Iranian Shaved Head Movement Calls for Release of Political Prisoners

Iranian Shaved Head Movement Calls for Release of Political Prisoners

Iranian activists continue to work for increased awareness of the plight of political prisoners in the nation’s Evin Prison, the site of attacks by guards on prisoners earlier this month that resulted in the removal of the nation’s prison chief. Activists have begun a campaign to shave their heads in solidarity with the prisoners.

The campaign, labeled “#Proud,” involves posting photos of activists with shaven heads on social media sites like Facebook. The decision followed a news report that claimed prison guards shaved political prisoners’ heads as a mechanism to humiliate them. Among those alleged to be victims of the attack on an entire ward of Evin this month was attorney Abdolfattah Soltani, a political prisoner and human rights activist. His photo launched the campaign.

More than one hundred guards are said to have taken part in the Evin incident in which these guards have reportedly beaten and abused an entire ward of prisoners, many political. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, seven of the victims of the attack were journalists. Dozens of prisoners were seriously injured, some hospitalized after the inspection went awry. A letter allegedly written by an Evin prisoner, an excerpt of which was published at The Guardian, described the beatings: “They made us stand in a row facing the wall in ward 350’s corridors while being handcuffed and blindfolded. They started to beat us up from behind.”

Amnesty International reports that at least 32 prisoners were transferred into solitary confinement as a result of that incident. The series of beatings also sparked a series of hunger strikes within the ward that was attacked by guards; the hunger strike, beginning Thursday, has since expanded to include family members of those imprisoned. The Iranian government has denied reports of such a movement, though Iranian opposition media insist their contacts within that community confirm the intentions of prisoners and relatives. Given the lack of ease with which information travels in Iran, it is difficult to confirm any activity within their prison system.

While the government of Iran initially attempted to deny the reports of such a large attack on prisoners, the judiciary removed the current prison chief, transferring him to control another department. The prison system is strictly under the province of the judiciary branch, as it is a wing of the legal system. It is not, therefore, under the control of President Hassan Rouhani.