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Iran’s Evin Prison Set on Fire as Protests Spread

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TEHRAN—A fire on Saturday engulfed an Iranian detention center known for holding political prisoners, including protesters from the demonstrations sweeping the country, as an uprising against the Islamic Republic entered its second month with no signs of abating.

Since opening five decades ago under the shah, Evin Prison has been a symbol of political repression in Iran. It is the detention center for an untold number of protesters who have demonstrated against the Iranian government since the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman in police custody for allegedly not adhering to strict Islamic dress code, authorities said.

Violence erupted Saturday between detained protesters and Evin Prison guards, with a sewing workshop being set on fire, according to Iran’s state media. Smoke could be seen rising from the prison, located in northern Tehran, and gunshots and explosions could be heard on numerous videos shared on social media.

Photos: Who is Mahsa Amini?

By late evening on Saturday, Iranian authorities said they had controlled the fire and the prisoners inside the center, according to state media. Eight people were injured, with no deaths, according to state media.

The blaze and unrest among Evin’s prisoners demonstrated how the uprising against the Iranian government has become the biggest challenge of President Ebrahim Raisi’s young government. The protests started with Ms. Amini’s death and focused on the country’s mandatory hijab, or headcovering, for women, but they have morphed into something larger, calling for the end of the strict Islamic governance ushered in with the country’s 1979 revolution.

Police on motorbikes and flashing emergency-response vehicles could be seen heading toward the prison late Saturday. Protesters also clashed with security forces who responded with tear gas in front of the sprawling complex, which is located in a densely populated area of the capital.

Protesters during a demonstration at Trafalgar Square in London following the September death in Iranian police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained for allegedly not adhering to strict Islamic dress code.



Photo:

Thomas Krych/Zuma Press

Authorities blocked the main roads heading to Evin, provoking the ire of locals worried for the safety of the detainees.

Iranian authorities have escalated their use of force to suppress the protest movement and heavily disrupted access to the internet in an attempt to block the social-media networks on which the protesters have relied to express dissent and rally support.

Protests continued across Iran Saturday, according to footage verified by Storyful, which is owned by

News Corp,

the parent company of The Wall Street Journal. Other videos shared on social media showed demonstrations in Ardabil, a town in northwest Iran where a teachers’ association says a schoolgirl was beaten to death after a pro-regime event turned into an antigovernment protest.

Evin Prison and its management were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in 2018 for “serious human-rights abuses.”

Evin has also become known for hosting foreigners, including Americans jailed by the Islamic Republic. Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American imprisoned on espionage-related charges rejected by Washington as baseless, has been detained at Evin for seven years. He was briefly furloughed earlier this month.

Another Evin detainee was Xiyue Wang, a Princeton academic, who was arrested in Tehran in 2016 while researching century-old manuscripts, and released in 2019.

U.S. State Department spokesman

Ned Price

said Washington is following the reports from Evin Prison. “Iran is fully responsible for the safety of our wrongfully detained citizens, who should be released immediately,” Mr. Price said via Twitter.

Write to Benoit Faucon at [email protected]

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