By Kayhan Life Staff
Inmates at the Bushehr Central Prison’s women’s cellblock in the southern province of Bushehr live under “inhumane conditions” and are “violently tortured,” Sepideh Gholian, a civil rights activist, has said in a series of tweets.
Ms. Gholian was transferred from Tehran Evin Prison to Bushehr Central Prison in 2020. Prison authorities recently granted her a medical furlough.
Gholian has alleged that women prisoners in the general population are forced to “expose their genitals, engage in sex and enter sigheh” (temporary marriage).
Gholian has reportedly flagged at least 20 cases of violation of prisoners’ rights to the authorities, but has received no reply, only “deafening silence.”
“The women’s ward of Bushehr Central Prison is a place close to the end of the world,” Gholian tweeted on Sept. 9. “When they sent me to this prison last year, I knew I was in a forgotten hell. However, I never imagined such cruelty could exist in this prison. Inmates, whose only crimes are to be women and prisoners, are kept in inhumane conditions and are violently tortured.”
The Iranian public does not hear much about the conditions of prisoners because most of those convicted of criminal offenses are not well-known figures whose grievances get the attention of the media.
Some reports, including a series of tweets by Sepideh Gholian, have shed some light on the alleged systematic mistreatment of prisoners, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
Surveillance footage leaked to social media by an Iranian hacker group, Edalat-e Ali (“Ali’s Justice”), last week showed guards at Tehran’s Evin Prison beating a man in handcuffs, as well as a fight between a guard and another man in uniform.
The footage sparked public outrage, prompting the head of Iran’s Prison Organizations, Mohammad Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi, to issue an apology for the “unacceptable behavior.” The head of Iran’s Judiciary, Mohsen Ejei, called for an investigation into the incident.
Gholian said she had “tried various ways to raise alarm about the horrific conditions in this prison to everyone I know. It is like screaming while being confined inside four stone walls. I want to reach those who care about the awful conditions women inmates in Bushehr Prison are forced to endure. These women are fed up and cannot remain silent in the face of such violence and cruelty.”
Gholian, who was placed in the general population after her transfer from Tehran’s Evin Prison to Bushehr Central Prison a year ago, described the women’s cellblock as a “black hole” where “the authorities crush any disobedience and resistance with extreme cruelty and violence.”
In her tweet, Gholian told the story of five women prisoners, not using their real names to protect their identities, who were allegedly “forced into sex and temporary marriages,” adding that the warden of the women’s cellblock was “complicit” in the actions.
“Women who do not receive money from their families enter a temporary marriage with male inmates in the prison’s financial crimes section,” Gholian alleged. “Anyone who complains is severely tortured. A prisoner is threatened with physical violence, solitary confinement, and torture. They revoke the prisoner’s telephone privileges, ban her from receiving visitors, and cancel her furlough. They also examine her sexual organs in front of prison personnel and other inmates.”
Gholian alleged that prison guards had wrapped the child of an Afghan prisoner in a burial shroud to scare him, so he would go to sleep early.
“An Afghan prisoner, Zahra [not her real name], who had escaped the Taliban with her child, is standing in the Bushehr Central Prison’s yard, watching a mock burial. The prison guards regard Zahra’s son, Ahmad [not his real name], as illegitimate,” Gholian said. “On orders from the warden of the women’s cellblock, Zahra’s child was wrapped in a burial shroud to scare him, so he would go to bed early. Zahar was shocked and started hitting Ahmad as soon as they took him out of the burial shroud. She was begging the guards not to beat Ahmad, saying she would punish him herself.”
Gholian also alleged that the women cellblock’s warden made wearing bras and underwear mandatory for all prisoners.
“The warden for the women’s section made wearing underwear compulsory,” Gholian said in another tweet. “Maedeh [not her real name] defied the rule and decided not to wear a bra all the time. To punish Maedeh, the current social worker in the ward forced all women to hand over all their underwear and bras. She regards all women prisoners as prostitutes and threatened to remove their underwear forcibly if they did not hand them over voluntarily.”
Gholian also said that prison authorities punished an inmate that would shower outside the scheduled time.
“Prisoners can shower only at certain times,” Gholian said in another tweet. “Sahar [not her real name] showered outside the designated time. To punish her, guards decided to ‘cleanse’ her in front of everyone in the prison yard. After stripping Sahar naked, the warden and the social worker Ghusl [purified] her with milk and mineral water.”
“They forced other prisoners to watch and boo her,” Gholian added. “The phone privileges of a prisoner are taken away if she refuses to watch the spectacle. The guards forced dozens of horrified and angry eyes to stare at her naked body. Everyone felt lonely and vulnerable.”