Qarchak Women’s Prison located on the Tehran-Varamin Highway holds approximately 2,000 women and some children; while the number varies in different periods.
In each building of Qarchak 200 to 300 female prisoners are held together, disregarding the rules of segregation of prisoners by age and crime.The Qarchak prison is known as the most dangerous and worst prison in Iran due to its inhumane medical and psychological conditions. It is a disused chicken farm that is described as the largest prison for women in Iran.
Qarchak Prison is the most dangerous and worst prison in Iran due to its inhumane medical and psychological conditions.
Common complaints include urine-stained floors, lack of ventilation, insufficient and filthy bathroom facilities, prevalence of contagious diseases, poor quality food containing small pieces of stone and salty water.
As a new routine, those arrested on political grounds are first transferred to this prison until their sentences are finalized.
Food is one of the prison’s major problems as the food is not enough for everyone. Prisoners are usually served spaghetti, boiled potatoes and bread. As a result, many prisoners suffer from severe vitamins’ deficiency.
Prisoners are given three meals a day, but one can easily miss the meal if she is not fast. If a prisoner needs more food, or if she protests about having not received her food, she is beaten. Prisoners are hungry most of the time. There are times, when older prisoners cry from hunger when they see the guards eat bread and butter.
There is no variety in food. Boiled potatoes, macaroni and bread. Prisoners have not had any meat for years. The quality of rice is very bad and it is cooked with camphor. The best dinner in prison is boiled eggs and potatoes given once a week. Some nights, the dinner is a dilute soup containing a little grain, while it is contaminated with insects and other stuff.
The state of hygiene is deplorable in Qarchak. It has caused contagious, infectious diseases circulating amongst inmates. Infectious diseases of HIV and hepatitis are endemic amongst the prison population. No one is assigned to attend to those suffering from contagious illnesses and the sick prisoners are allowed to be inmate with other prisoners. They are not segregated from others and since there are no monthly medical check-ups, nor any laboratory medical tests, there is no accurate statistics available on the number of prisoners afflicted with hepatitis and HIV.
Every silo with nearly 200 inmates, has only four lavatories and four baths. Usually two of the baths and one toilet are out of order.
The baths have warm water for only one hour during the day and most of the prisoners have to bathe with cold water. In addition, the water is cut off during most of the day.
Prisoners drink water, wash dishes and clothes in the same baths and lavatories.
The floor of the toilet is always covered with a few millimeters of water. Since the slippers are torn, prisoners’ feet get wet and contaminated every time they use the bathroom.
In the absence of enough toilets for prisoners, one can see stool scattered all over the silo’s floor.
Many prisoners are bald because the place is dirty and there are no cleaning and washing detergents. So, prisoners shave their hair to avoid lice.
Drinking water is not good and prisoners do not afford to buy mineral water, so they have to drink the prison’s salty water.
The water used for bath or lavatory is salty and does not dissolve soap. As a result, prisoners cannot properly wash their clothes and they contract various skin diseases because of this situation.
There is no ventilation in the siloes, which aggravates the unsanitary conditions. In a reported case, the sewage system was clogged and black water ran into the fresh-air room. The rotten odor of undrained sewage and unremoved spoiled garbage was intolerable for prisoners. Prisoners with respiratory problems had an especially difficult time.
The place where prisoners are allowed to take in some fresh air is not an open space but is acutally a room with no ceiling which is large enough for only several dozen people.
The state of hygiene is even worse in the quarantine ward.
On the other hand, there is no medical care in Qarchak Prison. Officials say they have no budget for this. There is a place called dispensary, but they do not do anything there even when there is an emergency case.
Some time ago, one of the prisoners died while delivering her baby because there were no soldiers to accompany her to a hospital.
Officials also prevent prisoners from receiving the medications their families bring for them under the pretext of controlling entry of narcotic drugs.
Prisoners buy their medications from the black market. The price of a tranquilizer pill (Profane) is 2,000 toumans.
Prison guards’ foul treatment of detainees has had damaging psychological impact on them. Those foul and indecent treatment are consisted of cussing, humiliation, degradation and sometimes assault and battery of the incarcerated women. Most prisoners with psychological problems are not transferred to a proper mental care center and cause serious problems with others such as rape, murder and affray. If an affray takes place in the prison, wardens do not step in or in any way intervene.
If a prisoner criticizes prison conditions, she would be transferred to solitary confinement where conditions are deplorable. An unsanitary bathroom is situated inside a small cell packed with several prisoners. Such conditions lead to confrontation amongst prisoners and rape.
There are also prisoners who have been awaiting execution for many years and are thus afflicted with psychological disorders. Instead of transferring such prisoners to a mental center they are held continually in solitary confinement to create more suffering for others.
There was an instance when a problematic prisoner raped and killed her cellmate with a florescent lamp. Prison wardens take advantage of this prisoner to threaten others. If any prisoner remonstrates, she is threatened to be transferred to the same cell with psychotic prisoners.
Homo-sexuality has increased and there have been occasional instances of rape. A serious problem is detaining prisoners as young as 18 with prisoners 50 years and older who have committed serious crimes. Rape of young prisoners by older criminals is the young girls’ nightmare.
Due to lack of the most basic facilities in the siloes, prisoners brawl all the time.
In Ward 5 of the Qarchak prison, there are inmates who have been washing other prisoners’ dirty laundry for years to receive the money needed for buying their daily needs, including food, which is inadequate in prison.