Evin Prison

Evin House of Detention (Persian: زندان اوین Zendān Evin) is a prison in Iran, located in Evin, northwestern Tehran. It is noted for its political prisoners' wing, where prisoners have been held both before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Due to the number of intellectuals that the prison housed, it was nicknamed "Evin University."

Background

Constructed in 1972 under the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Evin Prison is located at the foot of the Alborz mountains on the former home of Ziaeddin Tabatabaee, who briefly served as prime minister in the 1920s. The grounds of the prison included an execution yard, courtroom and separate blocks for common criminals and female inmates. Originally operated by the Shah's security and intelligence service, SAVAK, Evin quickly supplanted Qasr Prison as "the country's Bastille." Initially designed to house 320 inmates (20 in solitary cells and 300 in two large communal blocks), Evin expanded to hold more than 1500 prisoners (including 100 solitary cells for the most important political prisoners) by 1977.

Under the Islamic Republic, the prison population was again expanded significantly, holding 15,000 inmates according to scholar Ervand Abrahamian. "In theory, Evin was a detention center for those awaiting trial," after which the prisoners would be transferred to another prison, Qezel Hesar or Gohardasht Prison. "In reality, Evin served as a regular prison as many waited years before being brought to trial," and prominent prisoners often served their entire sentences in Evin." Executions also took place at Evin. Following the Islamic Revolution, Mohammad Kachouyi was made warden of Evin. After his assassination in June 1981, Asadollah Lajevardi, the chief prosecutor of Tehran, served as warden until 1985. In 1998, the People's Mujahedin of Iran assassinated Lajevardi.

The prison is located in a residential and commercial area known as Evin, next to the Saadat Abad district. There is a large park area with a popular upscale teahouse and restaurant located immediately next to it. Photography in front of and around the prison is illegal.

Prisoners

Notable prisoners at Evin before the 1979 revolution include Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani and Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri.

On 23 June 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was arrested for taking photographs in front of the prison, and died of blunt trauma to the head, while imprisoned. The Iranian government said that she died from a stroke while being interrogated. Doctors examining Kazemi's body found evidence of rape, torture and a skull fracture.

Prisoners held after the Islamic revolution include Marina Nemat, who spent two years in Evin from 1982, having participated in anti regime protests at her school. She has written about her torture and the death of her fellow students at the prison.

Political prisoners of note held at Evin have included Akbar Ganji (held there from 2000 to 2006), Mohsen Sazegara (in 2003), Nasser Zarafshan, as well as Hamid Pourmand (2005-6), Dariush Zahedi, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, on charges of espionage (2003), subsequently acquitted in 2004, and Ramin Jahanbegloo (2006).

At dawn on 27 July 2008, the Iranian Government executed a total of 29 people at Evin Prison by hanging.

Esha Momeni, a student at the California State University, Northridge, was held at Evin after her arrest on October 15, 2008 for crimes against national security. She was in Iran to visit family and research women's rights in the country. Momeni was released 11 November 2008.

Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, was arrested in January 2009 for reporting without press credentials with a charge of espionage added in April. She was held in the Evin Prison as well. She was released in May 2009.

Journalist/blogger Hossein Derakhshan was held at Evin after his arrest in November 2008, allegedly for spying for Israel.

French student Clotilde Reiss, who stood trial in August 2009 was also held there. Dr. Ehsan Naraghi, writer, was also believed to be held as a political prisoner in Evin.

Andrew Barber, a British Tourist, was arrested June 21st, 2010 and held in Evin prison, section 209 for 58 days. He was accused of espionage due to a photograph he'd taken, but charges were later dropped.

Over the years, Iranian converts to Christianity have been detained for short and long periods. Recently on March 5, 2009 Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad and Maryam Rustampoor were arrested by Iranian security forces and labeled "anti-government activists". Thirty year-old Marzieh and 27-year-old Maryam were held at Evin Prison, which is notorious for treating women badly. "Women are allowed just a one-minute telephone call everyday to their immediate families." On November 18, 2009, Maryam and Marzieh were released without bail but the charges remained intact. In April 2010, five months after their release, a general court trial date is announced. In May 2010 Maryam and Marzieh are cleared of all charges.

Three Belgian tourists, Vincent Boon-Falleur, Idesbald Van den Bosch and Diego Mathieu, have been detained in Evin Prison for 3 months in 2009. Idesbald and Vincent were arrested on September 5, 2009, for entering an unmarked Iranian Military Zone near Semnan, and were detained in Semnan for 3 days, before being transferred to Evin. Diego was later (16 September) arrested at the Iran-Turkmenistan border, because the three had met the 4th of September and exchanged phone numbers. The three were accused of spying and detained for three months (8 September—8 December 2009) in Section 209 of the Evin Prison, first for a few weeks in solitary confinement, and then in 4-persons cells with other Iranians. They have been released thanks to Belgium diplomatic negotiations.

Three American anti-war, social justice and Palestinian solidarity activists, Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd, who were on holiday in Iraqi Kurdistan and were detained by Iran, have been held in Evin Prison since around the beginning of August 2009. Shourd was kept in solitary confinement. The Washington Post reported that "Shane Michael Bauer 27, Joshua Felix Fattal 27 and Sarah Emily Shourd 31 were arrested in July by Iranian border guards while hiking in the mountainous Kurdish region between Iraq and Iran. Their families say they crossed the border accidentally, but a top Iranian prosecutor last month accused the three of spying." In December, 2009, Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the three would be put on trial, in a move that coincided with other points of contention between the two countries. Sarah Shourd was freed Sept. 14, 2010 on $500,000 bail. Two days before, the three Americans had been charged with espionage by Iranian prosecutors.

On June 19, 2009 then 28-year-old Taraneh Mousavi was one in a group of mourners gathered at the Ghoba mosque in Tehran awaiting a speech about the martyrs of the post-election protests by presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. She was arrested by plainclothesed security forces for attending the gathering. Weeks later, her mother received an anonymous call from a government agent saying that her daughter has been admitted to Imam Khomeini Hospital in Karaj, north of Tehran, hospitalized for "rupturing of her womb and anus in... an unfortunate accident". When Taraneh's family went to the hospital to find her, they were told she was not there. Iranian security forces contacted Taraneh's family after the hospital visit warning them not to publicize Taraneh's story and not to associate her disappearance with arrests made at post-election protests, claiming instead that she had tried to harm herself because of feeling guilty for having pre-marital sex. Witnesses have come forward, who were covering Taraneh's story, stating that she was mentally and physically abused in Tehran's notorious Evin prison and also that a person who matches her physical description and injuries had been treated at the Imam Khomeini Hospital, was unconscious when witnessed and was later transferred out of the hospital while still unconscious.

Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Jundullah, was executed in the prison in 2010.

The prison also held members of religious minorities including members of the Bahá'í Faith — on May 14, 2008, members of an informal body that oversaw the needs of the Bahá'í community in Iran were arrested and taken to Evin prison. They were held in section 209 of the prison which is run by the government's Ministry of Intelligence. On August 11, 2010 it became known that the court sentence was 20 years imprisonment for each of the seven prisoners which was later reduced to ten years. After the sentence, they were transferred to Gohardasht Prison.

Ms. Saberi’s description of the conditions facing the two Baha’i women offers considerable insight into what it is like to be unjustly incarcerated in Iran today — a situation experienced not only by Baha’is, but by hundreds if not thousands among the journalists, women’s activists, human rights defenders, and peaceful protestors who are currently held in Iran.According to Ms. Saberi, the two Baha’i women are confined in a small cell about four meters by five meters in size, with two little, metal-covered windows. They have no bed. “They must sleep on blankets,” said Ms. Saberi. “They have no pillows, either. They roll up a blanket to use as a pillow. They use their chadors as a bed sheet.

From January to May 2010, student activist Majid Tavakoli was held in Evin, primarily in solitary confinement. He began a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his imprisonment, and was transferred to Gohardasht Prison in August 2010.

Reactions

In August 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented in a live broadcast on the state radio on rape and torture in the Iranian prisons and said; "In some detention centers inappropriate measures have taken place for which the enemy was again responsible."

Following the election, Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi said that several male and female protesters held behind bars have been savagely raped, according to a confidential letter to powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Karroubi warned that this was only a "fragment" of the evidence he had and that if the denials did not stop, he would release even more.

Roxana Saberi, who spent 100 days in Evin in 2009, accused of espionage and threatening Iran’s national security. She had been living in Iran for six years, working as a journalist and writing a book about modern Iran based on interviews with a broad cross-section of society, when she was detained. She later described her ordeal in a book, titled 'Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran' (2010).

It is said, that rape has been used by interrogators in Iran for decades. During the 1980s, the rape of female political prisoners was prevalent. It was so prevalent that it prompted Hussein-Ali Montazeri, who was Ayatollah Khomeini’s deputy at the time, to write the following to Khomeini in a letter dated October 7, 1986: "Did you know that young women are raped in some of the prisons of the Islamic Republic?"

Two prominent members of Iran’s human rights community, the feminist lawyer and journalist Shadi Sadr and the blogger and activist Mojtaba Saminejad, published essays online from inside Iran arguing that far from being a new phenomenon, prison rape has a long history in the Islamic Republic.

References and notes

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