal Abuse against Female Prisoners

In Haj Davoud’s opinion, it was unimaginable that a woman would enter political activism with a non-sexually motivated intention and due to independent thought process and understanding. He had a specific sensitivity towards extracting interviews from women; in particular, it was important for him that women confess to having had sexual relations with men inside their political groups. According to Tahmineh Pegah, (9) a woman from Janam—a village in Kurdistan, after giving in, she announced in her interview that there were always birth control pills available in their bases. Mojdeh Arasi also tells of a time when Haj Davoud called a girl who was cleaning the glass that separated them from the men’s section of the hallways and seriously beat her because he believed that she was wiping the glass in order to show off her breasts to the men. In a story told by Parvaneh, he had beaten or used cable or hose on female prisoner on numerous occasion due to them laughing because he believed that they were laughing in order to make the male pasdars “horny.” Haj Davoud belittled women and considered them “an unnecessary extension of men.” In all their interviews, Haj Davoud forced women to confess that they were doing political activism in order to establish an illicit affair.

According to Mitra Razavi, generally being a woman was considered to be torture at Ghezel Hesar and this was due to Haj Davoud’s view of women as second hand elements that were, according to Haj Davoud, “only fit for one act.” His recommendation to the tavvab women was always that they have to bear sons and send them to the war front:

My personal experience when I entered Ghezel Hesar was that I saw a blatantly thuggish mentality regarding female prisoners. What we saw at Evin was that, in their mind and in a specific stance, we were anti-revolutionaries or corrupts on earth. They would treat us based on such titles. At Ghezel Hesar, however, we were not viewed as an anti-revolutionary or a corruptor. During our first contact with Haj Davoud Rahmani, as the representative of that culture in prison, it was declared that we were a group that were looking for husbands and wanted to satisfy the sexual desires of our male comrades in team houses and were not in prison. He easily told us many times that if we wanted to get married there were easier ways to go about it. That little [respect we had] in Evin where they would recognize us [as activists], we were not recognized here. (13)

Haj Davoud had a specific sensitivity about tall women, those with colored eyes, those who wore glasses and were educated. He considered them leaders and main sources of resistance in prison and so would pressure and punish them before others. (14) According to Farzaneh, if he liked a girl and thought that she was timid and shy, he would leave her alone. But he believed that eyeglass wearing women were open-minded and book readers and so hated then. Generally, the crime committed by the prisoner mattered very little to him and instead, his own categorizing of people were the decisive factors based on which they would be subject to his beatings or harassment. He would give nicknames to the prisoners and called them by those names, some even had sexual and gender based connotations. (15)

Haj Davoud hated me a lot. I was always chosen when he would come and select people for torture, calling us to go in order to scare us. The reason for it was my eyes. He really hated green eyes. He told me that I was the spawn of devil; “you are from the birthing place of Satan.” If Haj Davoud would come, I wasn’t allowed to look into his eyes. My head had to be hung low because he hated to see my eyes. He had an unusual animosity with this color. (Witness Testimony of Parvaneh Alizadeh)

A prevalent form of Torture at Ghezel Hesar was striking the genital area of the female prisoners. Haj Davoud, who was described by female prisoners to be a large man with big hands and feet, personally as well as in collaboration with male employees of the Ghezel Hesar Prison, repeatedly struck blows to the genital area of the female prisoners, along with subjecting them to other tortures and harassments which included verbal harassment.

In September of 1981, around two months after the start of the widespread arrest of the political prisoners across Iran, since majority of the smaller cities lacked a separate female ward, the female prisoners of such cities were transferred to Ghezel Hesar Prison in the outskirts of Karaj, near Tehran. Majority of such prisoners were tried and sentenced to imprisonment in their respective cities and were only transferred from Sepah’s and Komiteh’s detention centers of those cities to Ghezel Hesar so that they could complete their imprisonment term.

Farzaneh Zolfi (16) says:

It was September 1981. We—the small city girls—were just taken there. We were around 300-400 people. There was a long corridor that separated the wards from one another. It was so long that they travelled it with a bicycle. They took us there and said that we have chest crawl that length on our chests… there were old mothers with heart problem amongst us. There was also a nine year old girl named Fatemeh. So they said we have to crawl and no one is exempt. They said that we had to crawl the whole length of the way and then return. While we were crawling and had no energy left, seven or eight pasdars constantly kicked us between our legs with their boots. I bled and others did too. There were not enough sanitary pads for everyone. Fatemeh got her first period there… as I speak of it now I feel the pain in my body… imagine, over 300 women crawling on the floor of a corridor with chadors and blindfolds and they kicked the ones who were left behind and told them to hurry up and move ahead. They constantly kicked us between our legs with their boots and called us shrews or other such insults. It was the first time I was hearing such insults! Haj Ahmad, deputy of Haj Davoud, was one of the people who yelled insults. We had to move so fast to reach the beginning of the line because if we were left behind they would hit us again. The mother I spoke of and many other girls had pain in their chests. (17)

Farzaneh Zolfi also recalls that one of the girls who was beaten a lot during the crawls and after that was Mina Toudeh Rousta who was executed a few days later:

The day after they made us stand and forced insomnia on us. Forcing insomnia was a regular thing they did and was really effective. The girls all had psychological episodes… Haj Davoud would get stuck on some of the girls. That day he came and started bothering Mina Toudeh Rousta and another person. Imagine, a group of us were on this side of the ward and another group on the other side, standing next to the cells. Haj Davoud called Mina Toudeh Rousta and brought her to the middle and started kicking her backside and buttocks. Mina Toudeh Rousta had a bulging buttock even from under the manteau[because we were inside the ward] and she was not wearing a chador. The next day they said that she should collect her stuff and leave. Later we heard she was executed while she only had an imprisonment sentence for one year… the other girl that Haj Davoud kicked a lot on the buttocks that day had a beautiful face and body and was amongst the girls who, due to their beauty, were subject to extra sensitivity by Haj Davoud and were bothered by him. (18)

Mina Toudeh Rousta, supporter of the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, was 21 at the time of arrest. She was a teacher in one of the villages of Karaj. Farzaneh Zolfi describes her to be a calm and timid girl. According to information available at the Boroumand Foundation website, she was executed by a firing squad in Karaj on September 3, 1981. No information is available about her trial and charges.

Forcing prisoners to crawl and striking blows to their genital organs was not limited to that one incident. Niloufar Shirzadi who was a student supporter of Peykar and was sent from Evin to Ghezel Hesar to spend her 2.5 year of imprisonment says:

If there was an attempt on the life of anyone outside the prison, we knew they will come for us the night of it. The girls would pack their [crotch] with all the scarves and extra fabrics they had. We knew that [Haj Davoud] will take us to crawl and then hit us from behind. He would hit us here [in the crotch area]. We would crawl the length of the unit all the way to Zeer Hasht and yet still get beaten. They hit us with chains, gun muzzle, sticks, and cables as well as kick us. Some of the pasdars would even put their feet on our feet to stop us from moving and then beat us, saying that we were lagging behind. A group of the girls who physically were no capable of keeping up with the rest were beaten more so than others… I was personally hit a few times from behind… then in order to not get beat you had to move faster than your friend who was crawling next to you and yet you knew that she would get beaten once you get ahead of her… this incident [of beating the genital organ] was so intertwined with other tortures, to tied to one another that we could not even pull them apart, mostly due to the pain it inflicted and the scary amount of stress we were under where all we could do was to try as hard as we could to bear it and not break… we were never given the chance [to properly analyze the matter]. (19)

As mentioned before, another common form of punishment at Ghezel Hesar Prison was standing facing the wall while wearing Chador and blindfolds as well as enforced insomnia. Soudabeh Ardavan who was arrested for supporting the Fedaian Khalq Guerilla Organization (Minority) was moved to Ghezel Hesar from Evin prison in 1981 to spend her two years of imprisonment sentence. Later three more years were added to the sentence and eventually, two years and six months of imprisonment was added on top of the rest because of her refusal to give an interview. She speaks of the “endless nights” at Ghezel Hesar Prison as one of the cases where female prisoners were beaten and force to stay awake:

“Endless nights” was an expression Haji [Davoud Rahmani] himself used. The story was that craft works and personal items of the girls were confiscated based on a report given by a tavvab named Soheila Hajizadeh who was in charge of ward 8. So the girls had taken them from her room. Haji came and asked, “Who did this?” and naturally no one said anything. So haji took everyone to the long corridor that connected the wards to each other and made us stand with our chadors and blindfolds facing the wall. Along with a few other pasdars, he started beating us. They would beat us with whatever they could get their hands on. Haji said that these nights are endless. They kept insulting and beating us until they would leave around 3-4 am when they were out of breath from beating us. We would spread right there on the cold floor of the corridor out of pain and exhaustion. This punishment continued for ten nights until the prison wardens got tired of it! (20)

According to the witness testimony of some prisoners, at Ghezel Hesar Prison, forcing insomnia and beating accompanied striking the prisoner on the genital organ. During those times, the prisoners were given hours upon hours of sleeplessness and were not allowed to approach the wall in order to rest a little. Monireh Baradaran says:

It was 1983 and they punished us a lot. On many nights, they would take us and stand us up. At times it would extend into days. They would make some of the girls stand for 2-3 days. We know how hard it was; your back ached and you got very tired and wanted to lean against the wall or put your head on the wall. It was so severe that our tiredness would be relieved even if we would put one finger to the wall. Then if you would approach the wall even a little—the guards who were wearing sneakers so as to prevent you from hearing their footsteps—would suddenly kick you… However, Haji [Davoud Rahmani] wore military boots and would enter walking from the beginning of the corridor and making fun of the prisoners. Then he would suddenly kick someone. Haji’s kicks were famous. He would kick you between the legs from behind and you would lift in the air and fall to the ground. This happened to me. Some of the girls would bleed afterwards but I don’t recall bleeding. (21)

      Sources for Further Research:

· Baradaran, Monireh, Simple Truth, Nima Publication, 2000

· Parsipour, Shahrnoush, Prison Memoirs, Baran Publication (Stockholm), 1996

· Sabeti, Farideh, Rewriting a crime: The Beds—Takhtha, Published at Prison Dialogues website, Article archives available at http://www.dialogt.net/

· Haj Hassan, Hengameh, Eye in the Eyes of the Demon: Prison Memoirs, Homa Society Publication, France, 2003

· Jaberi, Homa, Islands of Pain, AmirKhiz Publication, 2007

· Khalili, Mahmoud, Methods of Torture at the Islamic Republic of Iran, Published at Prison Dialogue website, article archives available at http://www.dialogt.net/

· Alizadeh, Parvaneh, Look Closely, It Is Real, Khavaran Publication

· Mesdaghi, Iraj, Neither Alive, Nor Dead, Vol. 2: Sorrow of the Phoenix, Alfabeth Maxima Publication (Sweden), 2006

Notes
1.    Interview with Haj Davoud Rahmani, Raj’at Magazine, Internal Ghezel Hesar Prison Publication, First Year, No. 1, most likely second half of 1981.
2.    Siba Me’mar Nobari, a witness for Justice For Iran and a prisoners held at Ghezel Hesar, visited Haj Davoud at his iron smith shop after Haj Davoud was dismissed from Ghezel Hesar. Siba was arrested in November 1981 and was held at Ghezel Hesar and Evin prisons and Joint Committee Detention Center until his release. In September 1985, Siba was release while his sentence was 12 years of imprisonment, his early release (after 4 years and 10 months) was due to becoming a tavvab.
3.    For more detail about the instances of severe human rights acbuse inflicted upon the female prisoners hy Haj Davoud Rahmani, see the appendices of Crime Without Punishment.
4.    Farzaneh Zolfi, a witness for Justice For Iran, was arrested at Masjed Soleiman on July 1, 1981 at the age of 16 and while in high school for supporting the Communist Union of Iran. She was kept in Masjed Soleiman prisons until August 19, 1981 and was then transferred to Ghasr, Evin and Gowhardasht  prisons (for ten months from November 11, 1983) and is then returned to Masjed Soleiman and remains there until her release.
5.    Towards the end of fall 1981, Haj Davoud stuffed 500 prisoners in two cells fit to hold 18 prisoners. After a few hours some of the prisoners pass out due to heat exhaustion.
6.    Zeer Hasht is a separate ward for prisoners on death row to spend their final days. At Ghezel Hesar, this ward was used as punishment ward as well.
7.    Mahmoud Khalili, a supporter of Fedaian Khalq Guerilla Organization (Minority), was arrested in November 1981 and was in prison at the time of the 1988 prison massacre. He was kept in different prisons such as Evin, Ghezel Hesar, and Gowhardasht. He now resides in Germany and is one of the moderators of Prison Dialogue website.
8.    Khalili, Mahmoud, Methods of Torture at the Islamic Republic of Iran, Published at Prison Dialogue website, article archives available at http://www.dialogt.net/
9.    Tahmineh Pegah, a witness for Justice For Iran, was detained between 1982 and 1991 at Evin, Gowhardasht and Ghezel Hesar for supporting Ettehadiyeh Mobarezan (Fighters’ Union).
10.    Mojdeh Arasi, a witness for Justice For Iran, spent 1982 to 1990 at Evin and Ghezel Hesar prison. She was arrested for supporting the Fedain Khalq Guerilla Organization (Minority).
11.    Parvaneh Alizadeh, a witness for Justice For Iran, was arrested with that charge at the age of 23 in September 1981. She spent 7 months in prison, three of which was at Evin and four at Ghezel Hesar.
12.    Mitra Razavi, a witness for Justice for Iran, is arrested in April 1982 for supporting Ranjbaran party. She was held until May 1983 at the Joint Committee Detention Center (Towhid) and then until her release in 1990, she was kept at Evin and Ghezel Hesar.
13.    Witness Testimony of Niloufar Shirzadi, Justice For Iran.
14.      http://mina-entezari1.blogspot.com/2007/08/blog-post_2449.html.
15.    In order to explain the sexual connotation of the nicknames, Justice For Iran has to give the following example: Names such as “Fat ass” that were exclusively used by Haj Davoud in spite of the complaints from the prisoners.
16.    Witness Testimony of Farzaneh Zolfi, Justice for
17.    Witness Testimony of Farzaneh Zolfi, Justice for Iran
18.    Witness Testimony of Farzaneh Zolfi, Justice for Iran
19.    Witness Testimony of Niloufar Shirzadi, Justice for Iran
20.    Witness Testimony of Soudabeh Ardavan, Justice for Iran
21.    Monireh Baradaran, a witness for Justice for Iran, was arrested in 1981 along with her brother and husband. Her brother Mehdi was executed forty days after their arrest. Charged with supporting Rah-e Kargar, she went on to spend 9 years in different prisons such as Joint Committee, Evin, Gowhardasht and Ghezel Hesar.

* The photo of Haj Davoud Rahmani is being released for public consumption for the first time.

More information:

Notes
1.    Interview with Haj Davoud Rahmani, Raj’at Magazine, Internal Ghezel Hesar Prison Publication, First Year, No. 1, most likely second half of 1981.
2.    Siba Me’mar Nobari, a witness for Justice For Iran and a prisoners held at Ghezel Hesar, visited Haj Davoud at his iron smith shop after Haj Davoud was dismissed from Ghezel Hesar. Siba was arrested in November 1981 and was held at Ghezel Hesar and Evin prisons and Joint Committee Detention Center until his release. In September 1985, Siba was release while his sentence was 12 years of imprisonment, his early release (after 4 years and 10 months) was due to becoming a tavvab.
3.    For more detail about the instances of severe human rights acbuse inflicted upon the female prisoners hy Haj Davoud Rahmani, see the appendices of Crime Without Punishment.
4.    Farzaneh Zolfi, a witness for Justice For Iran, was arrested at Masjed Soleiman on July 1, 1981 at the age of 16 and while in high school for supporting the Communist Union of Iran. She was kept in Masjed Soleiman prisons until August 19, 1981 and was then transferred to Ghasr, Evin and Gowhardasht  prisons (for ten months from November 11, 1983) and is then returned to Masjed Soleiman and remains there until her release.
5.    Towards the end of fall 1981, Haj Davoud stuffed 500 prisoners in two cells fit to hold 18 prisoners. After a few hours some of the prisoners pass out due to heat exhaustion.
6.    Zeer Hasht is a separate ward for prisoners on death row to spend their final days. At Ghezel Hesar, this ward was used as punishment ward as well.
7.    Mahmoud Khalili, a supporter of Fedaian Khalq Guerilla Organization (Minority), was arrested in November 1981 and was in prison at the time of the 1988 prison massacre. He was kept in different prisons such as Evin, Ghezel Hesar, and Gowhardasht. He now resides in Germany and is one of the moderators of Prison Dialogue website.
8.    Khalili, Mahmoud, Methods of Torture at the Islamic Republic of Iran, Published at Prison Dialogue website, article archives available at http://www.dialogt.net/
9.    Tahmineh Pegah, a witness for Justice For Iran, was detained between 1982 and 1991 at Evin, Gowhardasht and Ghezel Hesar for supporting Ettehadiyeh Mobarezan (Fighters’ Union).
10.    Mojdeh Arasi, a witness for Justice For Iran, spent 1982 to 1990 at Evin and Ghezel Hesar prison. She was arrested for supporting the Fedain Khalq Guerilla Organization (Minority).
11.    Parvaneh Alizadeh, a witness for Justice For Iran, was arrested with that charge at the age of 23 in September 1981. She spent 7 months in prison, three of which was at Evin and four at Ghezel Hesar.
12.    Mitra Razavi, a witness for Justice for Iran, is arrested in April 1982 for supporting Ranjbaran party. She was held until May 1983 at the Joint Committee Detention Center (Towhid) and then until her release in 1990, she was kept at Evin and Ghezel Hesar.
13.    Witness Testimony of Niloufar Shirzadi, Justice For Iran.
14.      http://mina-entezari1.blogspot.com/2007/08/blog-post_2449.html.
15.    In order to explain the sexual connotation of the nicknames, Justice For Iran has to give the following example: Names such as “Fat ass” that were exclusively used by Haj Davoud in spite of the complaints from the prisoners.
16.    Witness Testimony of Farzaneh Zolfi, Justice for
17.    Witness Testimony of Farzaneh Zolfi, Justice for Iran
18.    Witness Testimony of Farzaneh Zolfi, Justice for Iran
19.    Witness Testimony of Niloufar Shirzadi, Justice for Iran
20.    Witness Testimony of Soudabeh Ardavan, Justice for Iran
21.    Monireh Baradaran, a witness for Justice for Iran, was arrested in 1981 along with her brother and husband. Her brother Mehdi was executed forty days after their arrest. Charged with supporting Rah-e Kargar, she went on to spend 9 years in different prisons such as Joint Committee, Evin, Gowhardasht and Ghezel Hesar.

* The photo of Haj Davoud Rahmani is being released for public consumption for the first time.