July 29, 2010
Dr. Saeed Masouri was arrested in December 2000, in the city of Dezful and is currently being held in Section 10, Ward 4 at Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj. His original trial and appeals court initially resulted in a death sentence. During his 10 years in prison he has spent 3 years in solitary confinement in prisons in Tehran and Dezful. After extensive efforts, his death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment.
According to reports by RAHANA, in the past 10 years, Masouri has never been allowed conditional leave from prison and during his initial arrest and time in solitary confinement, he endured extensive physical and psychological torture. Masouri was transferred to Rajai Shahr prison, renowned for its inhumane conditions a few years ago. In a letter written from inside prison and provided to RAHANA News Agency “Human Rights House of Iran”, Masouri describes the inhumane prison conditions at Rajai Shahr.
The content of this letter is as follows:
Life outside the prison continues as usual and it is difficult for people to imagine what hell and human tragedy is taking place a few meters behind the prison walls that they casually pass by every day; much like those who lived around the camps in Auschwitz and Dachau and perhaps had no idea what was going on inside the walls of those notorious camps.
I want to paint a picture of Rajai Shahr prison though large in the eyes of the citizens of Karaj, in reality a very small prison because of over crowding. This is a different world, much like hell depicted in fictional movies, full of fire and smoke. A world filled with burnt, black, disheveled faces, naked bodies covered with sweat and red marks from the sting of lice. A world filled with torn trousers scraps of which are used as belts; bare and filthy feet, clothes worn inside out and covered with lice; torn, mismatched slippers. A world in which you are exposed to polluted air, the extreme smell of putrid waste, overflowing sewage from toilets, the toxicity of dry vomit, infectious phlegm and the body odor from bodies in close proximity, rarely given the opportunity to bathe; all coming to a climax with the smell of urine by those who are unable to control themselves.
All this against the backdrop of the tremendous uproar and cries of prisoners who seem to spend their entire day in lines. Prisoners standing in lines holding plastic bottles that have turned black and serve as tea cups; standing in multiple, long, packed lines to use the bathroom, to take a shower, etc.
Faces gaunt with malnutrition, yet hidden behind dense beards and disheveled hair; heart breaking coughs as a result of lung problems caused by contaminated indoor air; unrecognizable bodies that are associated with starving children in Africa; masses of prisoners across the corridors, looking as though they are dead, heat stricken, with soulless eyes staring at the walls and the ceiling; naked bodies searching for lice in the seams of the clothing, bodies that touch other bodies as they pass them by, all too accustomed to the images around them.
A host of other prisoners, deprived of the ability to take a walk because of the crowds, stand alone or in twos, watching others, playing with the stitches on their wrists and neck resulting from self inflicted injuries. Many are holding a small towel or piece of cloth used every few minutes to dry the sweat that accumulates on their head and faces; a cloth that also serves as a means to mask their nose and mouth in order to better tolerate the stench of the contaminated air. Add to all this the commotion and deafening noise of their [prison guards] speakers, shouting out vulgar insults, demanding silence and giving orders to observe the bathroom and toilet rules, etc. You will only understand the severity of the conditions when you realize that a place designed to accommodate at maximum 90 people, is holding over 1100 prisoners. There is one bathroom for every 250 prisoners. There is one bar of soap or liquid soap for every 500 prisoners, one toilet (often full and over flowing) per 170 prisoners. Every 5 prisoners have access to 5 square meters of space, forcing prisoners to use the space in corridors and stairways; one blanket per every 5 – 6 prisoners; prisoners who are forced outside their prison cells from 7pm to 7am, standing in the outdoor areas because of the lack of space indoors. Even in the open air areas, you seldom find a place to stand. Food is often served to many on a piece of newspaper and the only means to eat it, is to find some place to sit in the open air areas. This condition is even obvious to the guards who not face the daunting task of counting and keeping track of the prisoners in such a large crowd, but are also exposed to all kinds of disease and illnesses.
Surprisingly, from early morning until nightfall, the television set can be heard, with talk of human dignity, human rights and the way we manage the world, but not a word is said about what is happening here behind these prison walls. Apparently, public health, bathrooms and toilets are so tied to our country’s security that talking about them is considered a crime against the national security of our nation. Take for example Reza Jooshan, a 22 year old who was moved to solitary confinement because he had the audacity to speak out and complain about the conditions. Though his transfer to solitary confinement came as no surprise to me, the conditions at Rajai Shahr and other prisons are so dire that they will not be solved by sending people to solitary confinement. It is no wonder that for many prisoners incarcerated in Iran’s notorious prisons, being held in a place like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib jail is but an unattainable dream; execution becoming their only tangible hope to escape from this unbearable human tragedy.
Rajai Shahr Prison