On April 17, an unprecedented violent attack left political prisoners injured in Tehran’s Evin prison. The attack took place in Ward 350, which is a prison ward for political prisoners and dissidents. The beatings were particularly focused on a number of prisoners who have been charged with affiliation with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
The attack isn’t the first time Ward 350 has been in the news. Just a few months ago reports published about the conditions prisoners faced on the ward. Political prisoners were able to smuggle a letter out of the ward that detailed a number of concerns for their wellbeing. Human rights organizations have increasingly focused efforts to attract more international attention to the growing problem inside Iran’s prisons.
The families of the prisoners have publicly discussed the extent of the injuries. On top of this, there is a fear that the problem is escalating to other prisons in Iran. A letter from one of the prisoners of the Gohardast prison highlights this mounting fear of having the events of Evin prison spill over elsewhere.
Mr Mohammad Banazadeh-Amirkhizi is a 67-year old political prisoner who has been suffering his sentence since being imprisoned in 2009. His family has strong political ties to the opposition group PMOI (MEK), which led to Mr Banazadeh-Amirkhizi’s arrest. He has been positioned in Gohardast prison and he wrote about the hardships Iran’s political prisoners are now facing.
In his letter, he writes extensively on the threat of violence and the mounting pressure the prisoners feel every day. A recent hanging of 11 prisoners was followed by a day of chanting by the prison officials as a way of intimidating the prisoners.
According to mister Banazadeh-Amirkhizi, it is now customary for political prisoners to suffer from physical, as well as psychological, pressure on a daily basis.
He goes on to say that "prisoners are in a constant fear of being abducted or placed in solitary confinement."
Furthermore, prisoners can suddenly be taken without any acknowledgement as to where they are going. He says, “this has got to the extent that no one can be sure if they are going to a court, clinic or for a family visit and this is catastrophic”.
Although Mr Banazadeh-Amirkhizi has been imprisoned now for a number of years, he strongly feels the situation is only worsening.
His letter highlights how the prison conditions are worsening every day and the way the authorities suppress basic rights.
He writes about a constant state of fear and a mounting urgency of the need to change the situation. The fear is that events such as the Ward 350 incident will become a commonplace occurrence and the oppression of political prisoners will continue unnoticed.