Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) – September 16, 2011 – Following the transfer of women political prisoners to a separate ward in Evin prison, it was anticipated that conditions would improve, however they still facing many difficulties.
According to their families, during the past month, especially during the month of Ramadan, the store in the women’s ward, which has always faced food shortage, was completely empty. Even though fasting prisoners required food items during [Ramadan], the shop refused to provide services to the prisoners. Protests by the women political prisoners in the past month have proven fruitless. According to reports, the prisoners in the other wards in Evin seldom face empty shops.
Additionally, the condition of the outdoor break area in the women’s ward has not improved, despite complaints by the prisoners and their families. Reportedly, Evin prison authorities had made a promise to improve the conditions. Approximately 30 women in this ward share a small yard that, because of laundry ropes loaded with clothing, has no room for the prisoners.
The women political prisoners have also complained about the existence of [surveillance] cameras. They say that, due to the lack of female personnel in Evin prison, it is unclear who controls the cameras. The women prisoners have shown their protest by blocking all the [surveillance] cameras.
Additionally, the women political prisoners have been banned from telephone access since their transfer to the methadone ward in November. Despite the fact that they and human rights activists have protested, the ban remains. These women are only granted 20-minute (most often cabin) visits per week with their families.
Some of the women political prisoners have young children whom they only have contact with via telephone. Some psychologists believe that cabin visits from behind a glass wall can be destructive to the psychological health of the prisoners’ children. Therefore, many of the families try not to bring the children to visit as much as possible. However, after cutting the telephones, and since the only way for the children to meet their mothers is through the 20-minute visits, families have been forced to bring along the children as well.
Women political prisoners have endured many hardships. After spending a period in wards operated by the Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC, they were transferred to the public wards in Evin prison where they were held for months alongside ordinary criminals. The prisoners and their families had protested against the difficult living conditions in the public wards. The women prisoners were not allowed to cook and were forced to eat prison food. Also, the limited access to the prison shop, at times, left them without any fruit or other food items for long periods of time. Access to only cold water and having to suffer health problems as a consequence were among the problems they faced daily.
Instead of solving the prisoners’ problems, prison authorities transferred the women to a closed hall in the women’s ward, in an attempt to deprive them of any contact with the outside world. They spent more than seven months in this ward, which is known as the methadone ward, without enjoying the right to telephone access, regular outdoor breaks, cultural classes held at the prison, and the library. Some of the women in this ward have highlighted the similarities between the methadone ward and ward 209 (operated by the Ministry of Intelligence), where they had to spend the days in a small and closed off hall.
Currently women prisoners are held in another location that, although it has better conditions than the methadone ward, still faces the same [repeated] problems. The plight of women prisoners has received minimum media focus and protest in the past two years.