QARCHAK, IRAN’S LARGEST women’s prison, stuffs 2,000 inmates into “unbearable conditions,” said U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook at a briefing late last year: It lacks sufficient water and sanitation and has “an environment that enables rape and murder.” Qarchak’s “sexualized element,” said Evans, means its torture protocol includes rape and sexual abuse. Female guards there stripped and probed Mohammadi, leaving her naked for hours.
The latest charge against Mohammadi is “disturbing public order through attending an unlawful protest.” She has no trial date yet.
The January assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, an architect of Iran’s police state, certainly rattled Iran’s leadership. Many believed he would one day be Iran’s president. Soleimani chiefly directed the elite Quds Force abroad—particularly in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. As part of the Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani also had authority in Iran over Christians and other non-Muslims whom Iran’s regime sees as threats to security.
“But it’s not accurate to say the United States took out the top persecutor of Christians,” said Evans. “The system he was a key part of remains very much in place.”
Just after Iran’s 1979 revolution, the ruling ayatollahs set up the Revolutionary Guards as their ideology enforcer, defending radical Islamic rule against the secular democratic elements that initially were part of the movement.
Now vast and bureaucratic, the Revolutionary Guards stand watch over the theocratic structures that surround elected offices, bypassing the president and parliament to report directly to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Revolutionary Courts operate as the judicial arm within this framework. Leaders may portray the courts as independent, but they function as an extension of the police state. All judges attend the same hard-line seminary in Qom, the seat of Iran’s theocratic rule. The courts police everything from women improperly veiled, to protesters who slander ruling clerics, to anyone seen as a security threat.
Human rights monitors say about three-fourths of the cases involving arrested Christians fall under the Revolutionary Courts. When authorities arrested Mary Mohammadi in 2017 as an 18-year-old, a Revolutionary Courts judge sentenced her to six months’ imprisonment for “membership in proselytizing groups … Christian activity … acting against the national security through propaganda against the regime.” In 2018 authorities released her from Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison.