The food at Evin’s Women’s Ward is consistently described by inmates as insufficient and unhealthy. The prison rations in particular are inadequate, with the availability of even basic staples necessary for health fluctuating. For example, meat and dairy were often not provided as part of the rations. What is available is of such poor quality and dubious freshness that many of the inmates refuse to eat it. Most of the women supplement (or, if able to, completely replace) the meals provided in the ward with food they purchase from the prison store, but this puts a burden on families without the financial means to funnel funds to inmates for this purpose. In addition, the food that is available for purchase at the prison store, while more varied and (sometimes) including items such as red meat and other staples, was also consistently de- scribed as of poor quality, and sold at inflated prices by the prison authorities.
One inmate reported:
It’s been about a year now that red meat and dairy products have been eliminated from prison rations. In the past, the [prison] store stocked what the prisoners needed on an irregular basis and with a 15% bump in price for fewer products that were lower in quality. But in the past few months those products have not been available in the store either.
Another inmate reported:
In recent years, Women’s Ward inmates have refused to accept food prepared by the prison kitchen because of its poor quality. Instead they have been receiving food rations, which vary from month to month. [A typical month’s rations might include] five eggs; one-and-a-half chickens; four or five potatoes, onions and eggplants; ten single servings of yogurt; ten single servings of cheese; occasionally 160 grams of red meat; some lentils, split peas, or beans; and half a packet of whey (kashk).
Since the month of Ramadan of last year (July 18, 2015), red meat and dairy have been eliminated all together [from the prison rations]. The ward’s small shop is almost empty.
There have been many written requests to make meat and dairy available in the shop but the officials don’t comply very often. This sort of diet over time causes serious health problems for the inmates. Women inmates are in dire need of calcium in their diet, which some cannot afford to get as their families are in hardship.
Just in the past few months the shop has been selling milk, fresh dairy products, and vegetables on an irregular basis. Also, every ten days, the shop is stocked with a few kinds of fresh fruits. The prison food rations are small and not very good, so the prisoners have no choice but to buy and store their needs by purchasing them from the shop.
A former prisoner reported:
Because the prison food is of very poor quality, the [inmates of the] Women’s Ward cook their own food. The prison supplies rations of dry foods every month, whose use-by date has expired or is very limited…The inmates themselves were responsible for buying meat, sh, vegetables, vegetable oil, and many other things from the [prison] store. The inmates refuse prison food. We had a kitchen ourselves and cooked our meals ourselves.
Another former prisoner who has kept in touch with the current inmates reported:
Once every two weeks they give out food rations for vegetables such as eggplants, onions, and potatoes. But when I was inside, they gave rations for chicken, eggs, cheese, and butter only once a month. You can order fruits and pay for them once every two weeks. There are some minimum staples you can also buy from the ward store, such as long-life milk, tuna cans, etc. When I talked to prisoners out on furlough recently, they said that it is now easier than before to buy meat [from the prison store], and they are able to purchase meat once every two weeks.
As these testimonies demonstrates, the nutrition- al standards at Evin’s Women’s Ward are well below the requirements of both Iranian and international law. The regulations contained in Iran’s State Prison Procedures are explicit. Article 93 states that prisoners are to be given “foods that have sufficient calories and vitamins,” and Article 95 stipulates that the “minimum menu includes: Bread, cheese, and tea for breakfast, lunch or dinner, fresh or dried vegetables, rice, potatoes, onions, legumes, various dairy products, eggs, and seasonal fruits and each week, [and] the convicts will be served meat with their lunch or dinner at least three times per week.” Additionally, Article 98 of the Procedures state that in all prisons “stores will be established and…their prices will be based on the fair going rate.
In the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, it states “Every prisoner shall be provided by the administration at the usual hours with food of nutritional value adequate for health and strength, of wholesome quality and well prepared and served.”