Sexual assault, harassment, and psychological torture of detained protesters remain one of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regime tools for suppressing ethnic minorities.

According to Human Rights Watch, Iranian security forces, during the widespread protests in 2022 and 2023 (following the Jinah uprising and protests for women’s rights and freedom), tortured and sexually assaulted detainees, indicating severe abuses as part of a broader pattern of serious human rights violations to suppress dissent in Iran.

Human Rights Watch has investigated cases of abuse of ten Kurdish, Baloch, and Turk prisoners between September and November 2022. In seven out of ten cases, detainees reported being tortured by security forces to coerce forced confessions.

In December 2023, Amnesty International published a report showing that security forces during the “Women, Life, Freedom” uprising in 2022 used “sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence” for “intimidation and punishment” of peaceful protesters.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations Mission on Iran have separately documented Iranian authorities’ severe violent crackdowns in ethnic minority areas.

Between September 2022 and 2023, Human Rights Watch interviewed survivors via telephone, including five women, three men, and two children. Three medical records corroborated their accounts.

A Kurdish woman told Human Rights Watch that in November 2022, two men from the security forces assaulted her while a female officer restrained her, facilitating the assault.

A 24-year-old Kurdish man from West Azerbaijan Province told Human Rights Watch that in October 2022, he was severely tortured and sexually assaulted in a secret detention center by Intelligence Organization forces. He was also subjected to group sexual assault by security forces in a van in October 2022.

Human Rights Watch also documented detentions, blindfolding, and torture of protesters by state security forces. Baloch security officials beat and sexually assaulted a Baloch woman who witnessed the sexual assault of at least two other women in a detention center in Balochistan and Sistan in October 2022, leaving them mentally and physically traumatized.

One woman who experienced sexual violence by security forces committed suicide, while another woman needed surgery for her injuries. A family member of another 20-year-old Baloch woman told Human Rights Watch that in October 2022, one of their relatives’ daughters was sexually assaulted twice while in detention and committed suicide after her release.

Human Rights Watch previously reported cases of Iranian security forces’ use of torture and sexual assault against men, women, and children and suspicious deaths in detention. Authorities have not provided medical treatment or even basic hygiene items to individuals attacked by security forces, exacerbating their long-term injuries. In other cases, authorities have not investigated violations or held anyone accountable.

Human Rights Watch stated that the United Nations fact-finding mission on Iran should continue to investigate these severe violations as part of its broader report on Iran’s systematic human rights abuses.

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