Being a lover of all things gruesome, I like to think I’m pretty clued up when it comes to torture methods. Even as a kid, when being forced to learn about God at school (I went to a Christian school), the only lesson that grabbed my attention was the nailing of Christ to the cross. It’s sadistic, but don’t tell me that it doesn’t niggle your interest glands. That’s why you’re here right?
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For this reason, I was quite shocked a year or so back to discover a torture method that I had not only never heard of, but was also probably the most sinister, depraved and damaging process that I had ever come across. I’m talking about ‘White Room’ torture. This isn’t quite as gruesome as say skinning someone alive and planting them in a bath of vinegar. The ‘White Room’ is a more subtle and psychologically forceful punishment. Let’s delve a little deeper, shall we?
Solitary confinement is a particularly effective penalty as it causes the sufferer to slip away from any sense of reality or sanity. In this case, the prisoner is made to experience extreme sensory deprivation and isolation to the point where they lose all sense of personal identity. Here’s how it works:
White Room torture involves the stay of a prisoner in a cell or a box which has completely white walls. The sheets, prison clothes, door, lights, and everything else in the cell are white. Also, the food served is white rice. Furthermore, sensory deprivation is not only inflicted through the colour but also the absolutely mute environment. Therefore, there has to be pin-drop silence around the cell. The prisoner is kept in isolation and cannot talk to anyone. Even to use the toilet, the prisoner has to slip a white piece of paper from underneath the door to the guard. The slippers of the guards are padded so that the prisoner cannot hear any sounds, but the ones made by him.
Imagine that? It’s like those horrible surreal nightmares you have when you’re floating through an abyss, only in this case, you can’t wake up. The only noise, company or vision that you’ve got to keep yourself grounded is made by you, and once your own sanity slips away, so does everything else.
So where is this horrific process used? There have been reports of it being applied in Ireland and Venezuela. Apparently white room torture has also been used in Iran by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in a covert detention centre. The prisoners were journalists who mistakenly questioned the Iranian regime through speeches and meetings. One of the prisoners was Amir Fakhravar, who explained his experience as “deafening” and “inhumane.” According to reports, the detainee lost all sense of identity, causing him to forget who he or anyone he knew was. Amir added:
I was there for eight months and after those months I couldn’t remember my father and my mother’s face. When they released me from that prison I was not a normal person.
And the torment doesn’t end there. Apparently, once at your most vulnerable state, the guards even taunt you with lies about the outside world. In a telephone call to the Human Rights Watch in 2004, Iranian journalist Ebrahim Nabavi made the following claim regarding white torture:
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.
Scary shit. Luckily Amir and Ebrahim managed to escape, although some prisoners have not been so lucky and even Amir still can not forget the torment he suffered while locked away in the white room. It might not be the most gruesome method with regards to physical pain, but the mental torment you would have to endure would almost be worse. Just for a minute try to imagine no mental, physical or visual stimulation for an hour. Now imagine a day, then a week, and then a month. There have been reports of people locked away in a white room for over a year – whether they made it back to a functioning level of sanity is anybody’s guess.
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