An account of first-person torture so as not to forget the past in Iran



After crossing the doors of the old Iranian prison of Ebrat, one of the express guides visitors through its interrogation rooms and cells to narrate in first person the torture suffered in this place during the time of the shah.

Located in the center of Tehran, this prison is today a museum that remembers with a mixture of historical rigor and propaganda the torture suffered by those who opposed the regime of Mohamad Reza Pahleví, overthrown in 1979 by the Islamic Revolution.

The old prisoners can not forget it. This is the case of Ahmad Sheikh, 62, who was transferred to Ebrat in 1974 after confessing one of his comrades under torture who typed out the speeches of Imam Khomeini for later dissemination.

"I spent about three months in this torture center, first the interrogator hit me with punches and kicks and hit me with cables, then blindfolded me, tied me to a bed to whip me and the so-called Apolo chair," he explained. Efe Sheikh.

That chair, located in one of the rooms on the third floor, took the name of the Apollo spacecraft and was used to immobilize the prisoner, cover his head with a metal helmet and whip him with different types of cables on his feet.

"If the prisoner did not speak, they stripped him and gave him electric shocks, placing the cables in sensitive places on the body like the testicles," recalled Sheikh, who added that the prisoners were left in line at the door so they could hear the cries of the tortured.

Another of the most horrifying torture techniques employed by the interrogators of the dreaded intelligence service of the Shá, the Savak, was the hot box. They put the prisoner in it and lit a burner under it to burn both the floor and the bars of the small cage, only 80 centimeters high.

In each room, a series of dolls represent what happened in it along with the tools of torture and the different techniques, which also included hanging the prisoners from the ceiling and attaching them to the bars of the courtyard around which the jail was structured.

The route, marked by red footsteps, simulating blood, begins in the prison registration room, where they were given prison clothes and blindfolded, and ends up in the showers, which were luckily driven every two weeks .

In the corridor of the cells, the portraits of the men and women who were imprisoned here stand out, among which the current supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and the late ex-president Akbar Hashemí Rafsanjani stand out.

"Between 1971 and 1978, there were only political prisoners here and their number ranged from 200 to 900," the director of the Ebrat museum, Qasem Hasanpur, author of the book "Tortured People Speak," told Efe.

Hasanpur noted that "no prisoner managed to escape from prison" and that in the isolation cells - two meters by one and a half meters - they sometimes locked up to five people, forcing them to "sleep in shifts".

The prison was in use since the late 1930s until a couple of years after the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, when it housed some of the opponents of the Imam Khomeini, although this stage is not mentioned in the museum.

The worst time was from 1971, when it was dominated by the Savak and the torture "became more systematic", according to the director of the museum, who described 90 types of mistreatment and how the prisoners were treated in the infirmary. only goal of being able to continue torturing them.

"Being locked up in Ebrat was hell," said Hasanpur, who noted that at least 57 died under torture and that a large number were disabled and "still suffer the effect of mistreatment."

One of the examples is Sheikh. "I suffer serious tooth problems and other prisoners have psychological, kidney, heart or mobility problems from the blows received," he said.

The tortures were continuous because the opponents to the shah refused to confess and, according to Shaykh, "resisted as far as their strength allowed them".

For this former prisoner of Ebrat, who was then taken to other jails, it is important to tell the new generations "the history of the past" so that it is not forgotten, although the memories are "very bitter".

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