Evin Prison is a prison in Iran, located in northwestern Tehran. It is noted for its political prisoners’ wing, where prisoners have been held both before and after the 1979 Iranian Revolution
Constructed in 1971 under the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, Evin Prison is located at the foot of the Alborz mountains on the former home of Ziaeddin Tabatabaee, who briefly served as prime minister in the 1920s. The grounds of the prison included an execution yard, courtroom and separate blocks for common criminals and female inmates. Originally operated by the Shah’s security and intelligence service, SAVAK, Evin quickly supplanted Qasr Prison as “the country’s Bastille.” Initially designed to house 320 inmates (20 in solitary cells and 300 in two large communal blocks), Evin expanded to hold more than 1500 prisoners (including 100 solitary cells for the most important political prisoners) by 1977.
Under the Islamic Republic, the prison population was again expanded significantly, holding 15,000 inmates according to scholar Ervand Abrahamian. “In theory, Evin was a detention center for those awaiting trial,” after which the prisoners would be transferred to another prison, Qezel Hesar or Gohardasht Prison. “In reality, Evin served as a regular prison as many waited years before being brought to trial,” and prominent prisoners often served their entire sentences in Evin.” Executions also took place at Evin. Following the Islamic Revolution, Mohammad Kachouyi was made warden of Evin. After his assassination in June 1981, Asadollah Lajevardi, the chief prosecutor of Tehran, served as warden until 1985. In 1998, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran assassinated Lajevardi.
The prison is located in a residential and commercial area known as Evin, next to the Saadat Abad district. There is a large park area with a popular upscale teahouse and restaurant located immediately next to it. Photography in front of and around the prison is illegal.
Notable prisoners at Evin before the 1979 revolution include Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani and Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri.
On 23 June 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi was arrested for taking photographs in front of the prison, and died while in prison. The Iranian government claimed that she died from a stroke while being interrogated, but doctors examining Kazemi’s body found evidence of rape, torture and a skull fracture.
Prisoners held after the Islamic revolution include Marina Nemat, who spent two years in Evin from 1982, having participated in anti- regime protests at her school. She has written about her torture and the death of her fellow students at the prison.
Recent political prisoners of note held at Evin have included Akbar Ganji(held there from 2000 to 2006), Mohsen Sazegara (in 2003), Nasser Zarafshan, as well as Hamid Pourmand(2005-6), Dariush Zaheei, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, on charges of espionage (2003), subsequently acquitted in 2004, and Ramin Jahanbegloo (2006).
The prison also holds members of religious minorities including members of the Bahá’í Faith — on May 14, 2008, members of an informal body that oversaw the needs of the Bahá’í community in Iran were arrested and taken to Evin prison. They are held in section 209 of the prison which is run by the government’s Ministry of Intelligence. The seven Bahá’í leaders have not been able to meet with their lawyers since their arrest.
At dawn on 27 July 2008, the Iranian Government executed a total of 29 people at Evin Prison by hanging.
Esha Momeni, a student at the California State University, Northridge, was held at Evin after her arrest on October 15, 2008 for crimes against national security.She was in Iran to visit family and research women’s rights in the country Momeni was released 11 November 2008.
Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist, was arrested in January 2009 for reporting without press credentials with a charge of espionage added in April. She was held in the Evin Prison as well. She was released in May 2009.
Journalist/blogger Hossein Derakhshan is rumored to be held in Evin. He was detained in November 2008, allegedly for spying for Israel, but little news has been reported on his detention.
French student Clotilde Reiss, who stood trial in August 2009 was also held there. Dr. Ehsan Naraghi, writer, was also believed to be held as a political prisoner in Evin.
Over the years Iranian Christians have been detained for short or long periods. Recently on March 5, 2009 Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad and Maryam Rustampoor were arrested by Iranian security forces and labeled “anti-government activists”. 30 year-old Marzieh and 27-year-old Maryam were held at Evin Prison, which is notorious for treating women badly. “Women are allowed just a one-minute telephone call everyday to their immediate families.”
The Washington Post reported that three Americans have recently been imprisoned there. “The three — Shane Michael Bauer, 27; Sarah Emily Shourd, 31; and Joshua Felix Fattal, 27 — were arrested in July by Iranian border guards while hiking in the mountainous region between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran. Their families say they strayed across the border accidentally, but Iranian authorities claim they were carrying out an unspecified espionage mission.”