Iran Briefing exclusive report of Karoon Prison in Ahwaz
By : Muhammad Loweymi
Human Rights violations in Iran have increased recently with the number of executed people, political prisoners and those who applied for asylum increasing rapidly. These numbers show that the freedom of Iranian citizens has been repeatedly violated by Iranian Security and Intelligence forces. This situation is much worse when we look at Iranian ethnic groups and the regions where they are the majority. It is in these regions that the absence of free media and Human Rights activists leads to other kinds of Human Rights violations that the ethnic peoples, and especially prisoners, are suffering from.
The Iran Briefing Institute has provided this documentary report to describe the situation at the Karoon Prison in Ahwaz where most of the inmates are from an Arabic-Iranian ethnic group. Although Iran Briefing’s report relies on trustworthy and exclusive sources, due to security reasons, we cannot mention these sources by name, nor the names of those who collected the information.
However, in order to assess report authenticity, Iran Briefing can provide any Human Rights or official legal institutes or organizations with the list of sources, should the organization keep the information as secret and confidential from all other parties.
The Karoon prison is the biggest prison in the Khuzestan province, hosting the largest numbers of province’s prisoners population. It is located in Ahwaz near another prison called Sepidar Prison. Other prisons of Ahwaz are called “security detention centres” and they are secret.
In accordance with the prisoners’ situation and their crimes, the Karoon prison is divided into 10 sections:
1. Larceny: This section contains all those who were found guilty of larceny.
2. Drug: Inmates that committed crimes related to drug trade, cultivating or producing drugs, and using drugs are kept at this section.
3. Murderers: Murderers are kept in this section.
4. Sick Prisoners: This section contains prisoners who are suffering from transmittable diseases and need special care.
5. Drug Addicted: The section contains drug addicted prisoners or those who use drugs regularly.
6. Security and Political Section: this section is divided into 3 halls:
(i) The first one is for convicts who committed armed robberies.
(ii) The second is the temporary detention hall.
(iii) The third is for political and security prisoners (the details provided below).
7. Seven: This section is under construction
8. Non-smoking Section: This section is for non-smoking prisoners. The prison’s official pays special attention to this section because it is showed to the public when it is visited by any prison investigators or authorities.
9. Temporary Detention: This section contains those whose trials are still in process, and they are waiting for their verdicts.
10. Services Section: Skilled inmates are kept at this section. Prisoners with skills such as building construction, electrical jobs, welding and carpentry are paid lower allowances compared to the allowances outside prison.
Political section of Karoon prison:
The sixth section at the Karoon prison is known as the political prisoners section, containing the largest number of Arab-Iranian political prisoners in Iran. In contrast to other sections at Karoon prison, it is divided into three halls or subsections where political prisoners are held beside prisoners convicted of armed robbery or drug related charges. This situation is considered as a violation of prisoners’ rights because most prisoners do not prefer to be with such convicts.
Some political prisoners have stated that keeping them with such criminals is solely an effort to put more pressure and stress on them. Furthermore, the prison officials ignore the tensions that have built up because of events between political prisoners and other convicts. Although there are many problems that are common to all sections of the prisons, the political section has to share all its amenities with the every section and has the following additional issues:
– The section contains only 4 bathrooms and 5 toilets, not enough for the more than 100 political prisoners and other prisoners in section 6.
– The number of inmates held in section 6 regularly increases beyond capacity, and many inmates have to live and sleep in the toilet areas and corridors.
– In order to terrorise and put pressure on political prisoners, prison officials actively provoke non-political convicts held in section 6 to attack political prisoners.
The Living conditions of political prisoners and their treatment by the prison officials:
Inmates at the Karoon prison suffer from shortages of healthy drinking water, which causes outbreaks of disease due to unhealthy water. Prison officials ignored demands to provide healthy drinking water. Consequently, the prisoners themselves are forced to buy healthy drinking water whenever possible.
Inmates suffer from the poor quality and quantity of the prison food as well as unhygienic kitchen areas. Frequently, prison food does not contain enough calories or nutrition, and it is regularly decayed. Vegetables and fruits are not included in prison food. Consequently, most of the time prisoners have to buy food for themselves wherever possible.
Prisoners have lodged complaints of bad medical care as well as shortages of medicine. Furthermore, medical staff of the prison do not pay enough attention to the sick inmates.
Sudden and Tough Inspections:
Prison officials carry out irregular and sudden inspections. They enter the section without any warning, usually in the middle of the night. They do not take off their shoes and step on the places where prison inmates pray. They do not respect the privacy of the prisoners and look at their private property. Incidents of beating and stealing prisoner property have been reported to occur during these inspections.
Solitary confinement is regularly used to punish prisoners, elicit confession, or put more pressure on them. There are specials cells at the Karoon prison where political prisoners are psychologically and physically tortured; they are hung upside down and beaten with batons while blindfolded and restrained.
The prison’s shop is under control of the prison officials though staffed by workers from prison population. The quality and the quantity of the goods available are poor while the prices are exorbitant, sometimes more than three times than prices outside prison.
Harsh Treatments During Family Visits:
Prison officials regularly conduct various abusive and harsh treatments during family visits to the prisoners. They deprive prisoners from family visits as punishment. Family members of prisoners are treated badly without any human dignity before, during, and after the visit. In some cases family members of the prisoners are deprived from visiting because they are wearing Arabic or traditional garments.
The duration of telephone calls for all prisoners at the Karoon prison is no more than 2 minutes, and the prisoners have to wait for days due to a shortage of telephone sets at the prison. Depriving prison inmates of telephone calls is a common method at this prison.
Prison’s Amenities & Facilities:
Prison officials do not provide any amenities in the rooms of the political prisoners. Therefore, the prisoners have had to purchase their own amenities such as: air-conditioners, carpets, TV, vacuum cleaners, water cleaning filters. The cleaning of the rooms, toilets and bathrooms is done by the prisoners.
The prison administration is composed of officers, special guards and employees. Both staff and officers violate prisoners’ rights. The special guard unit that protects the prison is an armed unit composed of soldiers and officers garrisoned at the prison. This unit routinely disrupts prisoners’ lives by inspecting their rooms, as well as participating in beating them. Some incidents of the members of special guard robbing inmates’ property have also been reported.
In order to put the whole prison under the control of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, the prison administrator and all high ranking officials are selected from Revolutionary Guard members. The transition of prisoners to the secret detention centre is carried out by and under the supervision of the Revolutionary Guard only. There is a close relationship between the prison officials and the secret detention of Shahid Bandar or Chahar-shir of the Ministry of Intelligence.
Below the names of people who are known to have violated prisoners rights at the Karoon Prison in Ahwaz:
Rostami is a colonel of Revolutionary Guard and former administrator of Karoon Prison as well as Abadan, Mahshahr and Dezeful. He has been Karoon Prison administrator for 26 years. In 2010 he was arrested for committing adultery, receiving bribes and illegally possessing arms. He was also involved in financial corruption working with “Sayyedha,” a known fraud network In Ahvaz. He is currently under arrest at the Sepidar prison, awaiting a court verdict.
Kiayni is a colonel of Revolutionary Guard. He is the current administrator of the Karoon prison. He is notorious for his hostility toward prisoners. He has ordered the torture of prisoners who dare to complain about prison conditions to governmental delegations that visit the prison.
Haj Amin Sobhani:
Sobhani is the chief of the cultural and educational department of the prison. He does not allow any book, magazine or newspaper that opposes the government in section 6 of the prison. He banned Iranian-Arab prisoners from practicing their cultural ceremonies. He also prohibits prisoners’ families to wear Arabic clothes during the visit of the prisoners.
Syed Farajallah Jafari:
Jafari, the chief of prison intelligence, is actively hostile against political prisoners.
Zolfaghari is the assistant administrator of the prison and a member of Basij. He practices mental torture against political prisoners. He frequently orders night inspections without any reason.
Bahram Hatami:Hatami is an employee at the visitor’s section at the prison. He is a member of Basij who is known to be involved in smuggling drugs into the prison. He has forced prisoners’ families to wait for more than 4 hours before allowing them to visit their family member held at the prison.
Ziyaei is an employee at the prisoners families visit section at the prison. He is member of Basij, is also involved in smuggling drugs into the prison. He is hostile towards political prisoners and provokes other prisoners to act against them.
Abbaspoor is an employee in the visitor’s section at the prison and a member of the Basij. He cooperates with Syed Zayaei in smuggling drugs into the prison. He has provoked addicted prisoners to act against political prisoners in order to terrorise them.
In addition, there are some employees who violate prisoners’ rights and commit brutal acts such as physical and mental abuse, unwarranted inspections, and deprivation of lawful family visits and telephone calls. Their names are: Shejerat, Khalili, Ghalandai, Khedri, Barmazyar, Gharacheh, Karami.
The Ahwaz Secret Detention Centre of Intelligence Ministry of Iran
The official name of this place is “Sepah Yekkom” which is a Secret Detention Center discovered recently as shown in the satellite photo. Different kinds of tortures are practised against prisoners at the Ahwaz Secret Detention Centre to elicit confession. Prisoners are kept in solitary confinement where each cell is 2 meters by 2 meters, except for some cells that are used for holding prisoners while the capacity of the prison is completed. At the Detention Centre, they take all of the prisoner’s property and personal effects except for underclothes. Prisoners have no way of telling the time at the Detention Centre except from the daylight that comes into the cell from a small window at the top of the wall.
In order to put more pressure on the prisoners, during the arrest, investigation and torture, the prisoners are kept blindfolded. The prisoners cannot see the investigator during the investigation or torture. The prisoner is put on a chair; his hands are locked to the chair, and the investigators sit behind him. Only during the confession do they untie their hands and order them to write down and sign the confessions or sign what the investigators tell them to write. Most of the time prisoners are forced to talk about their activities and confess the names of those who are involved in political activities. The prisoners are also forced to accept all allegations, otherwise they face torture. Beatings, physical and mental abuse, and derogatory verbal abuse are commonly used during the investigation. Also, at the Secret Detention Centre, it is common for the prisoner to be restrained on an iron bed and beaten all over his body especially the legs with a thick cable.
Almost all political prisoners spend several months at the secret detention centre before being transferred to the Karoon prison or other prisons.
Political prisoners in the 6th section of the Karoon prison:
The Karoon prison contains the largest number of Iranian-Arab political prisoners in Iran and is rated the second prison, behind only the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, and having 175-195 political prisoners.
The processing of political prisoners starts at the Secret Detention Centre where they are tortured and forced to confess their social and political activities, explaining them in detail. Then the political prisoners’ files are sent to the Revolutionary Court which holds trial and issues the verdict on the political prisoners in coordination with the Intelligence Ministry.
In some rare occasions when a political prisoner is found not guilty by the Revolutionary Court, such people are released after considerable delay, sometimes spending several months or even some years at the Secret Detention Centre.
Most of the allegations against the political prisoners are the following:
1. Accusation of reviving the Arab-Iranian ethnic and cultural root and traditions
2. Accusation of converting Shia Arab-Iranians to Sunni sect.
Our investigation of the Secret Detention Centre is focused on these two issues.
Although the Iranian Constitution states that all ethnic and religious activities are free to be practised, the Iranian authorities do not allow Iranian Arabs in Ahwaz to practice any ethnic cultural activities because the Islamic Government is afraid of the indigenous Iranian-Arab ethnic groups in Iran due to their geographical location near Persian Gulf. Therefore, the Iranian authorities consider any cultural activities of the Iranian-Arabs as illegal activities. They violate the Iranian-Arab ethnic groups’ freedoms by arresting, torturing and imprisoning them.
Furthermore, in the absence of fair and open coverage by the media, the Iranian government tries to show Iranian-Arab political and cultural activists as being terrorist in nature. Revolutionary Courts sentence most political prisoners according to Articles 498, 499 and 500 of the Iranian Constitution which are related to breach of security code. These articles are about those who are members in any group or organization that publishes propaganda against the Iranian government. Nevertheless, the Revolutionary Court sentences some prisoners to death for allegations such as spying for an enemy, fighting against the Islamic Republic and Mofsed Fil Ardh that means “…non-believer on the earth”.
Below is the list of the political prisoners at the Karoon prison:
Names Followed by Verdict:
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