The Great Tehran Penitentiary also known as Fashafuyeh Prison was built in 2009 primarily for holding suspects and inmates convicted of drug-related offenses. But the judiciary has unlawfully used it in the past years to incarcerate activists and dissidents.
With an official capacity of 15,000 inmates, the prison, located in Tehran Province’s Fashafouyeh district, 20 miles southeast of Tehran, is the largest detention facility in the country.
Accounts of former prisoners have reported on torture and inhumane conditions including overcrowding, unsanitary living spaces, inadequate food, intolerable heat with severely limited water resources and the denial of medical care for inmates.
A recent report by Iran’s state-run Etemad online describes the inhumane living conditions inside the Great Tehran Penitentiary as follows.
This prison holds 13,950 inmates on charges of corruption, theft, alcoholic drinks, fraud, smuggling, forging, transfer of other people’s property and acquisition of illegal property.
In this prison, no one gets any advice, nor they will repent, but a prisoner said: “The people come into this prison as lizards and leave as alligators.”
The prison has five wards, which the prisoners call “brigades.” The first and fourth wards are dedicated to units of theft, mischief, and punishments. Ward two and five are dedicated to the financial convicts. Ward 3 is the quarantine for the newcomers.
Ward one has 5,000 prisoners. Ward two, 2,000 prisoners. Ward three has 2,000. Ward 4 has ,5000, and Ward 5 has 3,000 prisoners.
The distribution of the primitive facilities such as beds, fridges, TVs, and a washing machine do not follow any standard rules in these units.
These facilities are not even enough to accommodate a fifth of current prisoners. The prison was initially considered for 15,000 prisoners.
But now this 100-hectare 20-year-old prison is reported to be a lucrative business “bed dealing”, where the newcomers must wait a week for washing and bathing.
It’s also reported that in the Great Tehran Penitentiary, some “high-profile” prisoners don’t have a bed and sometimes more than 200 people are sleeping on the ground.
New inmates have to sleep on the floor of prayer room or the hall adjacent bathroom.
A prisoner said that “bed dealing” is a prevalent phenomenon in all prison wards. Prisoners must pay rent every week for bed and that they are “forced to sleep side by side like books in a bookshelf”. He said that the total rate of bed deposit is 40 million rials. This is more common in the section of the financial convicts because in other parts of the prison the people are so poor that they struggle to buy potable water.
The section of financial convicts includes intellectuals, doctors, professors, and managers. Some of them have finished their sentences, but the regime’s judges refuse to release them.
Another prisoner said that the prison is rife with all kinds of mafias. Ther’s a mafia for beds, a mafia for medicine, for postage, for the bath, and of course for the toilet. There is even a mafia for breathing air.
The key to solving all the problems in this unpainted city is cigarettes.
A prisoner said: There are currently 6,000 inmates who are unable to repay their debts. There are people who have been imprisoned for stealing 50 walnuts, stealing a package of doogh(diluted yogurt), stealing a shoe rack, or for 500,000 tomans. These are the poor in prison. As soon as they enter the prison, they ask the be the ward’s mayor. The mayor here means janitor. They sweep the ward hall and wash the bathrooms and toilets in the morning; Their wages are calculated with cigarettes.
Cigarettes are the prison’s currency. With enough cigarettes, you can displace a prison guard. Anything you can imagine; the cigarette can do for you.
One prisoner said that a trip to the bathroom will cost you 10 cigarette butts. For bathing, you give a box of cigarettes.
The prison is riddled with different diseases including scabies, flu, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and AIDS. Everyone is depressed, psychotic, and insane, and relieve their pains with methadone.
All the inmates, including the political prisoners, are facing serious health hazards as a result of widespread cigarette smoking and the existence of all kinds of illicit drugs.
And what’s important is that these revelations are made by a publication that is tightly controlled by the regime. The real situation is much worse, especially for political prisoners, who are being tortured in different ways by the regime.
It should be emphasized that this is just a little part of the deplorable condition at the Great Tehran Penitentiary that Etemad has revealed.
Iran’s judiciary has used the Great Tehran Penitentiary to incarcerate dissidents and anti-state protesters convicted of politically motivated charges.
Last month, the US state department listed the prison as an entity responsible for “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognised human rights”.