August 26, 2021

Leaked Footage Shows Abuses at Evin Prison

Recently leaked footage from Tehran’s Evin Prison shows disturbing mistreatment of prisoners, including physical beatings and lack of proper medical care, which have drawn rightful outrage from the international community and activists. The prison, constructed in the 1970s shortly before the Iranian Revolution, has always been under scrutiny for its record of human rights abuses and is known for holding many high-profile political prisoners.

The newly leaked footage was shared to the Associated Press by an anonymous group called “The Justice of Ali,” and shows scenes from sometime within the past year. One clip shows a man attempting to cut his arm with glass from a broken mirror, demonstrating the extent of the prison’s disregard for physical safety or mental health. Other clips show appalling scenes of prison guards beating prisoners and even violence among the prison staff as well. Cramped living conditions and a lack of proper PPE amidst the pandemic are also apparent and put prisoners at more risk of contracting the deadly Covid-19 virus. These images are consistent with investigations by human rights organizations like Amnesty International over the years, which have demonstrated a record of deteriorated prison conditions and even torture.

In the past, Iranian officials have denied allegations of abuse at prisons or downplayed its extent, particularly after Evin prison received attention for its abuse of political prisoners in the wake of the 2009 protests. This week, however, the Iranian head of prisons Mohammad Mehdi Haj Mohammadi issued a rare official apology in a tweet in Farsi to acknowledge the footage and apologized to “God Almighty, our dear leader, the noble nation and the honorable prison guards, whose efforts, of course, will not be ignored under the influence of these mistakes.” Iran’s judiciary leader, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, also issued a statement calling for an investigation into the reports.

Whether Iranian leadership will actually take steps to hold prison staff accountable or improve the prison conditions remains to be seen, but there is little optimism among the international community, especially considering the long record of abuses at Evin and the history of human rights abuses from Raisi himself. In fact, Raisi’s Chief of Staff, Gholam Hossein Esmaili, used to serve as head of Iran’s Prisons Organization and was heavily involved in previous abuses at Evin Prison. Iranian authorities must abide by their human rights obligations and ensure the safety, health, and appropriate living conditions of the prisoners under their watch.

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