A joint letter about torture by three political prisoners in Iran.
Letter co-authored by Golrokh Iraei, Behnam Mousivand and Soheil Arabi
What is torture? What harm does it do to the tortured person? And, what are the consequences of the harm done to society as a whole? Why and how should torture be eradicated? What are the goals of the reformists and, in their more vulgar form, willingly or unwillingly, consciously and unconsciously, in different degrees, practically downplay torture and summarize it in solitary confinement or even hyper-focusing the public on only one out of the thousands of forms of torture? Can torturers and tortures be controlled? Or that there is no other way but a pragmatist yet radical to save human beings from torture?
Issue of torture, a subject, a word, or a term that we have not yet come up with a single definition for everyone, and perhaps the first step is to reach this common understanding.
Torture is, by definition, a tool often in the hands of governments to suppress, interrogate, or deprive dissidents of their dissident identities. In another definition, torture is a destructive and painful act, intended to force or deter someone from doing something. However, are tortures always carried out openly and conventionally? or do governments today plan and execute torture with the function of deterrence or coercion or repression in various, complex, underground, and generalized policies?
To answer all these questions, let us present and pursue the issue in a different unconventional way, without the inconsequential, redundant, and deceiving rhetorical tactics of reformists.
Reducing and summarizing torture to solitary confinement and solely focusing on it is another example of thousands of campaign projects that issues have been going on for years and will continue after a campaign on a particular issue ends. From time to time, the opportunists show up with some of the new pro-West projects, and according to the (political) atmosphere and the orders they received, raise one of these issues in the name of reducing the causes of dysfunctions. Then, with the support of the media (especially the mainstream media), institutions, and well-known human rights organizations, exploit the public opinion, especially in social media, and elevate their hand-picked topic into a hot contested social issue and turn it into a trend. In the meantime, in the meantime, they cleverly erase and disguise the face of the matter.
But, what is the problem? The face of the matter is this;
Capitalism, in all the systematic forms and methods it’s implemented (according to the existing time, location, and on-the-ground conditions), a mixture of coercion, repression, torture, compulsion, detention, and captivity; A mixture of blood and sweat; is of course, in appearance very deceptive. In this particular case, that is in Iran, the fact that the oppressive ruling system, by its very nature, has always resorted to systematic repression and torture is nothing new. The essence of the regime, according to the context in which it was formed, is a clear example of religion-centered or clergy-centered capitalism which is the accumulation of capital by the clergy with the help of its other arms, such as militant capitalism (like the Revolutionary Guards) and crony capitalism (which has countless examples in Iran).
The real problem is that living under tyranny and inequality means being subjected to various forms of torture.
Campaign organizers, per usual, seek subjects to just scratch their surface; That is, even in spite of the slogans they use to defend their actions such as “small acts of resistance”, “small social movements”, and so on, they are unable to create any kind of social movement despite the nature of those slogans. This is because they are not even able to connect with the social body they spout in their campaigns to form a real movement and actions, regardless of its functionalist argument. Because they know that these things are time-consuming, costly, and require fundamental work. It does not work by emphasizing the words “I”, “My campaign”, “My friends”, “My threat” and so on.
In fact, their critique of radical activities, in the original sense, is due to their weakness in doing so, which they hide behind false ideological titles. This type of activist has a charity-based and so-called parasitic function. In the sense, they make a living from the harm they claim to fight or heal, and their presence depends on the existence of these injuries and they do not seek to dry up the causes of the injuries because their presence in a base free from such injuries and activities would be meaningless. In practice, in many cases, they play the role of the cover of the sewage well.
By their function, they simply reject and ignore the roots of harm, and by their actions, they cover only the unpleasant part of the dysfunctions and lead to the smell and image such dysfunctions do not disturb society, at least for a while.
Apart from the discussion of function and nature, essentially an Achilles heel among these activists is clearly visible; This group of activists is intensely focused on becoming a shining star, and often their activities revolve around one specific person (or ultimately and rarely a few people). In fact, rather than pursuing a collective goal through a collective mechanism based on trying to connect with and expand the social body, it is more a matter of emphasizing the role of a famous political celebrity or hero “civic” activist. In the meantime, apart from the debates on their goodwill, the obvious and tried fact is that these stars will soon be extinguished and that action and campaign will end at a cost to many who are deceived by such activities. Assuming goodwill and sincerity, it is very clear that for any security and intelligence apparatus, shutting down any move based on one or more specific people is very simple and easy to achieve.
The point is that not only solitary confinement but everywhere and every moment of prison is torture and imprisonment. Not just in Iran, Afghanistan, South Africa, Singapore, Chile, France, and Greece, but also other colonized, exploited, oppressed lands, and the whole planet has turned into torture chambers and slaughterhouses of the freedom-seeking people and the toilers and workers by the ruling class, puppeteers, and the source of aspirations of these activists.
Let’s look at some examples of torture which these campaign organizers, surfing a wave of popularity of a topic, are disgusted to talk about it.
It is strange, but torture begins even before we are born. When we are fetuses and because our mothers do not have proper nutrition and carry a lot of stress and suffering on themselves and their fetuses due to poverty, disorder, coercion, and violence. They are deprived of a minimal life with peace and comfort. Therefore, their pregnancy and childbirth go through hundreds of difficulties and problems. As a result, we too are born with many problems and illnesses and become “lazy and incompetent children” of the beautiful world of capital.
This is just the beginning; A child who reaches adolescence with shortcomings, deprivations, humiliations, and regrets, and troubles originating from our fetus phase, Malnutrition, poverty, lack of comfortable sleep, deprivation of fun and tranquility, and lack of self-confidence that neither our father nor mother even have to give us.
In this period, however, the school will form a new side of our lives; The life that neither “teaching aid”, nor “booster programs”, nor “extracurricular activities”, nor any of these paving tools of “National Assessment (Concours) road to happiness” do not fit in our small lexicon.
A school that was mostly a place of misery, humiliation, and regret; Where we get whipped on the sole of our feet, hit by hoses and sticks on the palms of our hands, get ridiculed, a crossroad made on our heads with hairdressing scissor, the veil is pulled over our faces and collar of our clothes is cut. Because we were either not “hardworking students”, or we were not “believers” or we were “rabid and undisciplined”.
In schools that are in neighborhoods and villages full of poverty and crime and inequality, that is, in parallel with the environment in which they are, instead of socializing, being human, loving, and helping humankind, we were shown etiquette of hate, religious etiquette, fear of hell and God, be intimidated by the opposite sex, be tormented by the innumerable bad consciences, and a depiction of life as an arena to compete and overtake others.
However, all this was just the beginning of our countless pains.
Yes, torture means a worker and toiler who sells his labor for a piece of bread, and after 12 hours of naked and brutal exploitation in workshops, factories, shops, companies, fields, hospitals, so on and so on, is still deprived of the basic necessities.
Torture means the constant shame of parents who are always ashamed of their children.
Torture means children whose mothers are modern-day maidservants whose rough hands, compared to the soft hands of other well-to-do mothers, leave them aghast and wanting.
Torture means women from birth to death who are counted as honor and property of men.
Torture involves women who do not have the right to dress, go out, laugh, and fall in love
Torture means women who set themselves on fire to get rid of patrimonial and environmental ignorance. Torture means girls hugging their infants instead of dolls; The ones for whom “colorful campaigns” are not launched, because they do not have enough charms; Because their situation would not improve with a “Personal Campaign”, and of course, they do not have a suitable cell phone to accompany them, and they do not know the basic principles of playing in this glamorous field.
Let us return a little to the subject matter and evaluate it in the same form and content of its own assertion. By examining and genealogizing the propositions put forward, we come again to the old, yet familiar discourse, but well, in terms of time, cannot be presented in its old form; “The draft law of the complainant complains to the plaintiff!”
Let us open the issue with a few familiar examples from a not-so-distant period to clarify what we mean by the old discourse; “Parliamentary reform of the constitution within the framework of the constitution of the Islamic Republic!”, “Limiting the powers of the leadership by participating in the elections and taking over the parliament and the government and presenting bills and laws to the Guardian Council appointed to the same leader!”, and …
We will not return to this example and open this discussion again because the society clarified its stance with it, at least after January 2018. But, considering its relation to our discussion, the problem is simple. The design of this form of discussion in society, even as a politically active figure, not only has no buyers but also is accompanied by negative reactions. The design and designer of the discussion must be presented in a new form in the “market”. The debate crafter changes from a political activist to a human rights activist, and the subject matter changes from a political demand to a human rights demand. There is no need to explain why; Hiding behind a safe, attractive, and supportive margin in the name of a human rights activist who does not need to enter into dangerous political debates. And, of course, the presentation of a human rights debate is to get (financial) support and prevent critics and challenges.
But are these two “plans” different in function or results?!
While you are complaining to the judiciary about the imposition of solitary confinement, you are complaining to him to remove this “torture”!
But let’s see in practice at least whether they want to abolish torture as they loudly claim: “If we can not abolish solitary confinement, we want to at least control it.” Well, so far two things have been revealed: one, the executive lever of this campaign to sue the plaintiff or the perpetrator. Two, from the very beginning, the claim has gone from abolishing to controlling.
That is to say, spending a considerable amount of limited energy on the part of social forces, confiscating and occupying the time and tribunes of many media, wasting the limited power of the existing struggle and marginalizing the main debates, radical attitudes, and methods, radical and collective struggle only in the service of campaigns. It is a glamor that they do not even want to repair their alleged damage. (Assuming we accept the claim of restoring damages without destroying the harmful structure causing it.)
In addition to the issues mentioned, we need to sidetrack to discuss the worldview and attitude of the creators, activists, and supporters of this range of campaigns who try to analyze and present social phenomena in separate and uniform ways.
The advantage of this group of people who follow this kind of method of studying the social phenomenon is that they can avoid falling into the challenging arena of facing the causes and contexts and the connection between various social phenomena that can even put the nature and totality of their presence and action in question, and (in their own opinion) save themselves.
Instead of always pointing out the unequal, discriminatory, and torturous structures, they are always forced to deal with just a few instances it creates without confronting it at its root. Another theoretical weakness of this trend (of course, talking about those who are analytically and theoretically weak and not just status-seeking grifters) is that they want to confront the existing reactionary structure on a case-by-case basis while ignoring the fact that the foundation of the Islamic Republic (as religion-centered or clergy-centered capitalism) must also be opposed along with the other forms of capitalism. Because we, the authors of this piece, believe that confronting capitalism in all its forms is only possible if all efforts are made on its base structure. Therefore, it is not possible to speak of torture, or worse, of one of the instances it manifests, and not to deal with the structures that create torture, and to spend our limited power and reduce the existing problem to one instance.
In addition to the above, an additional puzzle for our campaign creators and human rights activists is playing with the card of the victim and the oppressed. For example, one day during the process of the aforementioned old project, prisoners from inside the prison are ordered to vote for the most notorious torturers and rulers and engineers of the torture chambers and solitary confinement cells, and another day the “No to solitary confinement” campaign is launched, created by the same candidates, saying let’s complain to the judiciary and at least “control it” (as if the prisoners are their subordinates and herds of animals to be led to the mirage every day). Another example, when “some ” campaign members faced persecution by the ruling regime and are “oppressed”, their mass media use it as proof of the legitimacy of their action, and oppress the opposition and critics and call them complicit with the oppressors.
The creators and defenders of these campaigns will surely accuse the critics of not having a plan to end these types of torture. In response to the criticism, they will say that their plans are realistic, practical, and in a way even pragmatic. But, they are not willing to accept that assuming the fruitfulness of such campaigns, shabby movements, as seen with no social body behind them, and addressing only a limited definition of torture, it is not eliminated and continues to reproduce itself from one type to another depending on the place and time depending on the place and time. On the other hand, reducing, limiting, and diverting the public attention to small types of torture is, in fact, covering up other major types of torture. But well, the reformists will continue to mislead the fight for justice.
The next point to respond to these criticisms and their claims, the structure itself is reactionary and inappropriate in order to meet the needs of today’s society. This means that in the law book with more than five thousand titles of crimes, many of which are “propaganda against the system”, “assembling and colluding against the state”, “agitating the public opinion” and other national security charges which every critic and those who fight for justice is accused of committing them. None of these are considered crimes in any rational system in the world. The same predetermined rules and playing fields that our reformists believe in utilizing, presenting, and participating; It is as if the designers and executioners of those laws did not anticipate this policy from our reformist friends!
“Solitary confinement” is neither the main nor the most important type of torture, and by eliminating it, torture, as a whole, would not be eliminated, but its form would change and many other examples of torture remain in force. All this is assuming solitary confinement in this system would disappear altogether. However, these “human rights activists”, “victims” and “oppressed” who have turned their attention to the European and American camps in their campaign “to include the human rights debate in their negotiations with Iran” do not seem to know how horrible is the situation of solitary confinement and its sadistic prevalence in the American prison system which is their aspiration and goal.
At the end of the discussion, as individuals, each of whom has experienced many days in solitary confinement, we would like to address the transient, brief, and allusive parts of the other ongoing torture in prisons and its roots;
An action that is both torturous, and harms and destroys individuals, and consequently the whole of society, can be inquisitions of personal beliefs, insults, humiliation, beatings, harassment of family, assault, rape, confinement in cramped and dark cells, imprisonment with dangerous addicts, and criminals, deportation to crowded and chaotic prisons with poor living conditions, or one of the thousands of other forms of mental and physical torture.
Torture is sometimes parking under the eighth . (When an inmate in the Great Tehran Prison and many other prisons goes on hunger strike, the prisoner is handcuffed on a bar or chair leg by the guard room or in the corridor to break his strike, and this is called parking.)
Torture for a political prisoner does not begin or end in solitary confinement.
What freedom fighter do you know who was not abused during his detention? Has not been deprived of the right to a lawyer during the interrogation? Not interrogated under torture and duress? Who among them has been tried openly and fairly in an impartial court with a jury? Enforce the judgment against the person legally? Their rights have not been violated in prison? So now our human-rights activists have suddenly woken up from their reverie as if they have just discovered something strange and unprecedented, and doing the unrequired work!
Torture means agonizing acts with the intent to force someone to do something against their will! This can be a confession against oneself or putting an end to political activities. For example, the oppressor tries to force their opposition to be passive and indifferent to the violence through beatings, long-term imprisonment, and harassment of the family, especially the prisoner’s spouse, and children. And what torture is more painful than this?!
It is possible to go on and make this list longer in detail, but we think the words are the same as we said at the beginning; As long as there is tyranny, exploitation, and exploitative structures exist, torture remains.
And we know that the alternative to modern barbarism is self-organization and Socialism.
– Golrokh Iraei, Amol Prison (Mazandaran Province).
– Behnam Mousivand, Rajaei Shahr Prison (Karaj in Western Tehran).
– Soheil Arabi, Rajaei Shahr Prison (Karaj in Western Tehran).
20 Oct. 2021
 A common name for prison guards barracks in Iran. Below the barrack is where a prisoner goes to contact the prison guards and make requests. This name is due to the appearance of the place, which is similar to the Persian number 8 (۸).