The notorious Evin Prison is located in the north of the Iranian capital. There are several wards in this 40-hectare compound. One of these wards is the Women’s Ward made up of two main halls.
One of the halls in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison holds political prisoners and the prisoners of conscience, and has three rooms. Room No. 1 holds 12 prisoners, room no. 2 holds 10 prisoners and room no. 3 holds 8 prisoners.
The second hall was previously used by the authorities to detain wives and children of male convicts, who were released in March 2020, upon the Judiciary’s ruling.
After the coronavirus outbreak and upon insistence of political prisoners, Hall no. 2 was used for temporary isolation of female prisoners suspected of Covid-19 infection. The windows in this hall are covered by metal and plastic sheets preventing the sunlight.
Presently, there are two new arrivals in Hall no. 2, and another two prisoners are quarantined in a room in the administrative section for 14 days.
The quarantine ward and new arrivals
New prisoners are held for 14 days in Hall No. 2, or in a room in the administrative section of the quarantine ward, before being allowed into the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison. However, since the prison’s telephones are located in the “sports club” and the prison’s store is commonly used by all prisoners, the quarantine is practically violated.
If the prisoners do not observe the hygiene protocols and social distancing, isolating the new prisoners in the quarantine would be practically useless.
Prisoners have to procure their own masks and gloves. In the prison’s store, each mask or a pair of gloves are sold between 8,000 and 10,000 tomans to prisoners.
Detergents and disinfectants are rationed by prison authorities and put at the disposal of the prisoner in charge of running the ward to divide among all inmates. The ration is not sufficient and inmates have to buy their own detergents and disinfectants at prices several folds higher.
Failure to separate prisoners according to their crimes
The authorities do not separate prisoners according to their crimes in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison.
Women accused of common crimes, instead of being detained in the general ward, are transferred to the Women’s Wards where they are held from several days to several months. This practice is problematic particularly with regards to the women who are addicted to narcotic drugs.
Prison’s store and nutrition of inmates
Most of the detainees in the Women’s Ward of Evin have to buy their own food from the prison’s store for prices several times the regular market price, since the quality of food served by the prison is very low. The ration of dried food provided by prison authorities is hardly sufficient for a week and the quality is very bad.
Healthcare and medical treatment
After the coronavirus outbreak, all inmates had to procure their own masks and gloves. The prison’s store sells every mask or every pair of gloves for 8,000 to 10,000 tomans. The ration of detergents and disinfectants distributed by prison authorities is not sufficient, so inmates have to buy their own from the prison’s store, again at inflated prices.
Even before the outbreak, prisoners had to pay all the expenses to be visited in civic hospitals, but prison authorities systematically prevented or hindered their dispatch to civic medical centers and hospitals.
If in any case, a prisoner insisted and managed to be dispatched to a hospital, she was quickly returned to prison after initial visit by the physician, without receiving any treatment.
After the outbreak, hospital visits have become even more difficult. The needed visits are done either very late or on an irregular basis.
There are also many problems in sending patients from the ward to the prison’s dispensary confronts many obstacles, for this reason specialist doctors rarely visit the women’s ward.
Appearing in court
Restrictions and social distancing during the pandemic did not cut down the number of prisoners summoned to the courts. On the contrary, more prisoners are being summoned to court.
During this period, Atena Daemi and Maryam Akbari Monfared have been repeatedly summoned to court for new cases filed against them. These political prisoners, however, have refused to appear in court for fear of the outbreak. One of the reasons they do so is because prison authorities and soldiers who accompany the inmates do not observe the hygienic protocols and do not wear masks and gloves.
Telephone calls and visits
Female prisoners are basically allowed to use the telephone three times a week, for ten minutes each time.
The telephones are located in the “sports club” and can be used on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Every inmate is allowed to save five numbers on her telephone card.
During the 10-minute call, a recording is played several times indicating that the call is being made from Evin Prison. This recording is very disturbing to the little children, whose mothers are imprisoned, and mothers cannot have a stress-free talk with their children.
Before the outbreak, prisoners used to have visitations either in a cabin or in person. But after the outbreak, all in person visitations have been cancelled and the cabin visits are done only once a week on Sundays.
Prison authorities do not provide disinfectants for cabin visits to wipe the telephone receiver and the seats. So, the families are supposed to bring their own disinfectants. The window glasses are very dirty, making it very difficult for the sides to see each other.
The sports club
The Women’s Ward of Evin Prison has a sports club.
Most instruments and equipment in the sports club are worn out or out of order, with prison authorities doing nothing to have them repaired.
During the pandemic, they have not provided sanitary conditions so that inmates could use the equipment without risking infection. So, female prisoners are left without any facility for physical fitness in the prison’s closed environment and if they do use the equipment they risk being infected with the virus.