Zahedan’s Political Prisoners Suffer Cold, Hunger, Harassment
Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The political prisoners in Zahedan prison continue to endure mistreatment at the hands of personnel, the harassment of their families by authorities, malnutrition, medical negligence, arbitrary restriction on furlough, and the temperature extremes of an overcrowded prison without climate control.
Constructions and repairs on two wards have dragged on since last year and exacerbated overpopulation concerns at the prison, where many inmates spend nights on their floor.
A close source said that visiting-room personnel and the supervising judge’s office are not above disparaging prisoners’ visiting kin, and cited the judge’s secretary as having particularly hostile conduct toward guests. The visiting-room personnel reportedly condone a guest-inspection protocol that is forceful and intrusive enough to have dissuaded a number of family members from returning.
Dejected at the mistreatment of their family members, some prisoners suffer from mood disorders, declaring hunger strike or attempting suicide.
“Some of the prison staff, like Haji Keykhah, get promoted every year despite mistreatment of prisoners and histories of sexual misconduct,” one Zahedan prisoner, recently released after 20 years, told HRANA. “Khalili [former personnel] and Mohsen Khajeh are two authorities who instigate fights between prisoners and staff. Each has their own group of cronies who smuggle narcotics into the prison.”
Many inmates in the political ward are denied furlough despite being lawfully eligible to take it. Inspector Ghouchi, a prison quartermaster, reportedly uses the promise of furlough to extort desperate prisoners.
As winter closes in, a lack of heating equipment has made the life unbearable for prisoners, some of whom went to lengths to purchase their own heating units — only to have them confiscated by prison authorities, who repurposed them for their own use in administrative offices.
Any of Zahedan’s 3,000 inmates desiring medical care must get in line to see a generalist for the 20 minutes they swing by the prison each day. A psychiatrist visits twice monthly for an equally narrow time frame, while dentists or ophthalmologists aren’t brought in at all.
A recently-released prisoner who worked at the cafeteria and prison shop told HRANA that the cafeteria staffs its kitchen with prisoners paid between 100 and 200 tomans [approximately $6 and $12 USD] per month, “resulting in very poor-quality meals.” The prison shop, stocking only laundry detergent and dishwasher liquid, offers nothing to supplement a hungry prisoner’s diet.
Zahedan is the capital of the southeastern province of Sistan & Baluchistan, which borders Pakistan and is home to Iran’s Baloch minority.