The inmates, who are held in overcrowded wards, are being deprived of cool air and sometimes even water, as temperatures in Ahvaz, where Sepidar in located, soar above 50 degrees Celsius. A prisoner held there for a few days recently reported that the cells are filled with lice, insects, and cockroaches, while the bathrooms do not have adequate sewage drainage.
The anonymous reporter said: “On many days of the week, the women’s ward health center has no doctors or even nurses… Suicide and self-injury among these women are heavily prevalent, as the women hope that after self-injury, they will be transferred to the health center so they can stay in a better condition for a few days or ultimately die.”
She cited the case of a prisoner who suffered a severe seizure and hit her head when she fell. It took ten minutes to let the attention of anyone, but the non-medical professional who came to the door merely splashed some water on the girl’s face and said that she wouldn’t die, refusing to take her to the medical bay.
The fact that so many inmates are already living in cells designed for far fewer people – leaving many to sleep on the floor – has already led to increased rates of disease, before we even take into account the lack of basic provisions that also exacerbate disease spread.
The reporter said: “Female prisoners in the Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz are living in an inhuman and unbearable condition and experience double isolation. Such conditions will forever leave irreparable damage to the body and soul of these women.”
Over 50 inmates are already infected with the virus and the quarantine ward is separated from the other ward by just a few bars, which is completely ineffective with an airborne virus. In addition, sick prisoners share the same outdoor space as those who are currently healthy and there is no evidence that these places are being disinfected between each use.
No wonder families are concerned.
People have been worried about inmates since the start of the pandemic in Iran, calling for non-violent and especially political prisoners to be released. Human rights activists have also called for an international delegation to visit Iranian prison, meet inmates, and see the conditions there for themselves.
Indeed, the regime cannot be trusted to do so themselves. When Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Massoumeh Ebtekar visited in December 2018, no photos of her visit could be published, except for one showing the prison’s kitchen.