From the very beginning, the regime has badly mismanaged the situation. First, it sat on the situation and denied that any cases had been detected in the country, then it proceeded to grossly under-report the statistics.
The regime has also failed to take preventative measures. The few measures that have been put into place came far too late. The health crisis has spiraled out of control and doctors, nurses and medical workers across Iran are stretched beyond their limits. Hospitals are over-capacity and medical staff on the front line have not even been provided with the most basic of protective equipment.
In prisons across the country, inmates have requested that they are released because of the Coronavirus outbreak. As soon as the virus enters a prison, it spread quickly and affected the prisoners that are living in cramped and unhygienic conditions. Furthermore, prisoners are not given adequate medical care.
The regime has ignored or rejected the pleas of prisoners, many of whom are political prisoners. Riots have broken out in several facilities and several inmates have fled.
On Monday 30th March, 18 prisoners in Ahvaz Prison died during a prison riot. They were protesting against the unsanitary conditions of the facility and had been denied furlough. Reports indicate that a blaze broke out at the prison and that shots were fired by the repressive security and prison guards.
Family members of prisoners were horrified to see smoke rising from the building. It could be seen from a great distance.
The following day, on Tuesday 31st March, there was a riot at Sheiban Prison where several prisoners were reportedly killed. During the late afternoon period, tear gas and shots were fired and security forces were sent to guard the perimeter of the prison. They were there, presumably, to ensure that there were no escapees and to prevent the outside world from finding out what was happening inside the prison.
A witness who lives locally said that they could hear tear gas and gunfire. Another witness who has a member of their family in the prison said that they also heard a first-hand account of what was happening inside the facility. The witness was speaking to their father, an inmate at the prison, and they heard the teargas. They could also hear people in the background, with one voice saying “Hold him. He’s not feeling well”.
That evening, family members with loved ones in Sheiban Prison gathered outside, calling on the authorities to release the prisoners. Three people were injured when repressive forces fired tear gas and shots at those gathering outside the prison.
Many inmates in prisons across the country have died after contracting Coronavirus. The situation is extremely concerning and there are calls by human rights activists and Amnesty International for all political prisoners to be released.