Also known by such names as the Great Tehran Penitentiary, Tehran Central Prison, and Hassanabad-Qom Prison, Fashafuyeh Prison is located approximately 32 km south of Tehran. Accusations of human rights abuses have been leveled at Fashafuyeh Prison since it was created in 2012.
According to Fatourechi, “Drawing attention to conditions of the ‘ordinary prisoners’ in Fashafuyeh is an urgent and immediate necessity. No one in Iran is more oppressed and vulnerable. They exist in the epitome of ‘inhumane conditions’ and are victims of a twofold oppression. To bear this, even for one day, is beyond the power of the human spirit and will undoubtedly cause permanent trauma to their body and soul. Every day, the number of cases like these only multiply.”
Looking back at the prison quarantine that he and every other new prisoner endures for some four days, he writes, “Among inmates, the colloquial name for the quarantine ward is Hell… The prisoners said the difference in living conditions between the tip and quarantine wards are analogous to those between a bedroom and a toilet.”
This wasn’t the first time Fatourechi experienced Fashafuyeh Prison’s quarantine. In his comparison of the current conditions with his previous experiences, he writes, “Having witnessed the quarantine ward on three different occasions in the 90s and 2000s, I can definitively corroborate their accounts of how ‘grave’ the conditions in Fashafuyeh’s quarantine ward really are.” He explains, “In a routine four-day quarantine period, the prisoner, regardless of crime or sentence, is deprived of potable water, ventilation, toilets, cigarettes, and digestible food (there is cold, half-baked pasta, and cold, uncooked yellow rice).”
His describes the quarantine area, “The toilet is a hole on the floor of a 2 foot by 2 foot area, without light or running water, separated by a curtain from the ward’s beds and 10 foot by 10 foot cells, known as Physicals, that house between 26 and 32 prisoners. The living conditions in the physicals are so inhumane that quarantined inmates call them the Exile.” He continues, “Quarantine cells have three-tier bunk beds and two blankets spread on the floor. Two glassless skylights are all they have to regulate temperature. There is no running water between 4 p.m. and 7 a.m., and the only light glows from a 100-watt fluorescent bulb. Should it burn out, the prisoners say, only God could make someone replace it.”
There is an “incredible daily influx of new prisoners” Fatourechi says. “Every 24 hours or so, more than 40 new prisoners are brought to the quarantine ward, while a maximum of ten [prisoners] leave the ward each day.” He adds that “more than 80 percent of the quarantine inmates are intravenous drug addicts and homeless people unable to stand on their own feet who belong in a hospital, not a prison.”
The detainees unlucky enough to have a bunk — the “floor sleepers” — are usually “Afghans and intravenous addicts” writes Fatourechi, and they are “similar to those in coffins, the coffin-sized cells reserved for political prisoners in the 1980s that were barely large enough to lie down in.” He writes that the “floor sleepers” are sometimes “pushed to spending the night beneath the beds of other inmates. Coined as ‘coffin sleepers’, it is typical for other inmates to sit on the floor next to their sleeping enclosure, restraining their movement and blocking their access to light and air.” Additionally, “The stench of sweat and infected wounds is unbelievable. Many inmates are detoxing from drug addictions and are in no state to be taken to the so-called ‘bathroom’ to wash up, which thickens the stench.”
“Drug addicts, theft convicts, ‘dirty ones’ and Afghans are treated like livestock from the moment they step foot in the ward.”
The situation of the poor families of the inmates Fatourechi describes as, “Another deplorable element of Fashafuyeh…” He writes that, “Families of prisoners sit in the desert outside, and no one knows who is incarcerated in the prison (either that or they don’t reveal to the families what they know). This is critical when Fashafuyeh prisoners come from poor families who can only come by taxi, at a cost between 1-1.5 million rials,” which is approximately $10 to $15 USD.