A massive wave of arrests in October has further increased the dangerously large number of prisoners in Qezel Hesar Prison in Karaj, Iran, with 2,000 detainees transferred there in just four weeks, according to Iran Human Rights Monitor. And this is just in one prison in one province.
Why have there been so many arrests?
The government is terrified that massive protests will form on the anniversary of the November 2019 protests, so the ayatollahs ordered mass arrests of those that might be involved under the pretext of protecting national security, decreasing tensions, or getting violent thugs off the streets. Of course, the truth is that this means anyone who an anti-establishment sentiment on social media, particularly young people, who authorities are especially afraid of.
This includes 1,500 people in Zanjan Province, 5,550 people in Kermanshah Province, 3,000 people in Semnan Province, and 98 people in Lorestan Province. All of these were boasted by leading figures in the State Security Forces or the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
“The Razavioun patrols, which were created to provide security, started [a series of] preparations two years ago. Last year, these preparatory activities were completed, and this year they have been fully implemented,” said IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Yazdi.
“In other words, in coordination with our SSF brothers at Tehran’s Judiciary, we have launched the Razavioun patrols across the Province to create security … and in coordination with the prosecutor and with the help of SSF, the continuation of this task will be to develop and extend our activities at all levels and in all areas of the city to confront those who want to disrupt the people’s security,” he added.
What does this mean at Qezel Hesar Prison?
There are supposedly no political prisoners in the prison, but with a new total of 14,000 inmates, it may be impossible to tell. What’s certain is that the influx will make poor conditions worse.
What are conditions like?
- Inmates must buy their own beds or wait years for one to be provided
- Prison food is bad–smelling and low quality
- Complaints by inmates are ignored
- Prisoners are not given medical attention when sick
- Ill detainees are not held in quarantine during the pandemic
- Prisoners are forced to study the Quran, whether or not they are Muslim
- Many inmates are held in limbo
Some 1,800 detainees sentenced to death are held on Ward 2, with just four halls to hold them all. These halls have large rooms (5X5 meters) that hold 40 prisoners and small rooms (4X3 meters) that hold 11. Given the lack of personal space, 15 prisoners must sleep on the floor in the large rooms and three in the small rooms.
Many of the other prisoners are detained on drug-related offenses that bear heavy sentences, but the drug mafia controlled by the prison’s warden and guards still operates, buying drugs from outside and selling it to prisoners.