By Hamideh Taati
Dozens of female prisoners in Iran were subjected to violence by prison authorities over the weekend.
On Saturday, forty female prisoners were violently transferred from Qarchak Prison in Varamin to Ward 240 of Tehran’s Evin Prison, with sacks over their heads to disorientate them.
On Thursday and Friday, prison guards used tear gas, firearms, and pepper spray to attack female prisoners in a raid on Wards 1 and 2 of Qarchak (Shahr-e-Rey) Prison in Varamin, following a peaceful protest by the women.
This peaceful protest, to raise awareness that one of their fellow prisoners being denied urgent medical care and to object to the fact that their names were not included on a list of thousands of prisoners to be pardoned during the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Regime, merely involved the prisoners banging their hands on the doors of their cells.
The women, trying to neutralize the effects of the pepper spray and tear gas fired into the enclosed space, set fire to their beds and bed sheets on Thursday night. However, the prison authorities extinguished the fires with large hoses from a fire engine with the women still trapped inside. They then cut off the wards’ electricity and gas, so that the women, now drenched from the fire hose, would not be able to keep warm in the winter weather.
The prisoners were then left unattended overnight, despite inhaling large amounts of toxic fumes and facing a wet and cold environment.
Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Philip Luther said: “The reports of the Iranian prison guards’ reckless and heavy-handed response to protests at Shahr-e-Rey prison are deeply alarming… Prison authorities must refrain from using unnecessary and excessive force against prisoners. Instead of carrying out violent raids against prisoners, they should be working to address the inhumane and squalid conditions at Shahr-e Rey prison.”
On Friday morning, the all-male prison guards severely beat and injured the prisoners, with several needing urgent medical attention according to their family members. The prison officers used firearms to end the protest.
It was reported that the prison authorities removed the benches and exercise equipment from ward 1 prior to the raid so that women would not be able to use them to defend themselves.
It was further reported that the guards may have stolen the prisoners’ possessions during the raid.
Qarchak Prison, which is really a disused chicken farm, has long been criticised by human rights groups for failing to meet the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners with a lack of hygiene, overcrowding, and rampant abuse being the most common complaints.