White torture is a type of psychological torture[1][2] that includes extreme sensory deprivation and isolation[2].[3][4] Carrying out this type of torture makes the detainee lose personal identity and decrease human production through long terms of isolation.[5][6]

Iran Edit

In Iran, white torture (Persian: شكنجه سفيد) has been practiced on political prisoners.[7] Most political prisoners who experience this type of torture are journalists[8] held in the Evin prison.[9] According to Hadi Ghaemi, carrying out such tortures in Evin are not necessarily authorized directly by the Iranian government.[10]

It can include prolonged periods of solitary confinement, often in detention centres outside the control of the prison authorities, including Section 209 of Evin Prison.

In an Amnesty International report in 2004[3] there were documented evidence of "white torture" on Amir Abbas Fakhravar, by the revolutionary guards. According to the report, which called his case the first known example of white torture in Iran[11] claimed that "his cells had no windows, and the walls and his clothes were white. His meals consisted of white rice on white plates. To use the toilet, he had to put a white piece of paper under the door. He was forbidden to speak, and the guards reportedly wore shoes that muffled sound.[12][13][14] Upon his arrival in the US, Fakhravar confirmed this report in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network.[15]

On a telephone call to the Human Rights Watch in 2004, Ebrahim Nabavi the well known Iranian journalist, regarding why this type of torture is referred to as White torture has claimed that:

Since I left Evin, I have not been able to sleep without sleeping pills. It is terrible. The loneliness never leaves you, long after you are “free.” Every door that is closed on you ... This is why we call it “white torture.” They get what they want without having to hit you. They know enough about you to control the information that you get: they can make you believe that the president has resigned, that they have your wife, that someone you trust has told them lies about you. You begin to break. And once you break, they have control. And then you begin to confess[16]

Kianush Sanjari, an Iranian blogger and activist who had allegedly experienced this type of torture in 2006 claimed that:

"I feel that solitary confinement - which wages war on the soul and mind of a person - can be the most inhuman form of white torture for people like me, who are arrested solely for [defending] citizens' rights. I only hope the day comes when no one is put in solitary confinement [to punish them] for the peaceful expression of his ideas."[17]

United StatesEdit

The United States has been accused by Amnesty International and other international Human Rights organizations of using "extreme isolation and sensory deprivation ... detainees confined to windowless cells ... days without seeing daylight" along with other torture techniques with the approval of the George W. Bush administration.[18][19] The organization European Democratic Lawyers (EDL) has explicitely accused the United States of white torture: "Fundamental rights are violated on the part of the United States. In Guantánamo prisoners are held under sensory deprivation, ears and eyes covered, hands and feet tied, hands in thick gloves, held in cages without any privacy, always observed, light day and night: This is called white torture."[20]


There are concerns that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan is under white torture.[21][22] Since his arrest, he has been under solitary confinement at the maximum-security prison island İmralı.[23]

Art Edit

Britain and Northern IrelandEdit

John McGuffin's book "The Guinea Pigs" details the use of sensory deprivation used in Northern Ireland by the British Army until the UK conviction in 1971 of torture before the European Court in the Hague, later downgraded to "severe maltreatment". This consisted of hooding and dressing in thick boiler suits and being made to stand against a wall on tip-toe and being subject to "white noise". This technique was developed largely in order to avoid accusations of torture (by not inflicting physical pain, but an absence of stimulus)but to provide an interrogation tool. The antecedents of this had been experiments carried out in Canada on volunteers, ostensibly in support of a manned space programme. These had to be discontinued due to the severity of the psychiatric symptoms induced. The UK Government brought together experience of previous torture carried out in various colonial wars - Fort Morbut in Yemen, Hola Camp in Kenya and in Cyprus - in a conference held at Ashford Joint Intelligence Centre in Kent. Photographs taken during the Abu-Ghraib scandal indicate similar techniques being employed by the US Army.


  1. Ruxandra Cesereanu, An Overview of Political Torture in the Twentieth CenturyPDF (703.3 KiB), Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies (JSRI), Summer 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Educational Aids to Work with Survivors of Torture and Organized ViolencePDF (704 KiB), Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture (CCVT), 2004
  3. 3.0 3.1 Helping to break the Silence: Urgent Actions on Iran, Amnesty International, April 1, 2004.
  4. Lionel Beehner, Iran's Waning Human Rights, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), August 9, 2006.
  5. Call for Action Against Isolation and Torture, TML Daily, December 12, 2003.
  6. David Morgan, Violations of human...rights of the Kurds in Turkey, Kurdish Media, March 22, 2005.
  7. Karl Vick, Report Cites 'Climate of Fear' in Iran, The Washington Post, June 7, 2004.
  8. UN human rights commission urged to sanction Iran, Reporters Without Borders, March 15, 2005.
  9. Amnesty International, Iran:... Kianoosh Sanjari, January 10,2007.
  10. Doug Saunders, Few know who is held behind the tiled walls of Tehran's Evin prison, February 19, 2007
  11. Sarah Baxter. Fugitive pleads with US to 'liberate' Iran, The Sunday Times, May 21, 2006. Retrieved on March 10, 2007.
  12. United States Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Iran in 2006, March 6, 2007.
  13. Cathy McCann [1], NEAR International, March 17, 2004.
  14. Eli Lake, Iranian Dissident to Seek Support For Opposition, The New York Sun, May 9, 2006.
  15. Kenneth R. Timmerman, Sins of Omission, Sins of Commission, Frontpagemag, September 8, 2006.
  16. Like the Dead...Crushing of dissidents in Iran, Human Rights Watch, June 2004
  17. Golnaz Esfandiar, Iranian activist believes blog caused detention, International Relations and Security Network (ISN), January 12, 2007
  18. Guantanemo conditions 'worsening' BBC News April 4, 2007
  19. US: Did President Bush Order Torture Human Rights Watch, Dec. 21, 2004
  20. European Democratic Lawyers (EDL) statement on Guantanamo Bay and other detention centres European Democratic Lawyers July, 2004
  21. Kurdish Issue in Turkey Unresolved, February 11, 2005.
  22. International initiative, Freedom for Abdullah OcalanPDF (112 KiB) p10. January, 2005.
  23. Bent Endresen, Kurd leader Abdullah Öcalan probably poisened in prison, March 29, 2007.
  24. Jan Thorn-Prikker, Gregor Schneider: When Violence Takes the Form of a Room, January, 2007.
  25. ARTSGATE, News, March 17, 2007.
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