Iranian prison burns amid protests
A major Tehran penitentiary was on fire on Saturday night, as gunshots rang out
Evin Prison in the Iranian capital Tehran caught fire on Saturday night, with video footage showing smoke and flames rising from the detention center. The blaze broke out amid widespread anti-government protests, which have been ongoing for several weeks.
Videos shared on social media showed the prison compound burning, as an alarm droned and what sounded like gunshots rang out. Several loud explosions were heard as the prison burned.
Iran’s IRNA news agency said that the fire broke out following a brawl between inmates and guards, Al Arabiya reported. However, the Iranian government has not yet commented on the incident or released any information on casualties or damage to the facility.
“Families of prisoners have gathered in front of the main door of Evin prison,” a witness told Reuters. “I can see fire and smoke. Lots of special forces. Ambulances are here too.”
Evin is believed to house political prisoners, and has long been condemned by Western governments and NGOs. Washington blacklisted the jail in 2018 for “serious human rights abuses,” and a number of dual nationals are believed to be serving sentences there. One of these, an Iranian-American held on espionage charges, was returned to Evin on Wednesday after a brief furlough, Reuters reported, citing the man’s lawyer.
The fire broke out as anti-government protests in Iran have been ongoing for more than three weeks. The protests began following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in Tehran, and have since spiraled into nationwide riots and calls for the downfall of the Islamic Republic’s hardline government.
Iranian authorities have accused foreign governments, including the US and Israel, of stoking the unrest.