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Evin Prison (Persian: زندان اوین Zendān Evin) is a prison in Iran, located in Evin, northwestern Tehran. It is noted for its political prisoners' wing, where prisoners have been held both before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Due to the number of intellectuals that the prison housed, it was nicknamed "Evin University".
Constructed in 1972 under the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Evin Prison is located at the foot of the Alborz mountains on the former home of Ziaeddin Tabatabaee, who briefly served as prime minister in the 1920s. The grounds of the prison included an execution yard, courtroom and separate blocks for common criminals and female inmates. Originally operated by the Shah's security and intelligence service, SAVAK, Evin quickly supplanted Qasr Prison as "the country's Bastille". Initially designed to house 320 inmates (20 in solitary cells and 300 in two large communal blocks), Evin expanded to hold more than 1,500 prisoners (including 100 solitary cells for the most important political prisoners) by 1977.
Under the Islamic Republic, the prison population was again expanded significantly, holding 15,000 inmates according to scholar Ervand Abrahamian. "In theory, Evin was a detention center for those awaiting trial", after which the prisoners would be transferred to another prison, Qezel Hesar or Gohardasht Prison. "In reality, Evin served as a regular prison as many waited years before being brought to trial", and prominent prisoners often served their entire sentences in Evin". Executions also took place at Evin. Following the Islamic Revolution, Mohammad Kachouyi was made warden of Evin. After his assassination in June 1981, Asadollah Lajevardi, the chief prosecutor of Tehran, served as warden until 1985. In 1998, the People's Mujahedin of Iran assassinated Lajevardi.
The prison is located in a residential and commercial area known as Evin, next to the Saadat Abad district. There is a large park area with a popular upscale teahouse and restaurant located immediately next to it. Photography in front of and around the prison is illegal.
On 23 June 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was arrested for taking photographs in front of the prison, and died of blunt trauma to the head, while imprisoned. The Iranian government said that she died from a stroke while being interrogated. Doctors examining Kazemi's body found evidence of rape, torture and a skull fracture.
Prisoners held after the Islamic revolution include Marina Nemat, who spent two years in Evin from 1982, having participated in anti regime protests at her school. She has written about her torture and the death of her fellow students at the prison.
Political prisoners of note held at Evin have included Akbar Ganji (held there from 2000 to 2006), Mohsen Sazegara (in 2003), Nasser Zarafshan, as well as Hamid Pourmand (2005-6), Dariush Zahedi, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, on charges of espionage (2003), subsequently acquitted in 2004, and Ramin Jahanbegloo (2006).
On the morning of November 17, 2008, Ali Ashtari, a computer wholesaler who provided intelligence about Iran's nuclear facilities to Mossad, was executed by hanging at Evin Prison after being convicted in June 2008.
Esha Momeni, a student at the California State University, Northridge, was held at Evin after her arrest on October 15, 2008, for crimes against national security. She was in Iran to visit family and research women's rights in the country. Momeni was released 11 November 2008.
Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, was arrested in January 2009 for reporting without press credentials with a charge of espionage added in April. She was held in the Evin Prison as well. She was released in May 2009.
Iranian laser physicist, Omid Kokabee who at the time of arrest was a student of University of Texas at Austin is imprisoned at Evin since February 2011 and was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment on charges such as collaboration with enemy. French student Clotilde Reiss, who stood trial in August 2009 was also held there. Ehsan Naraghi, a writer, was also believed to be held as a political prisoner in Evin.
Andrew Barber, a British tourist, was arrested June 21, 2010 after police searched his laptop and found photos that he has taken of buildings in Iraq where he had worked for DHL, and held in Evin prison, section 209 for 58 days. He was accused of espionage due to a photograph that he has taken, but charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence and released on August 25, 2010.
Over the years, Iranian converts to Christianity have been detained for short and long periods. Recently on March 5, 2009 Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad and Maryam Rustampoor were arrested by Iranian security forces and labeled "anti-government activists". Thirty year-old Marzieh and 27-year-old Maryam were held at Evin Prison, which is notorious for treating women badly. "Women are allowed just a one-minute telephone call everyday to their immediate families". On November 18, 2009, Maryam and Marzieh were released without bail but the charges remained intact. In April 2010, five months after their release, a general court trial date is announced. In May 2010 Maryam and Marzieh are cleared of all charges.
Three Belgian tourists, Vincent Boon-Falleur, Idesbald Van den Bosch and Diego Mathieu, have been detained in Evin Prison for 3 months in 2009. Idesbald and Vincent were arrested on September 5, 2009, for entering an unmarked Iranian Military Zone near Semnan, and were detained in Semnan for 3 days, before being transferred to Evin. Diego was later (16 September) arrested at the Iran-Turkmenistan border, because the three had met the 4th of September and exchanged phone numbers. The three were accused of spying and detained for three months (8 September—8 December 2009) in Section 209 of the Evin Prison, first for a few weeks in solitary confinement, and then in 4-person cells with other Iranians. They have been released thanks to Belgian diplomatic negotiations.
Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari was imprisoned in Evin for 118 days, after being in Iran while there on assignment to cover the controversial 2009 Iran presidential election. Bahari documented his time at Evin in his memoir, titled Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, which was published by Random House in 2011. The memoir is the basis of an upcoming film called Rosewater (film), which was written and directed by The Daily Show host Jon Stewart. The film's title references the nickname Bahari gave his interrogator/torturer at Evin, based on the man's cologne.
Three long time Middle-Eastern residents, Americans convicted by the Iranians of spying for Israel, Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd, who were on holiday in Iraqi Kurdistan and were detained by Iran, have been held in Evin Prison since around the beginning of August 2009. Shourd was kept in solitary confinement. The Washington Post reported that "Shane Michael Bauer 27, Joshua Felix Fattal 27 and Sarah Emily Shourd 31 were arrested in July  by Iranian border guards while hiking in the mountainous Kurdish region between Iraq and Iran. Their families say they crossed the border accidentally, but a top Iranian prosecutor last month accused the three of spying." In December, 2009, Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said the three would be put on trial, in a move that coincided with other points of contention between the two countries. Sarah Shourd was freed Sept. 14, 2010, on a $500,000 bail. Two days before, the three Americans had been charged with espionage by Iranian prosecutors.
The prison also held members of religious minorities including members of the Bahá'í Faith — on May 14, 2008, members of an informal body that oversaw the needs of the Bahá'í community in Iran were arrested and taken to Evin prison. They were held in section 209 of the prison which is run by the government's Ministry of Intelligence. On August 11, 2010 it became known that the court sentence was 20 years imprisonment for each of the seven prisoners which was later reduced to ten years. After the sentence, they were transferred to Gohardasht Prison.
According to Saberi, the two Baha’i women are confined in a small cell about four meters by five meters in size, with two little, metal-covered windows. They have no bed. “They must sleep on blankets”, said Saberi. “They have no pillows, either. They roll up a blanket to use as a pillow. They use their chadors as a bed sheet.
From January to May 2010, student activist Majid Tavakoli was held in Evin, primarily in solitary confinement. He began a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his imprisonment, and was transferred to Gohardasht Prison in August 2010.
Human rights blogger and U.S. National Press Club honoree Kouhyar Goudarzi served a one-year prison term in Evin in 2010 for "spreading propaganda against the regime". On 31 July 2011, he was rearrested, and though his current whereabouts are unconfirmed, he is believed to be being held in solitary confinement in Evin.
Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor, was sentenced on January 27, 2013 to 8 years imprisonment on charges of evangelizing for his Christian faith.
Mohammad Heidari and Kourosh Ahmadi, accused of spying for CIA and Mossad, were executed in the prison in May 19, 2013 after being sentenced to death by Tehran’s Revolutionary Court for various counts of espionage.
In August 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented in a live broadcast on the state radio on rape and torture in the Iranian prisons and said, "In some detention centers inappropriate measures have taken place for which the enemy was again responsible".
Following the election, Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi said that several male and female protesters held behind bars have been savagely raped, according to a confidential letter to powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Karroubi warned that this was only a "fragment" of the evidence he had and that if the denials did not stop, he would release even more.
Roxana Saberi, who spent 100 days in Evin in 2009, accused of espionage and threatening Iran’s national security. She had been living in Iran for six years, working as a journalist and writing a book about modern Iran based on interviews with a broad cross-section of society, when she was detained. She later described her ordeal in a book: Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran (2010).
It is said that rape has been used by interrogators in Iran for decades. During the 1980s, the rape of female political prisoners was prevalent. It was so prevalent that it prompted Hussein-Ali Montazeri, who was Ayatollah Khomeini’s deputy at the time, to write the following to Khomeini in a letter dated October 7, 1986: "Did you know that young women are raped in some of the prisons of the Islamic Republic?"
Two prominent members of Iran’s human rights community, the feminist lawyer and journalist Shadi Sadr and the blogger and activist Mojtaba Saminejad, published essays online from inside Iran arguing that far from being a new phenomenon, prison rape has a long history in the Islamic Republic.
References and notes
- Inskeep, Steve. "Iran's Evin Prison Likened to Torture Chamber." National Public Radio. 19 July 2007. Retrieved on 8 July 2010.
- Abrahamian, Ervand (1999). Tortured confessions: prisons and public recantations in modern Iran. University of California Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-520-21866-6. Retrieved 24 December 2009.
- Abrahamian, p. 135-6
- Abrahamian, p.135
- Abrahamian, p.136
- Schmidt, Andréa (2005-11-19). "Killer images". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
- Indepth: Zahra Kazemi CBC News Online | Updated November 16, 2005 Retrieved 25/09/07
- Impunity in Iran: Death of Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi from the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
- "Iran executes 29 in jail hangings." BBC. Sunday July 27, 2008. Retrieved on June 14, 2013.
- Bamford, James. "The Secret War." Wired. June 12, 2013. "2. Retrieved on June 14, 2013.
- Iran: Arbitrary detention/ fear of torture or other ill-treatment: Esha Momeni (f). 21 October 2008, Ehsan Naraghi, writer, he was political prisoner in Evin.amnesty.org
- IRAN Esha Momeni (f), student. 21 October 2008
- "Amnesty: Iran frees American-born grad student". CNN. 2008-11-11. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- Nazila Fathi, "American Journalist Stands Trial in Iran," New York Times, Tuesday, April 14, 2009, available online at http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/15/world/middleeast/15iran.html?hpw
- "U.S. Reported Jailed in Iran to Be Freed 'Today'." Fox News Online. Fox News Channel. 11 May 2009 available online at http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,519721,00.html.
- Iranian 'Blogfather' Hossein Derakhshan is arrested on charge of spying for Israel
- O'Shea, Gary (25 August 2010). "58 days in Iran prison for photo". The Sun. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- Cleared of all charges: Maryam and Marzieh go free!
- CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/01/26/iran.hikers.belgians/index.html
- ABC, http://abcnews.go.com/International/exclusive-prison-taking-toll-us-hikers-iran/story?id=9677062
- "Mothers continue fight for release of Iran hikers", by The World, July 20, 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
- "Iran intends to go forward with espionage trial of 3 Americans: Move comes week after release demand directed at U.S.", by Kay Armin Serjoie, Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin, Washington Post, December 15, 2009. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
- CNN (2008-05-16). "Iran's arrest of Bahá'is condemned". CNN. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- Amnesty International (2009-06-03). "Iran: Seven Baha'is Leaders Risk Execution". Amnesty International. Retrieved 2009-10-24.
- Los Angeles Times. IRAN: Court sentences leaders of Bahai faith to 20 years in prison. 11/08/2010.
- Los Angeles Times. Sentences for Iran's Baha'i leaders reportedly reduced. 16/09/2010.
- AFP. Families fear for Bahais jailed in Iran. 16/02/2011.
- "Inside Evin Prison". World Citizinship. bahai.org. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
- "MAJID TAVAKKOLI, IMPRISONED STUDENT LEADER". Amnesty International. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (30 September 2011). "Mystery surrounds suicide of Iranian bloggers". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (31 December 2011). "Mother Of Political Prisoner Sentenced To Prison For Publicizing Son’s Case". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "Iran hangs ‘Mossad spy' for scientist killing". Al Jazeera English. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- "U.S. condemns sentencing of American pastor in Iran". Reuters. 27 January 2013.
- "Iran hangs two men claimed to have acted as spies for Mossad and CIA". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- Iranians Say Prison Rape Is Not New
- Protest prison chief jailed in alleged rape, abuse scandal
- Reformer in Iran Publishes Account of a Prison Rape
- Shame On Iran
- Powerful New Book Describes Iranian-American’s Ordeal in Iran
- New Prison-Rape Allegations In Iran Bring Practice To Light
- List of prisons # Iran
- Human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran # Notable prisons
- Judicial system of Iran #Prison system
- White torture # Iran
- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad # Human rights
- 1988 executions of Iranian political prisoners
- Zahra Kazemi
- Zeynab Jalaliyan
- Inside Iran's most notorious jail, BBC News report on a visit to the prison given by a group of domestic and foreign journalists.
- Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions, University of California Press, 1999
- Evin Prison on Google Maps
- Photograph of Evin prison