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Campaign For The Protection of Women Prisoners

Campaign For The Protection Of Women Prisoners At Qarchak Varamin Prison

Nearly two weeks have elapsed since the transfer of eight political prisoners from Rajai-Shahr prison to the Qarchak prison in the city of Varamin, Iran. They include: Shabnam Madadzadeh, Maryam Hajiloei, Maryam Akbari Monfared, Masomeh Yavari, Kobra Banazadeh, Motahareh Bahrami, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabai. The prisoners, among them mothers, teachers, journalists, and activists, many of them in prison for their beliefs and exercise of their fundamental human rights, spend their days and nights among human excrement, suffering from malnutrition, poor hygiene, violence, terror, and suffocating air. 

Located in barren outskirts of Tehran, Qarchak prison can best be described as hell on earth, where prisoners are deprived of all human dignity. It is a place where its inmates have expressed they would rather be executed than to live in those conditions. The inmates are tucked away from society and civilization in old livestock warehouses where it is difficult for family members to visit and the world to witness the inhumane conditions. Qarchak prison has seven wards, each with the capacity to hold beds for about 100 inmates.  Currently, each ward is home to close to 300 prisoners. These wards have cement walls, stone floors, and vinyl shingles as roof. In the courtyard, the stench of manure fills the air, and the pungent smell of livestock still lingers.  Inside each ward, there are four rows of triple bunk beds adjacent to the walls and in the center of the room.  The height of the bunk beds is so low that the prisoners cannot sit on their beds. 

The absence of any ventilation has led to a serious health risk as particles arising from sewage and feces have brought on the respiratory distress of many inmates.  Two open toilets and two showers are shared by over 300 inmates. As such, many prisoners opt to use the space between the beds or the common areas to relieve themselves.

Three self-service meals are offered in this prison on a daily basis. However, food is in shortage and many still go hungry or wait to eat the scraps left by others. A “meal” typically consists of two loafs of stale bread and a potato or a small amount of pasta.  There are visible signs of serious malnutrition among the minor inmates.

The subhuman conditions, shortage of food, and the mixing of different categories of inmates in cramped spaces is the perfect recipe to instigate daily riots which are squashed by the batons of male guards.  The purposeful sounding of excruciatingly loud sirens at night further agitates the inmates and cause terrorizing stampedes in the dark.

The new arrivals to Qarchak prison had already suffered torture, humiliation, harsh interrogations, and very difficult living conditions at their previous detention centers, such as the notorious Evin prison and Rajai-Shahr prison. Yet they find this place even more intolerable and horrifying.  The new inmates have managed to send a message out. They are calling for help and asking the world to not close its eyes to this atrocity. The women of Qarchak prison need your voice to be loud, speak for them, and demand an end to this inhumane treatment. 

The dangerous conditions at the Qarchak Prison, while in violation of all international standards and norms for the treatment of prisoners, are not unprecedented in the Islamic Republic of Iran and require immediate international attention.  For example, unsanitary conditions, overcrowded cells, and malnutrition have led to serious diseases and sometimes the death of several detainees at the notorious Kahrizak Prison.

We, the undersigned, call on the Iranian Government to immediately close the Qarchak facility. The prisoners at Qarchak should be maintained in facilities that are in conformity with human dignity and established international norms, including the segregation of the prisoners based on charged crimes and separation of minors from adults. Furthermore, we call on the UN Special Rapporteur for Iran to investigate the conditions and well-being of all Iranian prisoners.  

Boroumand Foundation

Committee of Human Rights Reporters

Hamzaban Cultural Foundation

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

Iran Rooyan

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