Majid Moghaddam on Ward 8 of Evin Prison: "A Reminder of Kahrizak Detention Center"
Late last month Majid Moghaddam, a prisoner of conscience and former detainee at Kahrizak Detention Center was granted bail as his six-year sentence on charges relating to political crimes such as ‘gathering and conspiring against domestic and national security’, ‘dissemination propaganda against the regime’, ‘insulting the Leadership’, and the additional charge of illegal exit from Iran entered the appeals phase before Branch 39 of the Appellate Court of Tehran. Prior to his release, Mr. Moghaddam had spent nearly eight months in detention, the first several months of which he was held incommunicado in Ward 2A of Evin Prison, which is administered by the Intelligence Division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). After being sentenced in an initial trial, last five months of Mr. Moghaddam’s detention were spent in Ward 8 of the same prison.
On Tuesday, August 11, 2015, Mr. Moghaddam published a poignant account of his five months in Ward 8 on his personal Facebook page, concluding with a request that the Iranian authorities implement domestic legal requirements regarding the detention of prisoners as outlined in the country’s Prisons Regulations. IHRDC has examined these very provisions in light of a wide body of testimony in its recent report, “Rights Disregarded: Prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, and found the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) in routine violation of its own laws regarding detainee treatment and general prison conditions in prisons and temporary detention centers throughout the country. Mr. Moghaddam's account of his five months in Ward 8 lends further immediacy to those findings and harkens back to his detention in Kahrizak Detention Center in the summer of 2009, during which several political prisoners died as a result of harsh conditions and brutal treatment. His experiences give rise to grave concerns regarding extreme overcrowding and poor hygiene in the ward.
The text of Mr. Moghaddam’s account is translated below:
Ward 8 of Evin Prison: A Reminder of Kahrizak Detention Center
Ward 8 was a bitter reminder of my detention in Kahrizak Detention Center. But this time, it was possible that I would have to endure those terrifying conditions for five years rather than five days. During all my time in Ward 8, I was revisited by the same psychological scars that had already wounded my mind when I was in the Kahrizak Detention Center.
[Ward 8] is an aging office building with low ceilings which has no proper sanitary facilities and has poor air circulation. It includes four halls, numbered 7, 8, 9, and 10. Each hall contains 11 cells, and each cell is about 15 to 20 meters in size. There is no separation of prisoners by types of offenses, and 35 to 40 individuals have been detained in each of these cells. In such circumstance, about 40 prisoners of conscience are passing their sentences amongst criminals imprisoned for serious offenses such as murder, rape, drug smuggling, embezzlement, fraud and forgery [Ward 8 is officially labeled as a financial crimes ward]. Most of these prisoners of conscience were detained in the aftermath of the presidential elections in 2009.
In Kahrizak Detention Center, for the first time I learned how to sleep ‘like a book’ [on a bookshelf, that is, standing up and leaning against other prisoners for lack of space]. I never thought that those bitter experiences would be used again one day. In the Ward 8, I was forced to sleep in the mosque, in the corridor, in the kitchen and in the bathroom. I slept there like a book on a bookshelf for five months.
The conditions were no better in the daytime. My days were spent waiting in long queues to enter the bathroom, the kitchen, the telephone station, and the grocery store. The ward held a huge number of inmates--ten times over capacity.
In addition to all of these problems, I always had to worry about my personal belongings, which I crammed into some fruit boxes and left in the mosque. There was no gas and hot water on most days. The lack of sufficient eating space, absence of proper places to rest, lack of separation between inmates based on age and types of offenses, the widespread consumption of different types of narcotics in public areas, and overcrowding combined to create the miserable conditions of Ward 8.
The presence of dangerous offenders close to prisoners of conscience created a stressful environment in the ward. We were always worried that they would attack us, because of the significant social and cultural differences between us. Also, a large number of Somali pirates, drug smugglers from Nigeria and Japan, and other foreign inmates from Tanzania, Bolivia, Singapore, South Africa, etc., were detained in Ward 8. It was said that some of them are HIV-positive or suffering from hepatitis.
There is a small library with only 12 seats for the roughly 1,400 inmates of Ward 8. Every morning, different newspapers – Ettela’at, Iran, Resalat, E’tedal, Siasat-e Rooz, Shargh, Ghanoon, and others – were sent to the library, and subsequently divided between cells. The smell of newspapers stirred memories of newsstands in early mornings when I was free. Although it was forbidden for prisoners of conscience to have Shargh newspaper [which has more reformist proclivities] and only the prison guards have access to this paper, we always took a stealthy look at its headlines out of curiosity. The Ghanoon newspapers, which were sent to the ward two or three times per week, only went to special or favored prisoners. Also, having some magazines, such as Mehrnameh, Iran-e Farda, Andisheh Pouya, Nasim-e Bidari, and Seda is almost impossible in the ward.
There are many similarities between Kahrizak Detention Center and Ward 8 of Evin Prison. And that was why other [prisoners of conscience] and I started to complain about the conditions immediately after we were transferred to that ward. The prison officials asserted that they were aware of the miserable conditions in Ward 8, but because of the lack of sufficient space and facilities, they could not fulfill the legal requirements [for the conditions of detention], even though we knew that other wards, including Ward 350, Ward 4, and Ward 7 were empty.
Now, after the transfer of a large number of inmates to a prison in Qom, the problem of overcrowding has been solved; however, other difficulties remain. It is to be noted that these conditions are being imposed on prisoners of conscience--people who have been jailed because of their peaceful political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs.
If only the authorities were a bit more concerned about the fact that the law [establishing minimum requirements regarding prison conditions] is not enforced, or more concerned about its destructive consequences…
We only request that prison officials and the prosecutor's office fully implement the Prisons Regulation, especially the provisions pertinent to the separation of prisoners of conscience from dangerous offenders in Ward 8.
It is hoped that we do not see another tragic accident in Ward 8. It is hoped that the authorities implement the law, with no exception, as they are obliged to do.