On January 26, 1986, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Islamic Republic version of a “parliament”), chaired by Akbar Hashemi, passed the law to change the country’s “Prisons Supervision & Security and Educational Measures Council” to “Prisons and Security and Educational Measures Organization.” A council became an organization under the direct supervision of the head of the judiciary. From that day on, this organization is not an executive institution, but a judicial institution: “The organization of prisons and security and educational measures is an independent organization that operates directly under the head of the judiciary”, this is the definition that the organization offers of itself. The head of the judiciary is responsible for and overseeing this organization and its performance, and the “Supreme Leader”- in the past 32 years, Khamenei- oversees and is responsible for the head of the judiciary’s performance.
Sunday, August 22, 2021, the first footage of cameras that have been installed for the head of the Prisons Organization and the head of the Judiciary to monitor and surveil the interior of Evin Prison and what is happening in there, went viral on social media:
The first reaction of officials to the breach of the prison security system, the hacking of CCTV cameras inside the detention center and the release of videos showing prison officials torturing and beating detainees, was silence. A heavy silence engulfed the regime and its propaganda machine. Amir Rashidi, one of the “shock absorbers” of the regime, tried to undermine the authenticity of the videos by publishing an article on Iranwire website during this deep silence, regardless of the crimes shown in them, hoping that the scope of the security issue was limited to the first videos. The next day, the Associated Press published a report with new images of a breach in the security system of Evin Prison and the “grim conditions” of the prison.
Hours later, the Iranwire article was deleted from the website:
MohammadMehdi HajMohammadi, head of the Prisons Organization, confirmed the authenticity of the videos two days after the videos were released, and following an ideological hierarchy of: God, Supreme Leader, Noble Nation (code word for Hezbollah ummah and regime supporters), and prison guards – exactly in this order- apologized and assured the prison guards who had been torturing prisoners in the pictures that nothing would happen to them.
After Haj Mohammadi, Mohammad Mossadegh, the first deputy head of the judiciary, and after him, Ejei, the head of the judiciary, promised to “investigate” the issue of “hacking Evin cameras.” The “follow up” order by the authorities who have been watching these videos for years, and basically the only reason for the installation of surveillance cameras inside the prison, has been the monitoring of officers’ and prisoners’ behavior, can only have one reason: damage control.
High-ranking officials of the regime and Ejei must be kept out of the responsibility scope. In order to achieve this goal, old actors from the “shock absorber” faction of the regime, such as Mahmoud Sadeghi, a former member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, have also entered the scene. Sadeghi thanks Ejei by making two bureaucratic proposals, removes him from the focus of criticism and responsibility, and in fact shows no reaction to the reality that these footages reveal.
At the same time, the security sector of the system enters the scene with a more aggressive approach. The focus of this section is not on “absorbing the shock” but on transferring the blow to someone(s) outside the regime. This can be clearly seen in Ghazanfarabadi’s reaction. The IRGC Intelligence-affiliated news agency quoted the head of the Judiciary Commission at the Islamic Consultative Assembly, on August 24: “There is no doubt that Persian-language expatriate channels, whose salaries are paid by Saudi Crown Prince and are the main perpetrator of Khashgechi’s heinous murder, or networks that have always remained silent about horrific crimes in prisons like Guantanamo Bay, have no authority to comment on what happens in Iran prisons.”
Ebrahim Rezaei, a member of the National Security Commission, in line with the “transferring blow outside the system” approach, on the floor of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, in a much clearer tone than Ghazanfarabadi said: “The people who published those videos must be prosecuted and additionally, the violations of a few officers should not be extended to the performance of the entire judiciary. The Saudi’ and the Queen’s media are taking advantage of the waves created by this situation and criticize the conditions of our prisons; however, the situation in our prisons is different based on my visit to the country’s prisons, and it is not just for them to be attacked under this pretext.”
In one case, Rezai can be right: “The situation of other prisoners in the country is different.” Two years ago, Shargh newspaper wrote: “Evin Detention Center is also known as “Evin Hotel” due to its different conditions from other prisons in the country. The reason behind the use of this term is attributed to the better and more appropriate behavior of interrogators and prison officials”
Images of savagery, violence, sadism, of a cleric on the stairs who collects his robe and passes by as nothing is happening next to a tortured human body being dragged on the ground by agents, or a herd of wild uniformed officers madly beating a man in shackles with continuous kicks and punches – these are the reality of a “hotel” compared to other prisons in the Islamic Republic. The hotel that Amir Rashidi emphasizes on protecting its privacy amid torture, shock, punches, kicks and insults:
Translation of this post by Sahar.