May 15, 2011
In a letter addressed to the nation of Iran, the Grand Ayatollahs, the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Human Rights Organizations across the globe, the female political prisoners transferred a week ago from Rajai Shahr prison in the city of Karaj, to Gharchak prison in Varamin [industrial city in the outskirts of Tehran], provide a harrowing account of the dire conditions at Gharchak, vowing to launch a hunger strike, protesting the violation of their rights.
It is worth mentioning that the families of these female political prisoners, also recently wrote a letter addressed to Dr. Mohammad Hassan Ziaeefar, the Head of the Iranian Islamic Human Rights Commission entitled: “Gharchak Prison in Varamin a Humanitarian Disaster Waiting to Unfold”demanding immediate attention to the dire condition of their loved ones behind bars.
Furthermore, incarcerated student Zia Nabavi, also wrote a letter last week addressed to Mohammad Javad Ardeshir Larijani, the Head of the Human Rights Council for Iran’s Judiciary about the inhumane conditions at Karun prison entitled “This is Karun Prison Where the Lines Between Humanity and Barbarity are Blurred…”. A few days after Nabavi’s letter was published, Nabavi and 25 other political prisoners were reportedly transferred from Karun prison to a prison with much better conditions called “Ordugah Klinik”.
The full content of the letter written by the female political prisoners in Gharchak Prison in Varamin is as follows:
To the honorable nation of Iran, those whose conscience is awake, the Honorable Grand Ayatollahs, the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Human Rights Organizations across the globe,
Approximately one week has passed since we a number of female political prisoner, were transferred from Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj to “Gharchak” prison” in Varamin [industrial city in the outskirts of Tehran]. We have been forced to write this letter because it is the only way for us to paint an accurate picture of the life altering events that have occurred. We are shocked at what is happening to those around us, in what can only be described as a “penitentiary” and are filled with disbelief and at a loss for words that the Islamic Republic of Iran would send prisoners to such a place with the intention to “discipline” for so many years. Those of us who have experienced the burden of captivity at Rajai Shahr prison, never fathomed the idea that after leaving a place like Rajai Shahr, we would witness something so much more horrendous.
While at the female ward at Rajai Shahr prison we witnessed all types of violence, illegal behavior and a variety of prisoner rights abuses on a daily basis. On occasion we even witnessed the killing of inmates by dangerous criminals.
As a result of our numerous complaints, two of the rooms at Rajai Shahr were eventually allocated to those charged with political/security crimes. When we began hearing murmurs of the potential transfer of female political prisoners to Kachooie prison in Karaj, we told ourselves that anything would be better than Rajai Shahr. Upon the transfer of a large number of prisoners to Kachooie prison, we began hearing of the dire conditions and how prisoners had been sent there to be “educated” and “disciplined”. This transfer led to the start of various rumors vis-a-vis political prisoners; rumors that culminated last Tuesday when we were shackled, heading towards Varamin, under tight security and extremely difficult conditions, even worse than the memories of our days under interrogation. After 3 1/2 hours on rough roads which resulted in some prisoners getting sick, we were finally transferred to Gharchak prison in Varamin a barren, desert like area outside Tehran. Suffice to say that the geographic location of the prison left us speechless and unable to imagine how our families could ever traverse such a terrain in order to visit with us in such a forsaken place.Although an entire week has passed since our arrival, nothing has been said regarding our visitation rights and we have yet to meet with our families. We will bypass what is referred to as prisoner rights and will speak only of the violation of the most fundamental of human rights of those who have been behind bars for so many years in this prison, for now we have joined their ranks and are experiencing the same unbearable conditions.
Gharchak prison in Varamin consists of 7 cells. Although each cell consists of beds that accommodate approximately a few dozen inmates, more than 200 prisoners are currently forced to share a cell. The complete lack of ventilation has led to disastrous hygienic conditions, including the stench of sewage and the existence of gases that have caused serious respiratory conditions in many prisoners. There are 2 bathrooms and 2 showers for every 200 prisoners. The lack of adequate bathrooms has forced prisoners to literally use the area inside the cells and in between the beds as “lavatories”. It is worth mentioning that because there is not even a single water tap available outside this area, prisoners also use the same bathrooms and showers to wash their clothes.
Gharchak prison offers what is referred to as three “self service meals” per day. Apart from the hygiene standards and the quality of food, last week as a result of the food rations many prisoners did not receive the much promised food that often consists of two pieces of dry bread, a potato or a small portion of macaroni. Given that many of the inmates are young, and some are even under 18, there is clearly a serious malnutrition problem amongst prisoners. Add to that the fact that self service personnel and prison guards repeatedly address prisoners in the most offensive manner possible and the risk to your life while waiting in line with other prisoners who are fighting over food, and you will understand why prisoners refer to the self service area as where you go to get “beaten up”.
Garchak prison, unlike other prisons does not have an in-house store, providing prisoners with an essential supply of food and hygienic products. The court yard area where prisoners have access to fresh air ideally accommodates a dozen inmates, however, more than 400 people use this area at all times for fresh air. This court yard with its long cement walls resembles nothing like those at Evin, Rajai Shahr and other prisons. The most gracious gesture on the part of prison officials is allowing inmates access to hot water twice a day in order to make tea; that too was unfortunately taken away when the boiling water container was thrown towards one of the prisoners, resulting in many prisoners suffering serious injuries.
The severe punishment of prisoners and the conflicts between inmates is far from what we refer to as human dignity. We ask ourselves, where in the world does a conflict over hot water and the subsequent punishment result in pulling the nails on the fingers of a prisoner? In what part of the world do they send male thugs with batons to severely beat female prisoners? Where on earth do they incarcerate 14 and 15 year old children in such unbearable conditions? Alas, we are ashamed of what we have witnessed around us and we are even more ashamed that such inhumane atrocities are taking place in our beloved country; a country that is renowned for its history, culture, art, strong traditions of Islam and philanthropy.
We the female political prisoners at Gharchak prison in Varamin, having witnessed the existing conditions, have tried repeatedly to bring the lawlessness and extreme lack of injustice at this prison to the attention of the prison authorities. To date, there has only been talk of our possible transfer to the ward allocated to “financial” prisoners and that only under the pretext to “control the overcrowding” of prison cells. The area assigned to prisoners with financial crimes is very similar to what we are currently experiencing and will as such not provide an improvement to our current condition. Our goal here is not to bring your attention to the lack of prisoner rights at Gharchak prison, a right we believe every prisoner should be afforded, but given what we have just described, what we face here is the violation of the most basic of human rights of a number of prisoners who have been sent to the worse place on earth in order to be “educated” and “punished”. Unless the judicial authorities in Iran have decided to toss aside all religious and moral laws in our country and instead base their judicial system on the principle that all criminals, regardless of the severity of their crime, deserve to die. Isn’t the Islamic principle that commands believers to do right and avoid sin considered as one of the most fundamental principles of Islamic Sharia Law? What then is the purpose of our Constitution, criminal procedures and criminal law? This letter was addressed to “those whose conscience is awake” and we once again request that the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the honorable Grand Ayatollahs and Human Rights Organizations, live up to their religious, moral and humanitarian principles and address the circumstances facing the female prisoners incarcerated at Gharchak prison in Varamin.
In conclusion we hereby announce that having witnessed the illegal and inhumane treatment of the prisoners at Gharchak, we have decided to launch a hunger strike. We will remain true to our values and stand up for our rights, knowing very well that if the current conditions continue we have no fear of losing our lives for if fear had been our driving force, none of us would find ourselves in a place like this today.Our experience have nevertheless proven that the life of a human being is considered worthless in prison, particularly in a prison such as Gharchak whose very existence leads one to question not only the law, the government of the Islamic Republic, judicial authorities, but also the basic fundamental principles of humanity itself. We turn to all those with a conscience, for those of us who are left with a shred of humanity,cannot stand by idly and remain silent when facing such an affront to human dignity.
Signed by: The Female Political Prisoners at Gharchak Prison