Letter from imprisoned may day protesters in Iran's Gharchak prison

On May May first, there was a protest in front of the Iranian parliament. Police cracked down on protesters and arrested many individuals. After 126 days, three of them, all women, remain incarcerated. Two of these women are held in the Gharchak prison, infamous for it's harsh conditions and severe shortcomings. Recently, one of them wrote a letter regarding their situation.

Submitted by Mike Harman on September 6, 2019

As news about the foreign affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran is reflected in almost every new agency covering every nuance and obscurity, what is happening inside the country regarding the state brutality against political activists goes unnoticed. The social media is filled with complaints about the unlawful acts against the workers, students, teachers, activists and any individual or group who raises a voice condemning the privatization policies and the ever-worsening situation of the low-paid workers and the rising number of unemployed.

Every supporting voice for the prisoners and their problems such as the long period of unconstitutional detentions and high bail-out rates are repressed in the same way. The lawyers are threatened, and in many cases arrested, for defending the right of political prisoners, and the courts held are brutal performances in which the judges blatantly offend and disgrace the accused and the lawyers and issue sentences that are totally irrelevant even to the charges claimed by the authorities with no evidence. The strong dependence of the judiciary decisions to the orders of the intelligence agencies - whose apparent differences only lead to an ominous competition for harsher oppression - is undeniable.

A few weeks before, a letter was published in the media which gave us some clues of what is going on inside women’s ward of Gharchak prison.

Gharchak Prison is located in a desert east of Tehran. It’s said to be only for keeping non-political prisoners but have in many occasions been their penitentiary as well. The last cases were the ones arrested after May Day gathering in front of the parliament and the ones arrested for the accusation of having a connection with Haft-Tapeh workers and also the ones having shown protests against mandatory Hijab.

Atafeh Rangriz

The women held in the ward five of Varamin’s Gharchak Prison refused food, and wrote a letter to the head of Tehran’s prisons requesting improvement of the prison’s situation

In this letter, they remind the head of Tehran prisons’ management about his last visit about a month before writing the letter, accompanied by a group of authorities and photographers. The prisoners wrote about the hardship they had to endure to clean and embellish the prison and create a scene suitable for the viewer which was a mere façade. Their effort to reach the committee and tell them about their problems were futile.

They state that the main reason most of them are jailed is the financial situation and what they had to go through to make a living or standing next to the unprivileged for their rights, but the sad point is that all is even worse in that prison. Their basic needs like food, drinking water, clothes, and medical services are hardly met.

They explain about the pressures they endure which led many to disastrous mental state and self-harm and also how they smash their dignity to earn a little money to cover their costs.

They ask the reader this essential question: »How can we make a living to survive? « and go into detail about the problems they face including awful quality and little quantity of their daily food, the very high price and rarity of vegetables in the prison shops, the very short supply of drinking water and the fact that they cannot bring any clothes from outside and have to buy what they wear with very high prices from the shops inside.

Two hundred women who have signed the letter or put their fingerprints under it refused to receive their daily food portion and also announced that they would stop buying from the prison shop in the coming days.

Atefeh Rangriz has been arrested since May first. She is being kept in Gharchak Prison. Her first trial issued a two billion Toman bail (minimum wage is Iran is one and half million Tomans) for her release before announcing the sentence but the authorities later didn’t accept receiving the bail to let her free.