April 17, 2014, has come to be known among Iranian dissidents as “Black Thursday.” On that day, at least 100 Iranian riot police, members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, soldiers, and officers of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security joined prison guards in raiding Ward 350 of Tehran’s infamous Evin House of Detention. Numerous political prisoners and heterodox Muslims from the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi Sufi order are held at Evin.
Inmates of Ward 350 were assaulted brutally, with many injured seriously and their possessions destroyed, according to the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi website Majzooban Noor (The Alluring Light). Another Iranian opposition website, Kaleme, said the outburst by security personnel occurred during “an unprecedentedly long and aggressive inspection, [as] the prisoners protested.”
The Sufi source posted a letter on April 25 by Evin detainee Emad Bahavar, chairman of the youth branch of the Iranian Freedom Movement and a supporter of the unsuccessful 2009 opposition presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi. Bahavar was arrested during the Green Movement that year. In 2010 Bahavar was sentenced by a revolutionary court to 10 years in jail.
Bahavar recounted how he realized the April 17 onslaught at Evin, in which he would be targeted, was underway. He wrote that he “didn’t know what was going on. . . . I could only hear voices . . . getting louder by the moment. I went towards the entrance of the ward to see what [was] going on.”
He described a baton-wielding swarm of heavy-set guards, some of them “body builders, wearing tight jeans and sneakers.” Bahavar demanded to know why the guards were clubbing the prisoners, but, he said, his question was treated as if he had asked, “Why don’t you hit me?” Bahavar and others were kicked, slapped, and left insensible by blows from truncheons.
Some Iranian soldiers seem to have refused to join in bashing the prisoners. According to Bahavar, an order was given that “soldiers who do not want to participate in the beating” should stay out of the way.
Bahavar was handcuffed, in a group of about 30, although they were bleeding and some had trouble walking. All were blindfolded, then forced to stand facing a wall, where they were beaten on the back. Many were moaning loudly.
The guards pushed the group to walk to a police vehicle, between two files of guards that resumed beating and kicking them. Bahavar, however, was released from the van. He was taken to the prison clinic, where he saw incarcerated Gonabadi Sufi attorney Omid Behroozi, whose hand had been sliced open, leaving Behroozi covered with blood.
Bahavar wrote of Black Thursday, “When [current president] Hassan Rouhani came [to power], we said that if the suffering of the people is reduced and conditions become better, then, we would also close our eyes to everything we suffered. Some of the mourning mothers [of those killed during the Green Movement] also said they were ready to forgive. The bloody events of April 17 showed that the hatred in the hearts [of the Iranian leaders] transcends the love and forgiveness of the Greens.”
The election of Rouhani was followed almost immediately last year by a similar attack at Evin. On July 19, 2013, little more than a month after his victory at the polls, 150 guards carried out an early-morning rampage through Ward 350. Sleeping prisoners were awakened and body-searched, after which their personal effects and facilities in the cells were vandalized.