Human Rights Activists in Iran
A Report On The Catastrophic And Deplorable Conditions of Prisoners Incarcerated At The Greater Tehran Penitentiary
July 7, 2020
Prisoners incarcerated at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary are kept under inhuman conditions. In this prison, each unit’s “think tank” determines the price of every amenity and every service. One prisoner says: “There are as many ‘mafias’ in this prison as you can imagine: Rich prisoners have servants, good food, good ingredients that they have [brought in for them], and a special chef. When they want to take a shower, all 16 shower stalls are cleared out for them. And they have conjugal visits every day, whereas conjugal visits for prisoners are only once a month here.” Another prisoner says: “There are rats in here the size of cats, and they come into our cells every night after lights out.” Additionally, in accordance with the Penitentiary By-Laws, the person in charge of locating sick prisoners along with the Prison Clinic’s physician, must conduct daily visits of each wing; but how can you detect the sick ones in a hall where there are 200 prisoners sleeping on the floor? Currently, gallbladder disease, influenza, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and AIDS are wreaking havoc in the entire prison. Another prisoner said this regarding the conditions in Wings 1 and 4: “In Wings 1 and 4, cigarette smoking and drug use are done overtly. The drug trade in Wings 1 and 4 is making a killing. There is no hot water in these wings and there is a limitation on showering as well. So far, the Head of the Judiciary Branch’s representative has not visited this prison once to learn what catastrophic and deplorable conditions we live in, not even once.”
According to a report by HRANA News Agency, quoting Etemad newspaper, there is no rhyme or reason for the rate of inflation at the Penitentiary. Each unit’s “think tank” determines the price of every amenity and every service: Hard-working, and holding regular meetings like a town council, it makes decisions regarding a prisoner’s every breath, his privacy and independence in a 1.5 square meter (16 square feet) space, and regarding how a prisoner is to stay alive in this forgotten 110 Hectare (240 acre) wasteland in a corner of the city of Tehran. Corruption and strong-arming in the prison is authorized by this very ‘think tank’.”
This report is the result of hours and hours of phone conversations with a number of prisoners convicted of financial crimes, incarcerated at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary, which tells the tale of gravely concerning conditions there.
Prisoner “A” said this regarding the effects of being jailed in this prison: “Kids come in as lizards, [small and inexperienced], and leave as alligators.”
The Greater Tehran Penitentiary has 5 wings. Wings 1 and 4 are reserved for thieves, hoodlums, and individuals convicted of crimes that carry Ta’zir punishments. Wings 2 and 5 are where financial criminals are kept. Wing 3 is the quarantine space for the temporary stay of newcomers.
There are 5,000 prisoners in Wing 1; 2,000 in Wing 2; 2,000 in Wing 3; 5,000 in Wing 4; and 3,000 in Wing 5.
The distribution of basic amenities, beds, refrigerators, television sets, and washing machines in these wings follows no particular logic or standard whatsoever. The only instance of equality [between inmates] is the division of each wing into 3- or 16-room groupings of structures, and uniform initial décor. There are 24 beds in each room of a 3-room grouping, 6 toilets, and 8 showers. Each 16-room grouping has 240 beds, 14 toilets, and 14 showers. This physical structure is not enough for even one fifth of the current prison population, however, even though in 2000, when the prison was rebuilt, the plan was to build the facilities necessary to house 15 thousand prisoners. But now that this 240-acre Penitentiary is 20 years old, inmates are talking of “bed brokering” schemes, and that given the number of existing toilets and showers, they must wait one week for their turn to wash their clothes and take their “daily” showers.
According to the prison’s By-Laws, every inmate must have a bed; however, the density and the overcrowding at the Greater Tehran Penitentiary is so out of control that the total number of beds is not enough for even the “elders” of the wings, [those who have seniority, having been there the longest]. Even taking into account the unwritten rule that newcomers, other than the “special ones”, are supposed to sleep on the floor of the prayer room or the hall next to the toilets until they become attuned to the prison environment, the number of people who sleep on the floor of the narrow hallways of the cells and hall adjacent to each wing’s toilets and the prayer room reaches 200 inmates at times.
Prisoner “B” said: “These 200 inmates are condemned to sleep like “books” [on their sides] every night. They do not dare get up in the middle of the night until dawn and the wakeup call to even go to the bathroom, because as soon as they do, they lose that 30 centimeters by one meter (1 foot by 3.5 feet) space they had, and will have to sleep standing up until the next morning.”
Prisoner “C” said: “The “brokering of beds” is a common phenomenon in all of the Prison’s wings. With the exception of well-known inmates whose room and bed is ready and available prior to their arrival, the rest of the newcomers must enter into negotiations with the “bed broker” in order to rent, lease or purchase a bed, that is, if they have any money. The head of the bed brokers in each wing, is the ward representative, the same person who controls your fate in the wing, who decides everything about your life. The usual deposit on a bed is 4 million Tumans, one million of which is the broker’s share, and 3 million is the actual bed-owner’s share. Bed rental is 400 thousand Tumans a week. But leasing and renting beds is more common in the financial crimes wing, because most inmates in the theft and hoodlums wing are so poor they can’t even buy their daily water bottle.”
6:30 AM, wake-up call. 6:30 to 7 AM, hygiene. 7 AM, breakfast. 8 AM, the new shift officer arrives. 8 AM until the noon call to prayer, in the open air yard. Inmates line up in the open air enclosure when the call to prayer sounds and go back to the wing one at a time, and say “present” when called. When a prisoner is first admitted to the prison, they take his picture and he is given a number. As soon as that number is registered, the inmate will be known in the prison complex and at roll call by that number, even though the inmates have forced prison officials to put a “Mr.” before their last name when they are called, and the “Picture-Number” will only be a memory in that person’s life.
Inmates in Wings 1 and 4 are thieves, drug traffickers, and violent criminals. Financial crimes inmates are in Wings 2 and 5, and are the only ones who do not have to go the open air area and can spend their time during the day doing what they want, and even ask to be employed in the services and employment section, be transferred there, work at the wing bakery, or in the garden in the back of the building, planting vegetables and garden vegetables (truck farming). Inmates convicted of financial crimes are given some credit and maintain some of the good reputation they have lost: [These people are] managers, accountants, builders, economists, owners of transportation companies, owners of real estate brokerage firms, and doctors, and they are paying for their miscalculations in the Penitentiary.
Prisoner “D” is one such convict, 51 years old, sentenced to return of funds. He was arrested on April 7, 2014, transferred to Evin Prison on April 16, 2014, and brought to the Greater Tehran Penitentiary on July 25, 2015, upon the issuance of a final sentence to that effect.
He said: “The first week, I would only eat a little bread so I wouldn’t pass out. I couldn’t believe I had been incarcerated. What kind of a place was this?”
Prisoner “D” was sentenced to the return of 490 million Tumans; he has returned 420 million Tumans of that sum thus far, through the sale of his home, home furnishings, and the luck he had in getting some of his receivables and money back from people to whom he had made loans. The fact that this inmate is paying for his mistakes has also involved and adversely affected members of his family as well: His wife and two children, a son in high school and a disabled 20-year-old son, are renting a tiny 35-square meter (375 square feet) place, and rely on [government] assistance from [Imam Khomeini] Aid Committee.
This prisoner said: “I have not seen my older son in 7 years. Every time I call my mother she says ‘you’re calling from prison again, when are you getting out?’ My wife has contemplated a divorce 100 times and I have had to beg to dissuade her. I was in jail when my father passed away and I wasn’t even allowed to go and bury him. Of the nine thousand inmates who were married [before they got here], seven thousand have had to divorce their wives after they got a prison sentence. What wife can tolerate an imprisoned husband? And the ones who stick around have a thousand issues. [For example,] an inmate who is a drug addict calls his home to get money for his drug habit. He tells his wife and daughter ‘I don’t know how you’re going to get me money and [I don’t care] what you have to do, but I need X amount by tomorrow’.”
Prisoner “D” has so far not set foot outside the prison. A person who has been sentenced to return of money or property can get out only if he/she pays the amount in full [and can leave] “on the day the debt has been repaid” (“Yoam al-Ada”). A person who has been sentenced to make restitution and return the money or property [he owes], does not get a pardon. Any leave, is conditional upon securing a collateral or bond many times the amount of the sentence. Currently Prisoner “D” owes 70 million Tumans and the amount he has to secure as collateral for a leave, has reached 300 million Tumans.
“There are a lot of people like me in the Financial [Crimes] Wing. There is a person who’s been incarcerated for 10 years for a 220 million Tuman sentence. There is someone who is in jail for only 20 million Tumans. There was a person here who was suffering from cardiac disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and had been in prison for 21 years: He died right here 20 days ago. He owed 230 million Tumans. Rich and poor, educated and illiterate, we are all here [serving time], side by side. There are some very rich people here too; Mr. Rikhtegaran, the CEO of the car making company, for instance, or Babak Zanjani, [the billionaire sentenced to return of the funds owed, and to execution]. There is someone here who is 84 years old; he had a marine export company, took out loans, did not fulfill his financial obligations, came up short, and has been in prison for 16 years. He calls and talks to his grandchildren on the phone. [Another inmate,] Rahim Noruzi, who has a PhD in economics, had the largest company in the Arass and Anzali region, had 180 employees, and was sentenced to return of 2 billion 200 million Tumans, has been in prison for four years. Another guy was a home builder in [the town of] Shahriar, delivered 1700 units, took out a loan, couldn’t make the payments; the bank sued him. He’s been in jail for 7 years, owes 4 billion Tumans. In the financial crimes wing, everyone is over 40 years old, everyone is educated; there are doctors, professors, managers. We have someone here who has [returned the money he owed and] and whose paperwork is complete to be freed but the judge will not release him. We had an inmate who was here for 27 years, came here when he was 40, and left here at the age of 67 on a stretcher, covered with a blanket from head to toe, bound for Behesht-e Zahra [Cemetery].”
“There is a Mafia for everything in here: There is a Mafia for beds, a Mafia for pharmaceuticals, a Mafia for the mail, a Mafia for the showers, a Mafia for the toilets…,” says Prisoner “E”, who feels sometimes that there is a Mafia even for breathing in the prison environment. “The key to all problems in this city without a map is cigarettes. Cigarettes are the currency in prison. With cigarettes, you can even move the shift officer. Having more cigarettes is like having more zeroes on your balance in your bank account: Cigarettes are worth thousands, millions, billions.”
Cigarettes do everything in prison; cigarettes are capable of anything.
Prisoner “F” said: “Cigarettes are the prison’s fixer, wheeler-dealer. When it’s someone’s birthday, we give a couple of packs of cigarettes as a present. When somebody says ‘you gotta give love’, it means you have to turn over a box of cigarettes to get what you want done. You have to pay with cigarettes to go to the bathroom, 10 of them. You have to pay cigarettes to take a shower, two packs. You have to pay with cigarettes to have the Hall cleaned, two packs a week.”
Inmates who have been in prison a long time, those who have to pay until the last [penny] of their debt has been paid, until “Yaom al-Ada” (“the day where the debt has been payed off”), are like historians: Nothing escapes their sharp eagle eye; [they see] every coming and going, they see an ant fly, a sparrow hide in some corner in the yard.
Prisoner “G” recounts the prison’s wonders and oddities one by one: “Rats the size of cats march on the fence protecting power and phone cables, and come into the cells at night, in the dark, after lights out… We have had many successful escapes from this prison: Nasser Cheraghi, who was a financial crime inmate; Ali Mohammadi, also a financial crime inmate; Morad Heidari, who was in jail for robbery; they escaped successfully… [You can get everything in here] if you have money: Alcohol, drugs, cell phones.
It is prohibited to have a cell phone in prison, but cell phones are traded for 15 million Tumans each. Wealthy prisoners have servants, good food; they order lean meat; they order handpicked fruits and first rate vegetables; they have a special chef. Hossein Hedayati, who is in the thieves and hoodlums wing, has bought rugs, refrigerators, and TV sets for the Wing and has put up ornaments in the Wing’s main hall. All 16 shower stalls are cleared out for him when he goes to take a shower. And he has conjugal visits every day, whereas prisoners are only entitled to one conjugal visit per month here.
You can live a nice comfortable life in here if you are a rentier, belong to an [influential] faction, and have good connections, otherwise you’re done for, like the destitute inmates who beg for a loaf of bread because the government ration in prison is limited, and most prisoners have no money. Right now, there are six thousand inmates in prison who do not have the means to return funds or property. There are people in here who have been put in jail for stealing 50 dozen walnuts, stealing a pack of Doogh (yogurt drink), stealing a shoe rack; or because they couldn’t pay back 500 thousand Tumans (the equivalent of 25 US Dollars). These are the prison’s poor, the same people who ask to become “mayor” of the ward when they first arrive here; being the “mayor” here means being the janitor. They sweep the wing first thing in the morning, clean the toilets and the showers, and they get paid with cigarettes. Every prisoner has to pay one pack of cigarettes a week for the mayor’s wages.
A prisoner’s expenses must be paid for from the money his family deposits for them. Your expenses are at least one million Tuman a month in here. Their families have no financial means whatsoever to provide them with money. So these guys are condemned to eat prison food and drink prison tea, and are happy with whatever they give them …
“This is Tehran Penitentiary calling.” When this 12-digit number shows up on your cell phone and you hear that sentence when you pick up, you can tell that this is a prisoner calling. That prisoner knows you’re free, and you know he’s not. The geographical distance based on kilometers is 32 kilometers from the Tehran city center. Distance measured based on time, though, is 4 years in prison, 7 years, 15 years… The man you’re talking to has not set foot outside the Prison’s large gate in 4 years, 7 years, 15 years, and he may never get a chance to do so. In the years he’s been incarcerated, Tehran has stretched, grown taller, sunk, shivered, become ugly, shrunk, and the prisoner has no notion of any of these things. His only contact with freedom [and the outside world] is those few minutes a week or a month that he talks to his spouse, child, mother, father, sister, or brother in the visitation hall. They smell of “freedom”. What that means is that an inmate who is allowed visitors, can take in the smell of freedom every week or every month, for a few short minutes. The worst punishment for a prisoner is to deprive him of visitations, depriving him of the perception of freedom.
Prisoner “H” has a master’s degree in Industries from Amir Kabir University, and is also a medical student in his last year of medical school. He was charged with [criminal] breach of trust [and embezzlement]. He still denies the charge and says the plaintiff lied and framed him. His bankruptcy trial has taken place as you are reading this report, and he is awaiting the court’s decision to allow him to pay his 35-million Tuman debt in installments and set him free.
Prisoner “H” is 35 years old … the father of a 12-year-old boy, the son of an 82-year-old mother.
Prisoner “H” was arrested in the afternoon of October 1, 2016, in front of his then-8-year-old son’s eyes. In these four years of solitude, he learned to live in jail in a different way.
He said: “I was so dizzy the first night in prison that I didn’t know which part of Iran I was in. I think the first night in your grave is easier than the first night in jail. I wanted to call my mother but they wouldn’t let me. In quarantine, hardened criminals with a long record told me ‘you have to kill to stay alive’. They said ‘there is no such thing as “later” for us’. They said ‘we are withering away in a cemetery full of living people’. And I have witnessed all kinds of crimes and all kinds of betrayals and breaches of trust in these four years in here. I have witnessed human beings turn into cannibals, turn into a being full of complexes and regrets. I saw with my own two eyes that money talks, that money is the master of all. I learned that you can live a nice, comfortable life in here if you have good connections and spend money, otherwise you’re done for.
You’ll get the best room if you have money; you sneeze and you go to the infirmary. I learned so much in here, things I knew nothing about. I became ward mates with an incredible forger who forged checks so masterfully that the bank would confirm it’s its own check. Twenty thousand people come in here every year and it’s only those who don’t know how to talk properly that end up here. I did not commit any crimes, I just didn’t know how to defend myself. I got thrown in jail for a measly 35 million Tumans, and no money had traded hands either; the plaintiff put his hand on the Koran and swore and accused me of breaching his trust [and embezzling his money]. The thirteen thousand and change people in here are a bunch of people who don’t know how to talk properly and didn’t know how to talk to the judge.
In here, I’m the Hall’s health and hygiene supervisor. I am not allowed to practice medicine but I help the infirmary’s doctor. No one is sick in our wing, but in the Prison in general, gallbladder disease, influenza, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and AIDS are wreaking havoc. Everybody gets depressed when they get here, they develop depression, psychosis, and insanity, and they alleviate their pain with methadone. There are so many things in here that are not supposed to be here. In accordance with the Penitentiary By-Laws, the person in charge of locating sick prisoners, and the Prison Clinic’s physician, must conduct daily visits of each wing; but how can you detect the sick ones in a hall where there are 200 prisoners sleeping on the floor? The infirmary physician is supposed to see 50 patients a day with just 260 medications. The infirmary liaison sells even those medications in the wing in exchange for cigarettes: A pack of cigarettes for one sheet of pills. The officials say we have to allot cultural [activities] for prisoners. What the heck is cultural and welfare allotments good for with this huge number of addicts in here?”
Prisoner “H” already carries the title of “Doctor” and has been the unfettered and direct witness to so many scenes and so many moments that have gone unreported in that same Prison, same Wing, and same cells where the people have no mercy on humanity. In this vast 240-acre wasteland, where the light-less surrounding roads are the stomping grounds of stray dogs, hooligans, and rapists lying in wait to detect the shadow of a passerby, where the only recreation for thousands of convicted men inside is taking repetitive steps in the lifeless, colorless space that is “the open air” yard, where privacy is a meaningless, non-existent concept in this enclosed four walls, the harshness of the payback is more than these human beings can bear.
The thought of being locked up behind a high wall without a single opening, and [having to] equate “freedom” with the many layers of the foul stench of [the town of] Kahrizak’s sewage system, and their mind being filled with the yearning for a single, solitary moment of being like other human beings, drives them to insufferable impatience and they think of doing something drastic: Self-beating, suicide, homicide, filling their body to the rim with narcotics, and doing a thousand other things that give new meaning to the term “correctional center”.
There was an old man, Mehdi, whose complexion had turned yellow at 7:10 in the morning, “I can’t see anything,” he said. The nurse’s aid said: “He’s pretending to be sick.” He died at 8:50. Tears were running down his cheeks before Death took him away. “I didn’t see my grandchild,” he mumbled.
Ojaghi was 24 years old; attempted suicide 4 times. We brought him back each time, and every time we did, he would say “I’ll do it again”. The fifth time, when he had just come back from a conjugal visit, he hanged himself over his bed.
Prisoner “I” gives me a statistical report, a report on the black market in a closed-off, guarded institution: Prison.
“The cost of mailing a letter in the Services and Employment Wing, eight thousand three hundred Tumans; in Wing 1, 15 thousand Tumans. Writing a complaint, two and a half million Tuman. B2 pill (buprenorphine), 50 thousand Tumans each. A gram of meth, 120 thousand Tumans. A gram of hashish, 220 thousand Tumans. A gram of heroin, 250 thousand Tumans. A gram of opium, 200 thousand Tumans. A pack of Winston cigarettes, 20 thousand Tumans; a pack of Kent cigarettes, 10 thousand Tumans; a pack of Bahman cigarettes, 7 thousand Tumans. A soccer ball, 100 thousand Tumans; a volleyball ball, 50 thousand Tumans. A sports net, 250 thousand Tumans.
There is no index for inflation in prison. Each unit’s “think tank” determines the price of every amenity and every service: Hard-working, and holding regular meetings like a town council, it makes decisions regarding a prisoner’s every breath, his privacy and independence in a 1.5 square meter (16 square feet) space, and regarding how a prisoner is to stay alive in this forgotten 110 Hectare (240 acre) wasteland in a corner of the city of Tehran. Corruption and strong-arming and bullying in the prison are authorized by this very ‘think tank’.”
Prisoner “J” said: “Every Wing has a million Tumans per day in expenses. It’s known as the “Zir Hasht” expense. In order to come up with this sum, the ward representative has to collect every inmate’s share, and sell drugs on top of that to get to the one million … The rich, from the moment the first come in, they buy rugs, refrigerators, and TV sets for the wing, to either become the ward representative or get special privileges and amenities in the ward. Wings 1 and 4 (reserved for theft and hooliganism inmates) is like Mexico: In Wings 1 and 4, every newcomer chooses his own “chick” from the get-go. All prisoners must go to the open air yard to smoke cigarettes, but in Wings 1 and 4, they smoke inside the Wing itself and use drugs out in the open; you can see that any time of day you go there. They only hide in some corner when they want to inject themselves. The drug trade in Wings 1 and 4 creates a sort of income for the prisoners; there’s everything there; there’s injection, there’s syringes, there’s two or more people using the same syringe. And in Wings 1 and 4, all the prisoners are armed: sword, cutter, knife; you can find anything you want in these two Wings.
Prison is where you wither away, where you rot. Your thoughts rot away, your body rots, your emotions, your human values, everything rots away, human beings rot away. What comes out of prison has no resemblance to what went in, to what there was before going to jail. Prison makes new content for human beings, content devoid of any semblance of what is reasonable in life in society. Prison life is like a foundry cast: It molds whatever it wants in that cast. The isolation and the bitterness of being a stranger in prison, at dawn and at dusk, become entangled and the prisoner withers away like a bullet in a war zone, alone and isolated, summarized in a single dimension, a being that has basic needs, but to no avail. If he’s lucky enough to get out and be free again, he gets dizzy as soon as he sets foot outside, for returning to the same society that had gifted him to the correctional and punishment system. He forgets about not being guilty and goes back to the same obscure haze and starts to get matched up with his kind, again.
Prisoner “K” said: “An internet company has installed telephones in all the wings. In order to call, you must put money in your phone card, a smart card that only saves 8 phone numbers. I have my home phone, my mother’s phone, my kids’ number, the number for the court, and my lawyer’s number. I can’t dial any other numbers. The financial crimes wing is the only wing that does not have limitation on phone use, but in all the other wings, a prisoner is only allowed to talk half an hour on the phone … The prison library never has any decent books. Only two newspapers are delivered to the financial crimes wing, which we have to buy; we pay 220 thousand Tumans a month just for newspaper ... There is no hot water in Wings 1 and 4, and they have limitations on showers. Wing 2 has a shortage of hot water because the water heating system is old … The open air yard has no plants, no greenery whatsoever, not even a weed grows there … The entire Penitentiary has one amphitheater which is in Wing 1 and other wings cannot use it because coming and going between wings is prohibited … Our entire personal effects consists of a shirt, a pair of pants, and a pair of shoes for court appointments. When you first enter the prison, they give you an undershirt, underwear, a towel, and a shampoo; every 40 days, they give every prisoner a small Darugar [brand] shampoo, handwashing liquid, and 2 kilos and 700 grams 5.9 pounds) of sugar cubes as your prison ration, but you have to buy dishwashing liquid, toothbrush, toothpaste, and towel yourself.
Wings 1 and 4 (thieves and hoodlums) inmates don’t have any money to buy a towel and toothbrush, and 4 people use the same towel and even wear each other’s clothes … In order to work in the wood-carving, carpentry, painting, and traditional tile-making workshops, an inmate must submit a request which must be approved by the Prison Council. But the number of applicants is high, and the number of workshops is low. So the prisoner is condemned to having nothing to do all day …
The infirmary’s doctors have either been exiled here or are here because of a reprimand, or their medical practice permit was about to expire and they sent them there. All they care about is to catch the bus at the end of business every day and get out of here even if there is an inmate on his deathbed. One of the prisoners went to the prison dentist to take out a tooth, and half of the tooth was left in his mouth; half of that decayed tooth was left in his mouth …
With this large number of prisoners in here, we do not even have a Dispute Resolution Council, whereas the prison By-Laws have made it mandatory to have one. The judges hearing our cases have never even been here to see the prison conditions, not once. If they did, and saw these conditions, half of the inmates would be released. Even the Judiciary Branch’s representative has never been here. Only the Tehran Prosecutor and the head of the Prosecutor’s Office come, which serves no purpose and doesn’t do us any good. We made a mistake, granted, but we have to repay for our mistake with 7 years, 18 years in prison? How are we supposed to go back to society and to our families? How does it benefit the plaintiff for us to be in here for 7 years, 18 years? My kid is now 18 years old. He won’t even remember who I am when I go back home. And he shouldn’t.
I have lived all these years with a thief who has 16 convictions for theft and no one has ever asked him ‘why did you steal, young man?’ Prison and incarceration are not and do not mean the same thing as rehabilitation and correction.”
Governments do not ask a thief why he stole, they do not ask a murderer why he killed, a forger why he forged, or a swindler why he committed fraud. From the government’s perspective and by their definition, theft, murder, forgery, and fraud are crimes; the whys don’t matter, there is no answer for them; the norms and definitions are mandatory. Svetlana Alxievich, the Belarus writer who writes in Russian wrote: “Loneliness is the biggest suffering, away from society, alone and silent.”
A human being who gets incarcerated because he has not acted according to the government’s norms will be alone even after he is freed, even when he is with his closest friends, and people who love him and care about him; he is condemned to a life of loneliness. A human being who becomes familiarized with the pain of loneliness in prison, in that overcrowded company of people like him, feels the suffering of this ill in every fiber of his being, as if a cancerous tumor has taken root in some part of his body, a tumor that will never be neutralized and become dormant with any kind of medication.
In May of this year, a letter was written by an inmate, a letter from the Greater Tehran Penitentiary. This letter was a complaint about the violation of prisoners’ rights, and the evidence presented was the inmate’s medical records and the attachments to the letter. This prisoner, father of two children 6 and 11 years old, who had been transferred on a financial crime conviction to the Greater Tehran Penitentiary on October 28, 2017, had submitted a request for an inquiry to the Medical Examiner’s Office Commission because of his deteriorating physical health due to serious cardiac disease – he had had 2 open heart surgeries and had needed to change the heart valves – and because he was unable to pay for the costs associated with his illness and the surgeries. Upon the approval of the Rajai (Cardiac) Hospital, Taleqani Hospital, and Imam Khomeini Hospital, as well as the Prison’s infirmary, a commutation of the sentence and release order was issued for this inmate based on the Commission’s latest findings, but the judge would not issue a ruling to release him.
The prisoner had stated in his complaint that over the course of 30 months in jail, he had submitted separate written requests to the Head of the Judiciary, the President, the President of the Majless (“Parliament”), the Majless’ Judicial Commission, and the Supreme Leader’s Office, but had thus far not received a response from any of them.
This report does not address the conditions of political prisoners in the Penitentiary due to obvious limitations for the media in Iran. For further information regarding the situation of political prisoners and further untold stories from this Penitentiary, please refer to this HRANA report.