Payman Roshan Zamir, a political prisoner who spent one month of his six-month detention inside Ward 6 of Karoon Prison in Ahwaz, described the conditions inside Karoon Prison in an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. According to Roshan Zamir, the prison holds more inmates than its capacity and suffers from deplorable hygiene standards, and political prisoners inside the prison are mixed together with other types of prisoners who have committed crimes such as drug trafficking or murder, creating a very difficult environment for them.
“In Ward 6, which is assigned to political prisoners (before they were fortunately moved to another location), of a total of 360 prisoners only 52 were political prisoners, and the others had crimes such as theft or drugs. Even if they wanted to stand on their feet next to one another, this many prisoners would not fit inside the ward. The Karoon Prison in Ahwaz has 10 wards, and in all its wards there are more prisoners than there is space. In Ward 6 where I stayed, 150 people or more were ‘courtyard sleepers.’ All the prison authorities do is assign the prisoner to a ward; he will have to find space himself. When a political prisoner arrived, others would try to fit him wherever they could in the room. But other types of newcomer prisoners either had to have money to buy space, or if they were ex-cons their friends would help them find a space inside the ward. Otherwise, a first-time prisoner, especially those who didn’t have any money, would become a ‘courtyard sleeper.’ Because there was no other space inside the wards,” Roshan Zamir explained to the Campaign.
The head of Khuzestan Province’s Prisons Organization told Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA) on 23 April that the number of incoming prisoners in Khuzestan prisons rose 38% from last year. “This volume of incoming prisoners makes our work difficult and causes our workload to increase. Currently, each day 4,500 families come to Khuzestan prisons with requests such as visiting with prisoners,” he said.
Payman Roshan Zamir, who blogs on “Oos Peyman,” and is Editor-in-Chief of “Talar-e Haft-e Tir,” is currently out of prison on bail. His next court session will be held on 14 June at Branch 3 of the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court, with Judge Barani presiding. His charges are “propagating against the regime,” and “insulting the leader”–neither of which the political activist accepts. He was arrested at his home on 20 January and was released on 29 February after being detained inside the Intelligence Office and Karoon Prison.
After the publication of a recent letter by Zia Nabavi, addressed to Mohammad Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary’s Human Rights Council, in which he described the dire conditions of the Karoon Prison in Ahwaz, all 52 political prisoners of the prison were transferred to another prison known as a “treatment clinic,” some 20 kilometers outside Ahwaz. During telephone calls to their families, they have stated that their conditions are a lot better than they were in Karoon Prison. Even so, some 4,500 prisoners remain exposed to the horrific and sub-standard conditions of Karoon Prison. Zia Nabavi is a student who was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in exile at Karoon Prison in Ahwaz. Payman Roshan Zamir is a friend of Zia Nabavi’s who spent a month of his recent imprisonment next to Nabavi.
The Justice Minister, Morteza Bakhtiari, recently visited Karoon Prison. Reports of the visit, however, did not reflect any mention of the appalling way the prisoners were kept, the situation with hygiene and health, or the prison’s failure to separate the prisoners according to their crimes and charges, a requirement stipulated by law. “The evolution of the Khuzestan prisons, as compared to the past, is huge, broad, and unique in all aspects and areas.”
“The most important point about this prison was the existence of ‘courtyard sleepers,’ something I have never seen even in the movies. Imagine, if someone is homeless, when it snows or rains, he can take cover somewhere, but the ‘courtyard sleepers’ in Karoon Prison cannot even take refuge anywhere. They have to stay under the snow and rain, especially as it rains a lot in Ahwaz. Sometimes the ‘courtyard sleepers’ have to remain under the rain for one or two days. Occasionally, the prison sewer system acts up, too, and fills up the courtyard. Then the courtyard sleepers have to pick up their blankets and personal items and try to drain the flooded sewer, but then they have to put their blankets and things back in the same place where the sewer flood was,” Roshan Zamir told the Campaign.
He added that prisoners inside Ward 6 of Karoon Prison were not separated according to their crimes. “Fortunately, the other prisoners treated the political prisoners with respect. Maybe one of the reasons was that they [the political prisoners] had a better financial situation and many times they helped the courtyard sleepers with food and other needs. Most of the prisoners were drug addicts and did not have the energy to move. The healthiest prisoners I saw were the political prisoners. But I saw a lot of unprovoked attacks, especially when the prisoners smoked crystal meth, they would suddenly attack each other with a knife or with boiling water.”
“Karoon prisoners use unfiltered water, which is seriously dirty. Ahwaz water is unhealthy and tastes bad and it causes kidney stones. I saw a lot of prisoners who had kidney stones. They have problems with their food, too. The prisoners are not given fruits and vegetables. Only twice per month, the prison store offers fruits and vegetables. As you can imagine, if someone is lucky, he can get one kilogram of fruit a month. There is no beef or poultry on the menu. Once a week, the prison store offers meat and only those who can afford it will buy it. Most prisoners cannot financially afford it. Most of those who are involved in drug dealing inside the prison have a good financial situation. The day I was going to court, I talked to a prisoner in the car who said [some prisoners] earn about $6,0000 to $7,000 per month through selling drugs in prison,” Roshan Zamir added.