Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into a report that a female activist was tortured in custody following protests over Lake Orumieh’s destruction in Iran
The Iranian government’s reaction to protests over the ever-shrinking Lake Orumieh (Salt Lake) has taken another sinister turn as reports emerge that female activist and journalist Faranak Farid, aged 50, was arrested and tortured in custody following a mass arrest on September 3.
Amnesty International has received information that she was beaten by plain clothes officers so severely that she temporarily lost hearing in her left ear and was unable to move one of her arms. She was then interrogated at length at a detention centre and then forced to sign a document she was unable to read as her glasses had been confiscated.
Ms. Farid (pictured below) is one of several hundred environmental protestors believed to have been arrested since late August 2011 when the campaign to end the destruction of Lake Orumieh intensified. Protests were triggered by the rejection of an emergency bill put to the Iranian parliament on August 17 to raise the water level of Lake Orumieh by diverting water into it from the Aras River.
In late August and early September, protesters took to the streets to condemn the Iranian government’s role in the destruction salt Lake Orumieh which is located in Iran’s Azerbaijan region. Many believe that 40 dams located on 13 local rivers that normally feed into the lake are directly causing its destruction and are the reason it has shrunk to half its original size. The lake, which is a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, is believed to be the largest inland body of water in the Middle East and one of the largest salt lakes in the world.
The Iranian government has denied any role in the drying up of the salt lake and insists that it is shrinking due to global warming and drought. Ms. Farid, a member of Iran’s Azerbaijan minority who are often politically marginalised, has reportedly been accused of “insulting the Supreme Leader”, “propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security”.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa said, “The Iranian authorities must carry out a thorough, independent investigation into reports that she [Farid] was beaten in custody, and bring to justice anyone responsible.” Amnesty International have also expressed concern over allegations that Ms. Farid is being denied medical assistance for her injuries.
Human Right Watch issued a statement around a week ago asking the Iranian authorities to release people arrested for exercising their right to assemble and speak out against the government. A witness to one of the demonstrations on the 27th of August in Tabriz told Human Rights Watch he saw security forces attack demonstrators with electric batons and teargas.
“They were beating up everybody, even women and children,” he said. “[I saw] a young man just crossing the street – he wasn’t even among the demonstrators. Seven security forces attacked him and started beating him up so badly that a group of women from the crowd went to rescue the guy. We [men] couldn’t do that; the [police officers] wouldn’t let us move.”
Vahid Faezpour, a well known blogger and student activist who graduated from Tabriz University is also believed by his family and others to have been arrested in connection with the Lake Orumieh protests.
: Image via hamidshams
For more information on the protest in Iran see: