On the night of October 15th, a fire broke out in Evin prison. Its cause and scale are still unknown. A group of the prisoners’ family members were gathered outside of the prison when an explosion was heard around 8:30pm (in some sources 9pm), followed by continuous shooting and yelling – a situation which continued for hours.
In the night sky over Evin, bright objects resembling stun grenades were seen being shot from outside, aimed towards the premises. Simultaneously, gunshots were fired from the guard tower towards the prison.
Four days later, there is still no information about the details of the incident. The judiciary (Mizan) media has announced the death toll of the incident as 8.
On the night of the incident, sources close to Zamaneh, including family members of prisoners, reported the presence of special guard forces in the prison, who were stationed since the day before, October 14th, monitoring the prison 24/7. Fires were reported inside the wards, which several sources confirmed on the night of the incident, including a prisoner from Ward 8 who reached out to Zamaneh. According to the different sources consulted by Zamaneh, the emergency alarms inside Evin could be heard since Saturday morning.
One of the prisoners from Ward 8, whose identity is safeguarded, reached out to Zamaneh to reveal his account of the atmosphere and events which took place on the night of the fire, providing a clear contrast to the government narrative blaming the fire on the escape and revolt of prisoners and external factors.
According to the account of this prisoner, the events that unraveled on the night of the fire were entirely pre-planned with the intention of suppressing the prisoners. He first tells us of the atmosphere that prevailed Ward 8 in the followup of the fire:
“The Ministry of Intelligence has come and taken control over Ward 8 and wants to fabricate a case in which we (the prisoners) say that we were coordinated and had planned this ahead of time, which is a complete lie. I can’t deny that the social factors outside didn’t have an impact on us inside the prison. There was a meeting here, there was singing, there was chanting, all this was happening here…but this was in protest of the special guards who were brought here on Friday. They were constantly creating new restrictions, they put in a new door, they were coercing everyone…Anyways, there was definitely some solidarity with the uprising outside in everyone’s minds. But it was spontaneous, in what way..because suddenly the shooting began…”
This prisoner of Ward 8 says that the protests were an unrehearsed reaction to the shooting and attack of the security forces on Ward 7. He explains that before the attack, the atmosphere of the prison was like every other normal day:
“When the shooting began at Ward 7, which is attached to our ward, there was shooting all around the building. Everyone was getting ready for dinner. Someone was in the shower, someone was frying mushrooms…and somehow they (Ministry of Intelligence) want to ‘build a case’…But then those in Ward 7 started the riot, some of them started coming towards us, and others were running away. All the pressure and anger of the prisoners was surfacing, and at first, no one went into the courtyard, no one wanted to go to the courtyard. They wanted to go to the guard officer to demand an answer for what was going on, but then tear gas and bullets were shot. The unit commander did not dare to come up and from where he was below, told everyone to go into the courtyard. We told them that we were suffocating upstairs, there is no ventilation, this used to be an old office building. They (the guards) themselves told us to go into the courtyard, and many people went, not a single guard dared to come up, everyone was on the side of Ward 7. They then started firing rockets, 9 war missiles, and grenades…1,620 war bullets were all around Ward 7.”
This prisoner from Ward 8, who was a close eyewitness of the events at Evin that night, emphasises that no one had the intention of running away that night. He adds that the prisoners brought their blankets with them in order to protect their eyes from the pepper spray being sprayed. He tells us about the mutual collaboration of some prisoners and prison guards with the aim of creating a tense and harmful environment for the prisoners:
“There are several accomplices of the prison guards amongst regular prisoners. One of their names is….who cooperated with them (guards) and closed the door on us. When they told us to go into the courtyard, some wanted to bring their blankets with them, but they encountered a closed door, the fire trapped behind them. The prisoners couldn’t break the door and come up, they didn’t want to have any encounter with the guards. Another accomplice, he was the accomplice of the prison officer, the accomplice of the head of the ward, Mahmoudi, was Hamid Ziayi, who used to be an investigator and is in prison here now, he’s still a sell out…He provided a head count of all the people upstairs, and after this situation was over, a bunch of people were taken to Rajaei-Shahr, because he sold them out. In the midst of this mess, he remained standing there, by the guard house, until half past 11. (Names are left out for further investigation.)
This prisoner further explains the support of the political prisoners of Ward 8 of Ward 7, which disrupted the guards’ plans of suppression:
“The crackdown was premeditated because the prisoners expressed many times that they wanted Hassan Ra’yat to be transferred because he was starting fights. Instead, they sent his henchmen to beat the prisoners, which led to the bloodshed of some. But that noon, all of a sudden, he’s suddenly transferred and they did not let Mehdi Rafsanjani come back. That same noon, we started seeing new batons and handcuffs coming in, and guards on 24 hour watch, snipers posted from the day before. This was all in preparation for the crackdown. But the initiative of Ward 8 ruined all their plans and they got stuck in the marshes…”
The source whose voice reached Zamaneh from Evin stated that the number of people killed from Ward 7 is very high, much more than that expressed by the narrative of the Islamic Republic. He stated that the bodies were moved out of the prison into vans, and that those prisoners who were present in the prison hospital also witnessed this scene:
“One of the prisoners even said that some prisoners were being directly shot at. There was shooting towards the windows of the rooms. Yesterday, they came and removed the bullets from the pipes and the walls. The windows were completely shot out, it was a strange scene. Some people were even freed. Those who were shot went to the prison infirmary but were returned, the doctor did not allow them to go to the hospital.”
This prisoner tells us about the injury of a prisoner by the name of Yashar Tohidi, a student of Air and Space at the faculty of Research Sciences, and concerns for his conditions. According to his account, Tohidi was shot in his collarbone and was taken to Baqiyatallah Hospital due to heavy bleeding.
A day after the incident at Evin, some sources reported beatings and repression carried out by the head of Ward 8, a man named “Colonel Mahmoudi”. Referring to his role in the beating of prisoners, this prisoner tells us:
“When the prisoners got trapped in the courtyard, they were holding hands and laying on the ground. Colonel Mahmoudi, the head of Ward 8 started hitting them and their wounds with a baton. Their shoulders, heads, teeth, and legs were so bruised they were black. Colonel Mahmoudi did what the guards did not do. He then went up and beat the rest of the prisoners belonging to this group, and as he cursed he said, ‘I will leave your mothers mourning, the day of your death has come’ and that’s what he said..”
An informed source previously told Zamaneh that when the prisoners in the women’s ward heard gunshots, they protested to know what was happening, but in response they were threatened with obscenities and sniper lasers.
The prisoner, whose voice reached Zamaneh from inside Evin, shares a similar story from the women’s ward of Evin:
“After the shootings, six people in the prison started protesting and asking ‘What is this situation? ‘What are you doing to Ward 7? They are our brothers, you cannot belittle them like robbers and thieves.’ We were their supporters, they started chanting, and suddenly the special forces started insulting them, aiming at their foreheads with the blue dot from a sniper. They sprayed them with so much pepper spray that their bodies broke out in hives, and they lost their voices for two days.”
This prisoner from Ward 8 describes an intense security environment in Evin since the night of the fire, one created under complete control by the Ministry of Intelligence.
“Of course, after it became global news, security officers, the ministry, the prisons organization, the deputy officer, the internal manager and so on came over several times to scope out the environment. All the prisoners had each other’s backs, they told us that we’re speaking boldly…They attacked us militarily and the answer was not stones and bullets, they planned it all…But they keep coming and telling us that we collaborated with Ward 7, we told this story is in no way true.”
According to this prisoner, Ward 7, which he claims held 1,700 to 1,800 prisoners that night, has been evacuated:
“1,500 of them were taken to the gymnasium in our yard and they stuck them with the rest of the prisoners. 40 or 50 prisoners that were left in the yard were also beaten one round there and were there until the morning. The prisoners in our ward were transferred earlier, but 1,500 of them stayed their to the point that some even had to urinate there…we have no idea where they took them.”
Zamaneh’s source says that after the night of the Evin prison, the prisoners were removed from their cells because the level of destruction in Ward 7 was high. This source emphasizes that he does not know the fate of the prisoners, and he doesn’t even know their names and identities. He points out the discrimination between prisoners by prison guards. He says that the prisoners of Ward 7, whose crimes are mostly theft and financial crimes, are unknown:
“These poor people are nameless…the situation is class-based…They are less valuable than us, and our value is less than dual nationals and Americans and those with American citizenship…The revolutionary guard came quickly and took them to “suits”. We also have less value..these issues exist…”
This prisoner also informed us on the interrogation of the prisoners after the fire, pointing out that the locks on the doors have been changed and that the prisoners have not been allowed to get fresh air since:
“Today they wanted to arrange visitations for some people with handcuffs on, but the political prisoners did not go. I also didn’t go because they said to wear handcuffs, and I said no way! We have been attacked, have we become criminals? Financial prisoners left in handcuffs. It was a special Saturday, we could even call it an exciting Saturday….and it was very dark. I really don’t think Evin has ever seen anything like that.”
The official narrative of state media Mizan and IRNA government media claims that there was a conflict in the Ward 7 and 8 of Evin, resulting in a fire in the workshop. The narrative of Tasnim newspaper is that Ward 6 was also involved.
It is still not clear what happened in Evin prison that Saturday night, but according to the videos and narratives of the families and prisoners, the incident was not just a fire and the main purpose was to suppress the prisoners.