Family members and protesters gathered outside Tehran’s notorious Evin prison on Sunday after a fire broke out in some building the night before, killing four inmates and injuring 61 others.
Official Iranian news agencies published the official death toll and said the four died of smoke inhalation. Ten of the wounded were taken to hospital.
Eventually a small group of family members, to demand answers about the whereabouts of their imprisoned relatives, were allowed into the prison to meet with the officials. Later, lawyers, including prominent human rights lawyer Mustafa Nili, reported that the female prisoners were fine, but some of the female prisoners were transferred.
Loud explosions were heard at the beginning fire The sound of gunfire followed, Saturday, leading to conflicting news about the source of the fire and whether a hack had been attempted.
Many of those arrested in the current wave of street protests over the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, have been taken to prison in the Iranian capital.
The protests began with calls to end the mandatory veil and withdraw the morality police from the streets, but the social movement has grown into a broader rebellion against the entire religious system.
Local media showed that protests continued on Saturday across Iran, despite attempts by the authorities to claim that they were largely made by the West.
Initial reports indicated that as many as eight prisoners were injured and one of them was shot when prison guards managed to bring the fire under control. Tear gas was used on some inmates.
Concerned friends and relatives flocked to the prison on Saturday night, but the roads were closed by police. “As if God is no longer there, we have been praying for a month,” said a woman crying as she watched the events.
The official official news agency quoted the governor of Tehran, Mohsen Al-Mansoori, as saying that the incident started after a quarrel between the prisoners.
Al-Mansoori said: “This fire resulted from a quarrel between some prisoners in a sewing workshop.” He added that “the workshop was set up to create job opportunities” for the prisoners.
He said, quoting a senior security official, that “clashes took place between prisoners in one wing and prison personnel.” The official said the prisoners set fire to a warehouse full of prison uniforms, causing the fire.
He said the “rioters” were separated from other prisoners to de-escalate the conflict, particularly in Wards 7 and 8. Officials claimed the incident was unrelated to the recent unrest in the country.
Fars News Agency, which is close to the regime, had earlier claimed that the bombings took place after prisoners stepped on landmines on a hill inside the prison, but this account was later denied.
Iran’s most famous female political prisoners, many foreign dual nationals as well as reformist politicians like Mostafa Tajzadeh, are being held in the prison known for decades for brutal interrogation methods and the use of solitary confinement to break the spirits of prisoners.
As protests continued across Iran over the weekend, an official investigation by parliament said on Sunday that Amini most likely died after collapsing inside the police station due to a pre-existing nervous condition. She said there was no evidence of physical blows to her body or brain by security forces. The investigation said the morality police need to be equipped with body cameras.
She also called for clarification of the headscarf law because the penal code is too vague. Amini’s family refused to cooperate with the investigation on the grounds that they were not allowed to appoint any doctors.
These are the levels of mistrust inside Iran, the report’s findings are unlikely to quell protests that have entered their fifth week and have killed as many as 200 people, including children and security officials.
The Minister of Education, Youssef Nouri, was also forced to deny the killing of a student by security forces in the city of Ardabil after some students refused to sing a copy of the national anthem. He said that no students were arrested. The Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Unions issued a statement describing Nouri as incompetent and repressive: “A minister who sends his innocent students to the so-called reform and education centers not only has no understanding of education, but must be seen as an investigator.”
Western officials do not believe the protests have the critical mass to advance the revolution. But US President Joe Biden said on Saturday he was surprised by the courage of protesters in Iran. The Vice President, Kamala Harris, and US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, in a sign of increased solidarity, met with some prominent figures in the Iranian diaspora to discuss the protests, including British actress and Amnesty Ambassador Nazanin Boniadi.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said that on Saturday, Biden intervened for the thousandth time in Iranian state affairs by supporting the riots as he had done since the outbreak of recent developments in Iran.
“Given the fact that he has neither trusted advisors nor a good memory, I remind him that Iran is so strong and resilient that it will not succumb to his harsh sanctions and dormant threats.”
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