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Women

Women Ex-Inmates Give Accounts Of Abuse In Iran’s Tabriz Prison

February 1, 2023
Samaneh Ghadarkhan
3 min read
They described the women’s ward of Tabriz Central Prison as an overcrowded "doghouse" where prisoners were kept in the prayer room
They described the women’s ward of Tabriz Central Prison as an overcrowded "doghouse" where prisoners were kept in the prayer room
IranWire has collected the testimonies of 21 former women prisoners thanks to the help of a lawyer, Amir Mehdipour
IranWire has collected the testimonies of 21 former women prisoners thanks to the help of a lawyer, Amir Mehdipour
The arrested protesters were kept incommunicado during the interrogation process and were subjected to both verbal and physical sexual abuse by their interrogators and prison guards
The arrested protesters were kept incommunicado during the interrogation process and were subjected to both verbal and physical sexual abuse by their interrogators and prison guards
The exact number of women being kept in the Tabriz prison is unknown, but ex-inmates said the facility was so overcrowded that some women had to stay in the prison’s prayer room
The exact number of women being kept in the Tabriz prison is unknown, but ex-inmates said the facility was so overcrowded that some women had to stay in the prison’s prayer room

Iranian women inmates who have recently been released from prison in the northwestern city of Tabriz have described the living conditions there as "miserable," amid brutal crackdown by the Islamic Republic on anti-government protests that have rocked the country for more than four months.

IranWire has collected the testimonies of 21 former women prisoners thanks to the help of a lawyer, Amir Mehdipour.

They described the women’s ward of Tabriz Central Prison as an overcrowded "doghouse" where prisoners were kept in the prayer room.

The arrested protesters were kept incommunicado during the interrogation process and were subjected to both verbal and physical sexual abuse by their interrogators and prison guards.

"Some of my colleagues say that their clients have privately asked them for birth control pills during meetings in prison, without even letting their families know," Mehdipour said.

Iran has been engulfed in a wave of protests since the September death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, while in custody for allegedly violating the country's headscarf law.

The women-led protest movement represents the biggest threat to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution that brought them to power.

In response, the authorities have unleashed a fierce crackdown on dissent, killing more than 520 people and detaining over 18,000, activists say. The judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.

In the crowded prayer room

Women who have been arrested during protests in Tabriz are kept in three detention centers, most of them in Tabriz Central Prison. Others are held in a facility of the Ministry of Intelligence.

The exact number of women being kept in the Tabriz prison is unknown, but ex-inmates said the facility was so overcrowded that some women had to stay in the prison’s prayer room.

"The prayer room is like a hall, with a carpeted floor and no bed. They give prisoners a dirty blanket with a very bad smell," a recently released protester said.

"Blankets are not even available to everyone [and] women were not allowed to share a blanket. Everyone slept on the floor. The carpet of the prayer room was also very dirty," she said, adding that the prisoners were deprived of fresh air during the day.

According to the former inmates, they could not use the toilets or bathrooms without asking permission to the guards.

Regarding the health situation in the women's ward, one of them said, "A woman was lying in the corridor in front of the prayer hall for about four hours and no one cared about her at all.”

“During her epilepsy crisis she fell to the ground [but] the guards didn’t care…After a long time the prison guards attacked her and lifted her up using a stun gun."

Relatives Taken hostage

Mehdipour and several former inmates told IranWire that some protesters were forced to hand themselves over to the police after their family members were threatened or taken hostage by the authorities.

"They told me that if I don't show up at the [police] station within half an hour, my mother would remain in custody for two days," said a woman recently released from prison. 

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