Last Updated on October 16, 2022
A large fire broke out at Iran’s notorious Evin Prison on Saturday, a facility where the Iranian regime keeps its political prisoners. Iranian state media claims the fire was the result of an isolated prison riot, though there have been reports of tear gas and gunfire outside the building. Iran has been dealing with nationwide, anti-regime protests for weeks, which were sparked after a woman who refused to wear the hijab died in police custody.
Social media videos showed the building largely engulfed in flames while alarm sirens could be heard. What sounds like gunfire or an explosion can be heard at one point in one of the most widely shared videos.
The infamous Evin prison in Tehran is on fire. Gunfire heard. This is big. pic.twitter.com/oC0coITH6B
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) October 15, 2022
I lived in Atisaz towers, across from Evin prison. I spoke now to a friend there and could hear-as reflected in this video-cries of 'death to Khamenei' and gunshots. Evin is full of political prisoners, including US citizens. Their families are terrified. pic.twitter.com/Xmvug6w2VK
— Karim Sadjadpour (@ksadjadpour) October 15, 2022
Iran’s state-run IRNA reported there were clashes between prisoners in one ward and prison personnel, citing a senior security official. At least four inmates were killed and 61 others were injured, the state media outlet reported.
According to the security official, the prisoners set fire to a warehouse that was filled with prison uniforms. He said the “rioters” were separated from the other prisoners to de-escalate the conflict, the Associated Press reported.
The official said that the “situation is completely under control” and that firefighters were extinguishing the flames. Later, Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said that “peace” had returned to the prison and that the unrest was not related to the ongoing protests.
Regime media later shared video that showed burnt debris and firefighters combatting the blaze.
Some have speculated that the Iranian regime is not being honest about the cause of the blaze, speculating that the prison was attacked by protesters. A handful of on-ground sources told the AP that tear gas was deployed outside the building.
A protest reportedly developed outside the building, with protesters chanting “death to the dictator,” the AP reported.
The person who took this video says: “People were peacefully chanting in supports of prisoners but the security forces first used tear gas and then opened fire.
Evin prison is it still at fire.
Iranians really need help now”. The city cannot sleep.”#MahsaAmini pic.twitter.com/qXR9LAp0G8
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 15, 2022
On the highway to Evin prison last night Oct. 15, security forces fired tear gas at vehicles. One caught fire. People aimed to reach their loved ones stuck inside the prison that was on fire to find out of their well-being. #Iran'ian authorities have yet not spoken on the cause. pic.twitter.com/oFdvIVClhN
— IRAN HRM (@IranHrm) October 16, 2022
Others have speculated that the regime intentionally started the blaze in order to murder political prisoners.
Witnesses said that security forces blocked highways and roads surrounding the prison and that at least three strong explosions were heard coming from the area. Riot police on motorcycles could be seen streaming into the area while internet service was cut, witnesses reported. Traffic around the blocked-off area was heavy, with a number of drivers reportedly showing support for the protests.
The U.S.-based Center for Human Rights in Iran reported that an “armed conflict” broke out within the prison walls. The organization reported that shots were first heard outside the prison’s Ward 7, though the report cannot be confirmed as of this time.
“We are following reports from Evin Prison with urgency. We are in contact with the Swiss as our protecting power,” wrote U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price. “Iran is fully responsible for the safety of our wrongfully detained citizens, who should be released immediately.”
Evin Prison, which located in Tehran, has long housed Iran’s political prisoners and anti-government activists. The prison houses a number of Iranians with foreign citizenship, as well as a number of foreign nationals imprisoned by the regime.