Documents Reveal Evin Prison's Response to November 2019 Unrest

November 3, 2021
3 min read
Documents Reveal Evin Prison's Response to November 2019 Unrest

Cyber-activists behind an apparent hack of Evin Prison’s CCTV cameras that made global headlines in August have reportedly uncovered classified documents detailing Iranian prison officials’ response to the November 2019 protests.

Documents sent to BBC Persian by the group, Edaalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice), dated mid-November to late December 2019, purportedly contain a set of confidential instructions for the Evin Prison superintendent.

On November 17, 2019, two days after a three-fold hike in gas prices sparked mass protests across Iran, the Prisons Bureau of Tehran Province warned officials about the possibility of attacks on Rajaei Shahr Prison “to free political prisoners”.  Not nine months earlier, then-Chief Justice Sadegh Amoli Larijani had publicly claimed there were no political prisoners in Iran.

According to the BBC, two days later, another message to Evin Prison then warned that on-site security must be stepped up because locations belonging to the judiciary could be attacked “on the pretext of protests against the rationing of gas and the increase in gas prices”. Marked both “classified” and “urgent”, the BBC said, the document also instructed the prison’s head of security to prevent “miscellaneous individuals” from entering the rooms where documents are archived.

Finally a document sent to reporters dated December 25, 2019 reportedly includes instructions on the use of firearms by prison guards. The Prisons Bureau of Tehran Province is quoted as saying: “Certain guard units have been confused about... the use of firearms to control and manage recent unrests and also to protect locations they are guarding. According to instructions, they must always try to use other means to control the crowds but, sometimes, the use of firearms is unavoidable.” 

Other documents instructed prison officials to ensure employees “be taught how to correctly maintain firearms and ammunition”, to aim at people’s feet as far as possible and “take care that they are not killed” if they needed to defend themselves.

From August 22 this year, Edaalat-e Ali began releasing CCTV footage from Evin Prison to the public via its Telegram channel, claiming to have hacked the IT systems of Iran’s second-largest penitentiary. The 16 video clips published by August 25 cells included instances of guards beating prisoners, solitary confinement, drug-dealing, medical neglect and instances of self-harm. One lengthy recording also appeared to affirm the previously-reported existence of a basement housing LGBT+ prisoners.

Officials in the Iranian judiciary did not deny the authenticity of the footage, which included what Amnesty International described as “clear examples” of torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment.

Edaalat-e Ali’s new disclosure to the BBC comes weeks before the second anniversary of the November 2019 protests. Up to 3,000 people are believed to have been killed by security forces during the ensuing bloody crackdown, while thousands more were rounded up and jailed in facilities like Evin. Many of the detained November 2019 protesters have been subjected to torture and wanton ill-treatment behind bars. The families of those killed and imprisoned have also been threatened by regime officials.

Next week a landmark tribunal in London will seek to establish the facts of what happened in Iran that month, and who bears responsibility for crimes against humanity committed during the brutal suppression of the protests.

Related coverage:

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Aban Tribunal: 133 Iranian Officials Accused of November 2019 Crimes

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