As the anti-Hijab movement entered its fifth week, Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison witnessed fire and clashes yesterday night, the media reports said. In the videos circulated through the social media, one can hear repeated gunshots.
IRNA, the state-run news agency of Iran, citing a senior security official reported clashes between prisoners and personnel. The official said prisoners set fire to a warehouse full of prison uniforms, which caused the blaze. He said the "rioters" were separated from the other prisoners to de-escalate the conflict.
The official said that the “situation is completely under control” and that firefighters were extinguishing the flames. Later, Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said that “peace” had returned to the prison and that the unrest was not related to the protests which have swept the country for four weeks.
Notably, the Evin prison is known for the notorious treatment it meted out to the inmates. Several protestors arrested since the death of Mahsa Amini in the hands of the moral police for her inappropriate wearing of hijab are kept in Evan prison. Till now, as per the reports of US-based rights monitor HRANA at least 233 protestors have been killed since Amini’s death. It also says that 32 people among the killed had been minors.
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The footages of the video circulated online showed shots ringing out as plumes of smoke rose into the sky amid the sound of an alarm. A protest broke out on the street soon after, with many chanting "Death to the Dictator!" — a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — and burning tires, circulating videos showed.
1500tasvir social media channel that observes and reports the police violation and the protests tweeted, “A Fire is spreading in Evin Prison and explosion was heard.”
Gunshots can be heard from Evin Prison and smoke can be seen.#MahsaAmini #IranRevolution#مهسا_امینیpic.twitter.com/ut5Ds0Oup9— 1500tasvir_en (@1500tasvir_en) October 15, 2022
As per the reports of AP, the witnesses said that police blocked roads and highways to Evin prison and that at least three strong explosions were heard coming from the area. Traffic was heavy along major motorways near the prison, which is in the north of the capital, and many people honked to show their solidarity with protests.
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Riot police were seen riding on motorbikes toward the facility, as were ambulances and fire trucks. There were also reports of internet blockage in the area.
According to the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran an "armed conflict" broke out within the prison walls. It said shots were first heard in Ward 7 of the prison. This account however could not immediately be verified by AP.
Evin Prison and its Celebrity Inmates
Evin Prison is not only known for its notoriety, it is also a place where the dual citizens and the Iranian progressives are kept under strict surveillance. French-Iranian Academic Fariba Adelkhah and US citizen Siamak Namazi were there in the prison when the fire broke out, the reports said.
Family of Namazi, a convict in a spying case who was released a few days ago and certainly was taken back expressed their deep concerns as they have not heard from him since the fiasco. They also asked the Iranian authority to give him some means to contact his family and release him on a furlough on the ground that he is not at all safe in the prison.
#BREAKING Fire is spreading at Evin Prison, according to videos obtained by @IranIntl. Prisoners have broken the doors to get out of their smoke-filled wards, and security forces have fired tear gas.— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) October 15, 2022
Families of prisoners have gathered outside Evin & "Death to Dictator" is heard. pic.twitter.com/RwQE78EsKd
One of the finest filmmakers of Iran Jafar Panahi and reformist politician Mostafa Tajzadeh are also reportedly held at Evin.
The Prison, which holds detainees facing security-related charges and include dual citizens, has been charged by rights groups with abusing inmates. The facility has long been known for holding political prisoners as well as those with ties to the West who have been used by Iran as bargaining chips in international negotiations.
In 2018, the prison was slapped with US sanctions. “Prisoners held at Evin Prison are subject to brutal tactics inflicted by prison authorities, including sexual assaults, physical assaults and electric shock,” the US Treasury Department wrote in a statement after announcing the sanctions in 2018.
Echoing the End days of Shah
Expressing his shock over the flares in the Evin prison Roham Alvandi, an associate professor of London School of Economics tweeted, “Shots are being fired while Evin burns.”
Recalling the days of Shah regime that was being brought down by people to install the Islamic republic. Alvandi said, “If, God forbid, political prisoners perish, then this will be an event on the scale of the Cinema Rex fire in Abadan in August 1978 that accelerated the downfall of the shah.”
Notably, the fire at Cinema Rax was the D-Moment for Shah regime as the protests started spreading uncontrollably across the country. At least 400 people were charred as the gate of the cinema was locked in the eve of 1979 Islamic revolution.
Since the death of Amini, the government has responded with a brutal crackdown, arresting activists and protest organisers, reprimanding Iranian celebrities for voicing support, even confiscating their passports, and using live ammunition, tear gas and sound bombs to disperse crowds, leading to deaths. The internet has also been shut down at different places to restrain the protestors from connecting to the world.
(With Agency Inputs)