Day 30 of the recent round of protests against the government in Iran was marked by further protests, an intensified crackdown, and continuing confusion about a fire in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison that left at least eight dead, and perhaps many more.
Fire and blood in Evin
The Iranian authorities claim there was a "riot" in Evin on Saturday night and a fire was started by "thugs" and "troublemakers."
Sources inside the prison told IranWire that trouble broke out in wards 7 and 8. Ward 7 usually holds convicted criminals, but it is believed some of those detained in recent protests are also being held there. Some started chanting slogans and others joined in.
Prison guards and special unit forces, who were already stationed in the prison, attempted to end the protest. They were joined by reinforcements from outside. Shots rang out, piercing the sound of an alarm, and plumes of smoke engulfed the sky over Tehran, videos show.
The judiciary's Mizan news agency described the incident as a "fight between inmates and a fire," though it offered no evidence.
The initial death toll was given as four. However, Mizan said four more prisoners had succumbed to their injuries on Sunday, raising the death toll to eight. It claimed all of those who died had been held in prison on theft charges.
Activists outside Iran questioned the official version of events as well as the death toll. They said they were suspicious of the Iranian government's claims, as its descriptions of the recent nationwide protests have drastically differed from eyewitness accounts and video shared on social media.
Following the events at Evin, the Coordinating Council of Trade Union Organizations of Iranian Educators expressed deep concern in a statement. They warned: "Responsibility for the protection and health of prisoners is with the organization of prisons and the judiciary. Responsibility for the loss of life of any prisoners is on the judiciary of the Islamic Republic and will certainly have severe consequences for its perpetrators."
The statement named imprisoned teachers in Evin, including Rasul Bodaghi, Jafar Ebrahimi, Mohammad Habibi, Eskandar Lotfi, and Masoud Nikkhah.
The campaign of arrests
The nationwide detention of protesters and their defenders has continued.
Sina Yousefi, a lawyer and vice-chairman of the Human Rights Commission of the East Azerbaijan Bar Association, was arrested a day after he announced the launch of a "defence committee" for arrested people.
According to IranWIre, Sina Yousefi was detained by security agents on Friday and was transferred to an unknown location. Yousefi said that more than 1700 people have been arrested by the security and law enforcement agencies in Tabriz alone.
No information is available about the fate of several arrested protesters in the city. Aysan Adibek, a student at Tabriz Civil University, and his sister Siddiqa Adibek, also a student, were arrested last week. They have not contacted their families since their arrest and were denied access to a lawyer.
Aysan and Siddiqa Adibek's family have unsuccessfully tried to get information from the judicial and security authorities in Tabriz. Officials confirmed the arrests but gave no further details about the students’ whereabouts.
The city of Ardabil in northwestern Iran witnessed one of the largest anti-government protests in the last decade following the death of a school student in Ardabil at the hands of the Islamic Republic's security forces.
In a rare incident in the city, protesters clashed with security and police forces. Protesters blocked city streets and chanted anti-government slogans such as "Death to the dictator!" and "Azerbaijani girls, stars of the sky.”
Government forces responded by firing bullets and tear gas directly at the crowd. According to reports received by IranWire, riot squads arrested at least 50 local people and injured several others during the protests.
Eight civil rights activists from Ardabil are still detained in the central prison of this city.
Navid Syed Ali Akbar, a children's author, was arrested when armed security forces stormed his house.
According to reports, five 17-year-old students were arrested by security forces in Sarovabad city.
Hengaw, a human rights organization, said intelligence forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps stormed Somia girls' high school Wednesday and forcibly arrested students.
Three 17-year-old students of Kazemi Sarovabad High School were also arrested by the Revolutionary Guards. Five more students were arrested for writing slogans at the school.
Parva Hosseini, Shania Hosseini, Ashkan Ebrahimi, Aria Moradi and Mobeen Moradiare are among the arrested students.
New official explanations for deaths of government critics
Funeral services were held Sunday for Amin Bazargar, a former national wrestler and close friend of Navid Afkari. He was buried at the Dar al-Rahma cemetery of Shiraz, the capital of Fars province in southern Iran.
Bazargar disappeared in August 2021. Security forces informed his family Sunday that remains had been found on a mountainside in Shiraz and that DNA tests had shown that they belonged to Amin.
Meanwhile, the police chief of Urmia in the north-west province of West Azarbaijan came with a new explanation for the death of a teenager who took part in recent protests.
Hassan Sheikhnejad said 16-year-old Nima Shafaqdoost had died of an infection caused by a dog bite.
Mehr news agency quoted the police commander blaming what he called "enemy" media for contrary reports and said: "We have carried out an investigation. It is clear he was bitten by a dog three weeks ago. He went to a medical center in Urmia but refused to continue treatment in the hospital and was being treated at home. Unfortunately, due to the severity of the infection at the bite site, he eventually died."
Climbed without a hijab
Competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi defied Iran's strict dress code on Sunday, representing the country in an international tournament without a headscarf.
In a video that went viral on social media, she scaled a climbing wall with her hair tied back in a ponytail during the International Federation of Sport Climbing Asian Championships final.
The athlete, from Tehran, finished fourth at the event in the South Korean capital Seoul.