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Lawyer Says Coronavirus Fear Reigns Over Women's Prison In Iran

The Gate to Qarchak women's prison also called the Shahr Ray Prison. FILE PHOTO

Referring to concerns over the novel coronavirus outbreak in the Islamic Republic prisons, a lawyer defending political prisoners says fear is dominating Qarchak detention center and calls for urgent action.

Qarchak Prison, located in a remote desert, 39 kilometers (about 24 miles) east of Tehran, is known as the most dangerous and worst prison in Iran for its inhumane medical and psychological conditions.

Swamps and marshes surround the prison, so the prison is filled with insects and rats.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) says common complaints in Qarchak Prison include urine-stained floors, lack of ventilation, insufficient and filthy bathroom facilities, the prevalence of contagious diseases, poor quality food containing small pieces of stone and salty water. In recent days, women prisoners have complained that fumes have escaped from the drainage system, filling their rooms with foul odors.

Exclusively for female inmates, Qarchak Prison includes seven sections holding approximately 2,000 women and some children, while the number varies in different periods.

According to Iran Human Rights (IHR), In each building of Qarchak, 200 to 300 female prisoners are held together, disregarding the rules of segregation of prisoners by age and crime.

Derafshan, who is defending an Iranian Instagram celebrity, Ms. Fatemeh Khishvand, publicly nicknamed as Sahar Tabar, says his client's condition is severe. Sahar Tabar is presently hospitalized and connected to a ventilator.

Derafshan insists that the fearsome outbreak is not limited to Qarchak and a single inmate. "A large number of women prisoners in Qarchak called my colleague and me raising alarm that fear reigns over the prison and the situation is horrible."

The judiciary and prison authorities will be accountable and responsible for whatever happens to Sahar Tabar and other inmates, Derafshan cautions.

Since the novel coronavirus outbreak, the attorney disclosed, most of the judges do not show up in courts, because either themselves or their relatives are ill.

"Therefore, a few judges who show up at work do not feel like working. The lawyers have asked the 'Prison Classification Council' (PCC) to grant leave to the prisoners. Nonetheless, the PCC is not in a position to decide on such cases", Derafshan laments.