The Iranian Intelligence Ministry is reportedly pressuring 12 women’s rights activists detained in Gilan Province to make confessions to build fake cases against them as officials try to silence critics ahead of the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini next month.
Sources close to the activists told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda on August 30 that, in the two weeks since their detention on trumped-up charges, pressure on the 12 women to confess to “fabricated scenarios” to prepare the ground for “severe sentencing is glaringly evident.”
One source said some of the women have faced “intense interrogation pressure and physical abuse.”
The 12 activists were arrested separately on August 16 by security and intelligence forces in the northern cities of Rasht, Fuman, Anzali, and Lahijan. Among those detained were Matin Yazdani, Forough Sami’nia, Yasmin Hashdari, Jelveh Javaheri, Zahra Dadres, Negin Rezaei, Shiva Shahsiah, and Vahehdeh Khoshsirat.
A day after their detention, the police commander of Gilan Province and the Gilan Intelligence Department accused them of “communicating with the families of protesters killed during the demonstrations and “inciting them,” while also participating in “propaganda activities aimed at overthrowing” the country’s leadership.
According to the sources, Sara Jahani, a pharmacist at the Burns Hospital in Rasht, was beaten by officers during her arrest due to her refusal to provide the password for her mobile phone.
Sisters Zahra and Zohreh Dadres also suffered physical abuse for the same reason, the sources said.
Iranian officials have repeatedly expressed concerns in recent weeks about the possibility of protests escalating as the anniversary approaches.
At least 500 people have been killed since protests broke out following the death of Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman who was arrested while visiting Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s hijab law.
In addition, a man detained in Gilan Province at the same time, Hooman Taheri, has also been beaten multiple times while in detention, sources said.
The former student of Tehran’s Amirkabir University, was beaten “to the extent that one of his teeth was broken, his face severely swollen, and bruises and scratches are present on various parts of his body,” the source said, adding that officials have prohibited Taheri from making phone calls and having visitors until the signs of the beatings have faded.
The protests in support of Amini began as a rebuke against the brutal enforcement of the mandatory head-scarf legislation, but soon snowballed into one of the most sustained demonstrations against Iran’s theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Officials have blamed the West for inciting the protests and vowed to crack down even harder on the demonstrations.
Several thousand people have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.