Human Rights in Iran: The Abuse of Cultural Relativism

By Reza Afshari | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Right to Freedom from Torture

If the freedom-lovers and phony supporters of human rights realize
the implications of what they are saying, they would see that their
words object to God; it is because in the Day of Judgement, God would
burn the skins of those who are condemned to Hell and would make
them grow new skins. Thus, it suits them to address their speeches and
interviews, with bold headlines, against God and to issue statements
against the Exalted Greater asking why God tortures in the Day of
Judgement.

—Ayatollah Yusof San’ei, appointed by
Ayatollah Khomeini to the Guardian Council

Article 38 of the Constitution proudly prohibited torture in the Islamic Republic of Iran, but the regime’s interrogators cavalierly resorted to the most familiar forms of torture, mainly for the purpose of extracting confessions. Prison wardens also continued inflicting pain on the captives for disciplinary punishment—or just out of sadism. Islamic punishments like flogging and amputation of limbs and fingers revived ancient forms of torture and gave them judicial standings within the nation-state.


Through the Prism of Prison Memoirs

Paya’s memoirs enable us to see a distinction between the early period when he was in prison and a later period when the clerics established their total control over the country and its prisons. Paya could only testify that torture was present in the background, but its signs were not readily visible. After the Islamists began to eliminate all other political groups, torture became a routine practice. Paya was not tortured, nor did he himself witness a tortured body. During the early days of the revolution, prisoners felt offended by the verbal abuse of interrogators and guards. They also complained about the restrictions imposed on visitation rights and the failure of prison guards to inform prisoners whether they had visitors on the specified days. Paya considered such practices to be a “psychological annoyance.”1 In a

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