Prisoners of "love"
Evin, Part 3: Housing arrangement for female inmates
February 27, 2007
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In 1993, female offenders were no longer held at Ghasr or Ghezel-Hessâr prisons; Evin was now officially the only prison in Tehran where they were incarcerated. It was situated on the mountain slopes of Darakeh and had a vast courtyard that held administrative buildings, place of worship, infirmary, and all kinds of stores including a pastry shop. The women’s section building was on the northern end of the courtyard whose gardens could not be viewed by the inmates and bounded by a mountain. The women prison’s small airing and strolling space was dry, empty and without greenery. On the first floor there was a general warehouse and a medication depot. The infirmary was on the second floor, and on the third floor the office of the Warden of the women’s prison was at its entrance, which opened to a long corridor in the back.
As one left the backdoor of the third-floor office to enter the corridor, on the right side there was a kitchen, toilets and washrooms, three public phone kiosks, a sanatorium for prison employees; and on the left side, four communal wards behind four small rooms in a row that opened to the corridor. Each room measured about three by four metres and supposed to be a place of work for social workers and prison guards. Each had a broken table and a bunk-bed covered with tattered blankets on the upper and lower bunks. One of them also had a worn-out kelim on the floor. To enter each communal ward, one had to go through one of theses small front rooms. Each ward had two floors.
They were called, for instance, Upper Ward #1 or Lower Ward #2. A staircase connected the upper and lower wards. On each floor, there was one washroom / toilet, one bathroom, and 7 common cells with doors removed. So, each communal ward had 14 open cells; a total of 56 open cells in all the women’s prison. The size of each cell was 4X5 metres, made for 3 people but had 21 beds piled three high filled with 15 to 50 inmates. In the upper wards, there were windows that opened to the airing backyard; one had to look downward in order to see the backyard. Each cell had two windows, but glasses were painted white to obstruct the outside view. There was an open window for aeration above the obstructed windows and near the ceiling. Behind all the windows, there were metallic bars. The block of four communal wards was called the #216.
Having had gobelin tapestry weaving and other activities, the Communal Ward #1 was called "Cultural Ward," and teenage inmates were placed in two of its open rooms. The Communal Ward #2 did not have any specific name and contained a great number of women political prisoners that were mixed with the ordinary inmates. Prisoners of the Communal Ward #3 were evacuated in that summer of 1993 for repair and re-painting its walls; they were inserted into other wards. The Communal Ward #4 was called "Carpet- weaving Ward" and "Jihad Ward"; it contained a less number of inmates and those who had committed lighter offences. Each communal ward had a go-between or communicator between the prisoners, the social workers and the prison officials; one who was chosen from among the prisoners.
In the two teenagers rooms in the Ward #1, prisoners of age 12 to 18 were placed; but at the time because of the shortage of space, older women, i.e., women up to age 35, were also placed in those rooms. Each room contained 35 inmates. The Islamic Republic’s Prisons’ Organization was housing together different categories of prisoners - adult political prisoners and ordinary offenders ranging in age up to seventy five years old were living alongside children. They were all housed in the same communal ward, they ate together, slept close-by and basically lived together. In Evin women’s prison, there was no consideration for the inmates’ age or type of offence.
All prisoners, from nine or twelve-year-old girls to seventy-five year-old women, from women who had broken a shop window or had had sexual relations with men outside of marriage or were sex workers to thieves and murderers and heroin dealers, were placed in common wards and especially in common cells. One third of women prisoners were only accused of an offense or crime, and not convicted. Both the accused and the convicted were placed beside each other in common wards and cells. It was only the political prisoners who were placed in common cells separate from the rest of the inmates, although they had permanent contacts with ordinary prisoners. Also, there were 8 year-old girls and teenagers in prison who were prisoners’ daughters. No one had ever questioned this practice that was so damaging to the youth. There were women prisoners who were severely mentally ill, but were kept inside the prison. One of these women was also pregnant.
According to the prisoners, there was a 5th ward, called Sanatorium Ward, that contained at least 3 floors and 600 solitary cells. On each floor, there were 10 long and parallel corridors; each corridor containing 20 solitary cells; and each cell having a sink, a toilet, a dirty floor mat and a very small window. The solitary cells were very small. In fact, they were toilets of 2X2.50 metres each, used for solitary confinements. There was one small airing space for all these cells. There was another block of solitary cells, which was at the end of the infirmary hall and called the Ward #209 – based on the ward’s internal phone number. It consisted of more than 30 very small cells. There was talk of other solitary cellblocks somewhere else inside the Evin compound. They were supposed to be primarily for detaining political prisoners before placing them in a communal ward >>> Part 4
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