Manual for Iranian Political Dissidents Includes How to Survive Torture

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The cover of a manual designed to minimize the risks facing opponents of the Iranian regime.
A manual to help keep Iranian dissidents stay out of trouble.Credit: United for Iran

In response to a move by Iranian authorities to use the legal system to crack down more harshly on political dissent in the country, opponents of the government have produced a booklet for dissidents in the country, the Tehran Bureau media organization has reported. The manual provides advice on minimizing the chances of being targeted by the regime and guidance on how to survive in prison and even torture, according to the group, an independent media organization hosted by the Guardian news website.

Tehran Bureau cites the case of Abbas Hakimzadeh , who was imprisoned was jailed three times between 2007 and 2010, surviving torture for up to 15 hours a day, later fleeing to Turkey. Yet things are much worse today for activists and journalists who run afoul of the Iranian legal system, Hakimzadeh said. He and others developed the handbook in response.

The crackdown, the news site noted, began after the rise of the Green Movement in 2009, which sought the removal of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Since then, Hakimzadeh said, the regime's opponents risked more than even imprisonment due to the possibility that they would be charged with "moharebeh," waging war against God, which Tehran Bureau said carries the death penalty.

"Iranian authorities have expanded the scope of its definition from ‘armed war against the state’ and ‘heresy’ to include ‘working to undermine the Islamic establishment’ and ‘cooperating with foreign agents or entities’. This allows Iranian officials to adjust the meaning of moharebeh to apply to anything from an angry post on Facebook or Twitter to participating in a spontaneous protest rally," the Tehran Bureau stated.

In response to the crackdown, Hakimdazeh and more than a dozen others who had been targeted by the government, produced "Safe Activism: Reducing the Risks and Impact of Arrest," a 19-chapter booklet available online in Iran's official language, Farsi, as well as in English on the website of the San Francisco-based group United for Iran.

"Designed to teach activists and journalists how to avoid careless behaviors that could endanger them and those around them, the booklet also offers guidelines on what to do in case of arrest and how to mitigate the consequences of incarceration," Tehran Bureau explained.

“We realized that many instances of arrest could have been avoided by taking a few simple measures,” said Mahdieh Javid, the principal author of the manual. The booklet advises, for example, that activists take precautions before meeting colleagues, not communicate sensitive information over the telephone and rid their homes of illegal substances, including alcohol, drugs and banned written materials. It also recommends memorizing sensitive telephone numbers and addresses.

For those finding themselves under arrest, the booklet goes into considerable detail over what might be awaiting them. "Expect to hear a range of noises in prison including: screams, cries, and animal howls. Since you are under serious psychological pressure, some of these noises could be hallucinations. However, prison personnel sometimes make sounds that can intensify prisoners’ fears and anxieties. These noises could come from other cells or outside," the booklet states. "Try to ignore the sounds as much as possible and remind yourself that such noises do not concern you."

In the face of torture, the guide recommends either screaming or pretending to pass out. "Once you seem to be unconscious further physical assault will be futile and it would be unlikely that the interrogator will continue with the attack for long," it states.

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