Mehrangiz Kar: My Husband Was Tortured and Forced to Confess by Presidential Candidate Ghalibaf’s Police
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf played a key role in major human rights violations as the commander of Iran’s police forces, Mehrangiz Kar, a lawyer who defended human rights in the Islamic Republic, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Mr. Ghalibaf was insistent on torturing, imprisoning and ruining the careers of journalists as well as artists and intellectuals working in theater and the film industry on the basis of my husband’s forced confessions,” Kar told CHRI. “With such a background, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf is not fit to become president.”
Before he became the mayor of Tehran in 2005, Ghalibaf oversaw the persecution of journalists and intellectuals as commander of police forces from 2000-05. Kar’s husband, writer and intellectual Siamak Pourzand, committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 80, ten years after he was detained and tortured during Ghalibaf’s reign.
Pourzand was arrested in 2001, brutally tortured and forced to make a televised confession. A closed court sentenced him to 11 years in prison, but he was later released. He was re-arrested in 2002, along with a group of other Iranian writers and journalists, and released again after his health deteriorated, but was prevented from traveling outside the country.
Ghalibaf’s biography on the state-funded “Sacred Defense” website, which purports to document the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), boasts of his role in “the arrests and interrogations of dozens of intellectuals, journalists, editors of news sites and bloggers such as Aydin Aghdashlou, Houshang Golmakani, Nooshabeh Amiri, Houshang Asadi, Masoumeh Seyhoun, Bahram Beizai, Younes Shokrkhah, Farhad Behbahani, Kaveh Golestan, Nasser Zarafshan and Behrouz Gharibpour by the police in 2001.”
The biography was taken down on May 8, 2017, but an archive of the page can be found here.
“Some, such as Siamak Pourzand, were in detention for months,” adds the bio.
The bio also quotes Ghalibaf saying in 2002: “Pourzand engaged in a series of anti-cultural activities that were not within the boundaries of the Islamic Republic. He provided information to Reza Pahlavi (the eldest son of Iran’s last monarch living in exile).”
Speaking to CHRI, Kar said: “Ghalibaf’s henchmen first abducted my husband and took him to a basement in a police station and did everything to torture him. Then Ghalibaf picked Judge (Jafar Saberi) Zafarghandi to extract the ‘confessions’ he was looking for so that he could use it against the reformists.”
“I have information that my husband was beaten so badly that there was blood on the papers he used to write his ‘confessions,’” she added.
Kar, who was a public defender in cases involving human rights and supporter of pro-democracy forces in Iran before she settled in the US in 2001, said she spoke about her husband’s case with former reformist President Mohammad Khatami (1997 to 2005).
“When Mr. Khatami visited Harvard (in 2006), he told me he had nothing to do with my husband’s arrest. He was basically saying another faction was responsible. I told him, what’s the difference? I said your Islamic Republic put all this pressure on an old man and destroyed his family,” she said.
“He looked at me and shook his head without saying a word,” she added. “So in fact, it was the police, under Ghalibaf’s command, who were responsible for my husband’s arrest and interrogation under torture.”
Kar also criticized the other presidential candidates for failing to uphold human rights in Iran.
“None of them are acceptable,” she said, including incumbent president Hassan Rouhani and his Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri, both of whom “did not improve the human rights situation in Iran in their four years in power.”
“They were not able to convince the police, the Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary or the Intelligence Ministry to end the arrests and inhumane actions against human rights that have brought shame upon Iran around the world,” she said.
“There has been no improvement in the situation of the Baha’is (banned religious minority), women, or ethnic minorities and the number of executions remains high,” she added.
As for candidate Ebrahim Raisi, the current custodian of the wealthy Astan Quds Razavi religious institution, Kar said “he’s certainly not qualified to become president because there are no more doubts about his role in the 1988 prison massacre.”
“We can’t really call this an election,” she continued. “It doesn’t have the elements of a healthy process.”
“In its own limited way, there are debates and discussions and some excitement, but I’m surprised why the candidates are not asked any questions about human rights,” said Kar.
“Why doesn’t anyone ask what they plan to do after they are elected to protect the lives and livelihood of Baha’is and allow them to study in universities? Or what they will do to reduce executions, especially of underage convicts? Or how they plan to improve conditions for women in the workforce?” she added.
Several prominent Iranian defenders of human rights have spoken out against the human rights records of Iran’s 2017 presidential candidates, including Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, and prominent lawyer and former political prisoner, Nasrin Sotoudeh.