Political Prisoners’ Letter to Foreign Ambassadors Who Went on Staged Tour of Evin Prison
Editor’s Note: On July 5, 2017, dozens of foreign diplomats based in Iran went on a staged tour of Evin Prison designed to prevent any contact between the diplomats and political prisoners and inmates with legitimate grievances about the prison’s conditions. The following letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), was written by two current political prisoners in Evin who were hidden from the diplomats.
“We are in prison because we wanted an improvement in prison conditions and in the situation of prisoners,” wrote Daemi and Iraee to the diplomats. “But with your participation in this staged game, you, esteemed ambassadors, have delayed our aspirations.”
July 8, 2017
We have been informed that on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, a delegation consisting of 45 ambassadors based in Tehran were invited by Iran’s Prisons Organization and the [Judiciary’s] Islamic Human Rights division to visit Evin Prison.
When we invite guests to our home, we obviously try to make a beautiful presentation, even if the same place where political prisoners were hanged and shot by firing squads in the 1980s has now turned into a stage for entertaining 45 ambassadors.
We address you, the respectable ambassadors who were invited to visit sections of Evin Prison chosen by the authorities. You know and we know that for a long time Iran, especially the Prisons Organization, has been hit with sanctions for serious human rights violations.
For years Iran has refused to allow UN special rapporteurs on human rights, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed and Ms. Asma Jahangir, to inspect the country and now, knowingly or otherwise, you ambassadors have turned into a loudspeaker for Iran to present an opposite version of the truth about its human rights situation.
Do you really know how many wards and sections there are in Evin Prison? Did they give you a tour of Ward 209 belonging to the Intelligence Ministry, or the IRGC Intelligence Organization’s Ward 2-A or the judiciary’s intelligence unit’s Ward 241? Did they show you the solitary cells without windows, ventilation or toilets? What about the cells known as the “graves?” What about the indoor courtyards? Did you see the blindfolds and handcuffs?
According to newspaper reports in Iran your excellencies were “amazed” by the good conditions of the prisoners and the conditions inside the prison. How many prisoners did you speak to? Did they tell you about the number of detainees, solitary confinements, interrogation methods and various kinds of physical and psychological tortures?
Why didn’t they bring you to our ward where the female political prisoners are held? They probably told you Evin does not have a women’s ward. Indeed that is a lie bigger than the lie they told you about having no political prisoners. We know that you could not and cannot find out about the situation of political prisoners because the authorities did not and do not want you to discover the depths of the tragedy.
We will describe for you the same prison that “amazed” you. Did they tell you who remodeled and re-equipped Ward 4 before your visit? You should know that on the day of your visit, the prisoners in that ward, which was redecorated at the cost of thousands of dollars, were taken out of their cells with the excuse that they were being taken to court and the hospital. Instead they were moved into solitary confinement in Ward 2-A and were forced to stay there so that they could not see you and you could not see them. Did they tell you that in that ward there are financial convicts, political prisoners and street thugs?
A day before your visit to Evin Prison, all newspapers were banned in the wards. They did not want us to be aware of each other because their theatrical curtain would have fallen and the truth would have been exposed. Did they tell you about unsanitary conditions and women’s health? Or about the conditions inside the clinic where they prescribe wrong medications? Or about using sanctions and budget cuts as an excuse for the lack of disinfectants and cleaning material?
Do you know how many prisoners are incarcerated alongside inmates suffering from AIDS and hepatitis? Have they told you that for religious reasons male prison doctors do not check female prisoners or give them injections and blood pressure tests? Have they told you there is not even one female nurse to carry out these tasks? Do you know how many hundreds or thousands of inmates suffer from kidney problems because of the prison’s unhealthy water?
Did they introduce you to a physician with the alias Shahriari? He’s the one who finds out what’s wrong with sick prisoners just by looking at them. He’s the one who never dares to sign his name because he’s afraid one day he will be exposed for his malpractice.
We wish during your visit you had taken a ride inside the prison clinic ambulance and seen how ill equipped it is. We wish you had asked your hosts to show you films from prison cameras showing the unsanitary conditions inside the prison two days before your visit and you could have seen that inmates inside the prison wear yellow-colored uniforms and blue-striped uniforms outside of prison. You would have seen how many doors and gates are opened and locked one after the other at the end of each guard shift and how they block the way when prisoners need to be urgently taken to the hospital.
We will give you examples of what goes on in the Women’s Ward, where three locked doors and gates block emergency exits. Imagine how long it would take to open and close them in an emergency. We wish you could see how many prisoners sleep in close proximity on the floor and on the carpet in the prayer room because of lack of beds. We wish you could taste the food distributed to the inmates. Do you know we prisoners have to buy dairy products, vegetables, fruits and protein from the prison’s store ourselves at many times above their prices? That is because the small monthly prison food rations are rotten and expired long ago. We wish they had told you about the enormous profits they pocket from this clever trade.
Did they inform you that a day before your visit, there were no vehicles inside the country’s biggest prison? It was because taxi drivers who transport prisoners to medical centers and courthouses had refused to show up for work in order to demand several months of unpaid salaries.
Did they inform you of the existence of Ward 350, where male political prisoners are held? Or the ward that is exclusively for convicted clerics? Did they tell you about prisoners such as Mohammad Ali Taheri, who has been in solitary confinement for more than five years in IRGC’s Ward 2-A?
You should know that despite claims by the head of the Prisons Organization, Mostafa Mohebbi, we the inmates of this prison are allowed family visitation not once a week but once a month.
Your excellencies could have easily checked satellite images of Evin’s exact geographical area. You could have accessed credible reports about Evin and other Iranian prisons. You could have even found the names of the political prisoners and sought to know how they are doing and requested to meet with them so that you could have learned something about the prison you were visiting.
Now that that did not happen, we plead with your excellencies to avoid dancing to the authorities’ tune about conditions inside the prison and its prisoners and insist on surprise visits to Evin, Gharchak, Fashafouyeh, Rajaee Shahr and other prisons in Tehran and the provinces in order to gain a true picture.
We are numerous political prisoners. We are in prison because we wanted to present the true picture of the deplorable human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran. We have paid a heavy price for this and our families have also been intimated in various ways. We have even been kept hidden from you.
We are in prison because we wanted an improvement in prison conditions and in the situation of prisoners. But with your participation in this staged game, you, esteemed ambassadors, have delayed our aspirations. Your presence in Iran’s largest prison became fodder for the regime’s newspapers that carried such headlines as “Some countries and media show false and incorrect images of Iran’s prisons.”
They invited you in order to use you and to discredit reports by human rights groups and international organizations about Iran’s prisons. You could and you can present a real picture, not a staged one, of prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran and thereby improve conditions inside them.
We the undersigned call upon you to ask the Prisons Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the [judiciary’s] Islamic Human Rights division to give permission to UN Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir to travel to Iran and inspect the prisons and meet political prisoners and civil rights activists.
Atena Daemi, Golrokh Iraee
Evin Prison Women’s Ward
July 8, 2017