Evin’s Ward 350: Political Prisoners and Problems with Food, Medicine, and Abuse
(Blog-Report from Inside Prison)- Evin Prison’s Ward 350, or Correctional Facility 3, which houses political prisoners has turned into the most crowded corner of the prison post-elections, suffering from poor conditions and posing many hardships for its residents.
Informed sources and individuals who spent some time in this ward over the past few months have described the Ward’s living conditions for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, parts of which will follow. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran asks authorities in the Iranian Judiciary and the Iranian Prisons Organization to take immediate action to improve the living conditions of prisoners in this ward and to bring the ward up to legal standards.
The Campaign expresses concern about the prisoners’ limited access to medicine and timely medical treatment which could expose some prisoners to serious danger, such as faced the deceased blogger, Omid Reza Mirsayyafi, leading to his March 2009 death. The Campaign asks the authorities to review the conditions in the political prisoners’ ward before a similar incident occurs.
Ward 350 or Correctional Facility 3: Political Prisoners’ Population Density Post-Elections
Ward 350 or Correctional Facility 3 had not housed any political prisoners since 2007. It had turned into Evin’s “Labor Ward.” Following the widespread arrests of political activists, journalists, students, and human rights activists which took place after the 12 June 2009 Presidential elections, Ward 350 at Evin Prison witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of its political prisoners, reclaiming the name of “Political Prisoners’ Ward.” This ward previously housed prisoners who worked around Evin Prison, but in the months following last year’s elections, the ward has housed members of the Iranian Alumni Association, the Participation Front reformist party, prominent journalists who continued their work despite the lurking dangers of censorship and repression, and students who have consistently received government crackdown over the past five years. After completing months of solitary confinement inside the security wards of Evin Prison and completing their interrogations, these individuals are moved to Ward 350.
After the 9 May 2010 executions of five political prisoners, the composition of this ward changed. Many political prisoners were exiled to other prison facilities in Tehran Province or were transferred to other wards inside Evin Prison. Even so, more than 100 political prisoners, most of whom were arrested after the June 2009 elections, are now residents of Ward 350.
Food Conditions: Limited Resources, Low Quality
Much like food in other wards of Evin Prison (Wards 1, 7, 8, and the Women’s Ward) the food inside Ward 350 is of very low quality. The quality of ingredients is very low, to the point where sometimes use of spoiled ingredients have caused food poisoning among the prisoners. The menu also lacks in quality, missing necessary nutrients. Most meals are comprised of ingredients such as potatoes and beans, devoid of even low-quality meat. Most prisoners are, therefore, forced to buy their food staples from the ward store. The store inside Ward 350 has to cater to between 150 to 250 prisoners, but the available stock in the store does not meet the demands of this many customers. Therefore the prisoners have to put up with the low-quality food of the prison. The prisoners’ lack of access to sufficient and required nutrition has led prisoner families to object to the gaunt and pale appearances of their relatives inside Ward 350, demanding that authorities
enable the prisoners to purchase food from the prison store.
Many prisoners who are in poor physical conditions after completing their grueling interrogations are incapable of waiting in long lines for hours to purchase food at the store. In many cases, also, there are purchase limitations at the store, further limiting the prisoners from preparing their meals. The prison store does not have regular operating hours and sometimes, in order to create pressure on the prisoners, prison authorities suspend the store’s operations. Last March, in an act of protest, prisoners refused to accept their food inside the Ward. The ward store was closed down for three consecutive days as a result.
Hygiene Conditions: Prison Contamination, Easy Transmission of Disease
There are nine rooms inside Ward 350–five rooms in the lower floor and four rooms in the upper floor. The rooms on the upper floor have better hygiene, but since 9 May 2010, all the rooms on the upper floor are occupied by prison laborers (ordinary prisoners who work inside Evin Prison). More than 100 political prisoners now live inside the rooms on the lower floor. Inside the five rooms on this floor, the free space (space not covered by beds) in each room is less than 15 sq. meters. The fact that more than 20 prisoners have to live in that space is a major contributor to a lowered hygiene level which leads to easy tansmission of viruses and sickness. Additionally, prisoner bedding such as blankets are generally filthy and unhygienic. The sinks for washing up and washing the dishes are located in a completely unhygienic environment.
Prison authorities use the prisoners to clean the hallways and prison bathrooms, which is considered prisoner exploitation. The bathrooms and showers on the lower level of Ward 350 are extremely old and eroded, which causes problems in and of itself. The toilets and bathrooms on the upper level are upgraded and clean, probably because financial crimes convicts are held on this floor.
Medicine and Medical Treatment: Limited Access, Refusal to Allow Timely Attention
Most prisoners in this ward suffer a multitude of illnesses and physical ailments caused by severe physical and psychological pressure during their interrogations. There is no space inside Ward 350 allocated to prisoners’ access to medicine or medical services. The only way prisoners in this ward can receive medical attention is to go to the Prison Infirmary. Transfer of prisoners to the Infirmary and a doctor’s visit also faces many problems and limitations. Each day, only 10 prisoners inside Ward 350 are allowed to visit the Infirmary. This deprives many prisoners who have need for immediate medical attention or who need painkillers or special medicines for extended periods of time. In most cases, despite their need for serious medical treatment, many prisoners are deprived from medical treatment and doctor’s attention. For example, it has happened many times that a political prisoner has become ill, needing immediate treatment, but prison authorities have refused to send him to the Infirmary. Prison authorities believe that inmates should only be transferred to the Infirmary when they have lost consciousness. Such an attitude led to the death of Omid Reza Mir Sayyafi in March 2009 inside Evin Prison’s Ward 7. The young blogger had been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and finally lost his life to the unbearable prison conditions.
Concern over Risky Conditions of Several Political Prisoners
Omid Reza Mir Sayyafi’s fate can be repeated for several other young prisoners inside Ward 350. Most of the 100 political prisoners inside Ward 350 are young protesters who were arrested during the post-elections events, lacking experience and mental capacities for enduring prison life. With the prison atmosphere and the authorities’ efforts to increase pressure on prisoners, the young prisoners are at more risk than the other political prisoners. Ignoring signs of depression in them and continued prison abuse can create new catastrophes inside Evin Prison. Continual and consistent presence of experienced doctors and social workers is a necessity inside Ward 350.
Prison Abuse, Prisoner Degradation
Several prison guards inside Ward 350 try to break the prisoners’ spirits through increased pressure and abuse. Using illegal approaches, prison authorities attempt to destroy unity amongst the prisoners, promote gossip, and create emotional insecurity inside Ward 350. Forced yard breaks and morning exercises and unusual searches of prisoner belongings are some of the other abusive methods used inside Evin Prison. Prison authorities also insult prisoners during the two daily head counts. It is easy for prison guards to count the prisoners in each room, yet they insist on making the prisoners exit their cells and step into the yard to be counted. Even when the prisoner count is performed inside the cells, the prisoners are forced to sit in rows for long periods of time while they are being hand counted, and many prisoners say this behavior is extremely degrading.
Additionally, there is another unfortunate problem with inadequate beds for prisoners which forces many of them to sleep on the floor. During winter months, the cold floor brings on illnesses for the prisoners.
Aside from their day-to-day difficulties inside Ward 350, prisoners in this ward also have to deal with the abusive and insulting behavior of 350’s Warden, Bozorgnia, who is famous for mistreating and abusing prisoners and creating illegal limitations for them.