Iran: RSF denounces the conditions of detention in the women's prison of Gharchak, where two journalists are imprisoned
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the appalling conditions in Iran’s Qarchak prison for women, to which two journalists were recently transferred, and calls for a strong and immediate reaction from the Office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights and the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran.
“In Qarchak prison, we are denied the basic needs of a human being, namely the right to breathe clean air and drink potable water,” the journalist Narges Mohammadi is quoted as saying by her husband, Taghi Rahmani, in a post on his Telegram channel on 14 February.
The husband of Alieh Motalebzadeh, a photojournalist and vice-president of the Press Freedom Defence Association who is also in Qarchak, reported in a tweet earlier this month that sanitary condition in the prison have worsened even more as a result of another Covid-19 outbreak, and that 15 members of the staff are currently infected.
Mohammadi and Motalebzadeh were both transferred last month to Qarchak prison – located in Varamin, an outlying suburb on the south side of Tehran – from Evin prison, which is located in a northern suburb of the city.
In Qarchak prison’s Section 8, where both journalists are being held, an asthmatic detainee has caught Covid-19. In the note posted by her husband, Mohammadi said: “When I arrived, I was put in solitary confinement. The water was so bad that I couldn't drink it. I was forced to drink tea, which made me feel nauseous and vomit. In prison, the same water is used for everything.”
“Many prisoners, including journalists, are in mortal danger in Iran,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “Forty days after Baktash Abtin's death from lack of treatment in Evin prison, the absence of any reaction from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran is more than worrying. The appalling conditions for prisoners in Qarchak, both from the health viewpoint and in terms of communication with their families, must be addressed as a matter of urgency. The Iranian authorities must cooperate unconditionally with the United Nations and must respect their international obligations.”
After the writer and journalist Baktash Abtin died on 8 January as a result of not being treated when he caught Covid-19 in Evin prison, RSF asked the UN to set up an independent international commission of enquiry into his death.
Forms of persecution
A former drug addiction treatment centre for men that was turned into a women’s prison in 2010, Qarchak is notorious for its appalling hygiene, which is contrary to all international human rights treaties. It currently holds at least 1,200 women in eight sections. RSF has learned that the latest Covid-19 wave has exacerbated the situation even more and has increased the risks for vulnerable prisoners.
“A third dose of vaccine was given a few days ago but only to some of the prisoners,” Mohammadi reported via her husband. “Those who test positive are quarantined in the prison gym, which is unheated and has no beds, without receiving any special care.”
Mohammadi and Motalebzadeh also report that the prison’s sewers emit not only an “unbearably” nauseating stench but also ammonia and another type of gas that cause respiratory problems among the detainees.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.