Iran has released security footage that it said came from its notorious Evin Prison the night a fire broke out that killed at least eight inmates
By The Associated Press
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran on Sunday released security footage that it said came from its notorious Evin Prison the night a fire broke out that killed at least eight inmates, an effort to clarify the government’s narrative amid growing international pressure.
The purported CCTV footage of the mayhem last weekend only added to the mystery of what happened the night of the blaze at the detention facility. Evin Prison is known for holding political prisoners, including protesters from the demonstrations that have convulsed the country over the past five weeks. Rights groups estimate that thousands have been swept up since the unrest began over the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman in police custody for allegedly not adhering to the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency aired an interview with an unnamed top prison guard who claimed a riot broke out as prisoners convicted of financial crimes tried to escape. However, no unrest or violence is visible in the released CCTV footage. The quick glimpses show crowds of detainees rushing through cell doors. Some men appear panicked as smoke fills the ward and a siren wails. A prisoner tries to break his cell lock with a fire extinguisher, while another tries with a mop. A man tries to damage a CCTV camera.
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The cryptic video and shifting explanations for what happened last Saturday night at Evin Prison have sown doubt about the government’s version of events. Officials first said the unrest was stoked by “enemy agents” and some inmates who attempted to escape. They also claimed inmates set a sewing workshop on fire. But in numerous videos shared on social media, gunshots, explosions and protest chants can be heard.
Iran’s nationwide protests first focused on Iran’s state-mandated hijab, or headscarf, for women but transformed into one of the most serious challenges to the country’s ruling clerics. Protesters have clashed with police and even called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself. Security forces have fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrations, killing over 200 people, according to estimates by rights groups.
Also on Sunday, Iran’s atomic energy agency alleged that hackers acting on behalf of an unidentified foreign country broke into a subsidiary’s network and had free access to its email system.
An anonymous hacking group claimed responsibility for the attack on Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, demanding Tehran release political prisoners. The group, calling itself “Black Reward,” said it leaked 50 gigabytes of internal emails, contracts and construction plans related to Iran’s Russian-backed nuclear power plant in Bushehr and shared the files on its Telegram channel. It was unclear whether the breached system contained classified material.
“Unlike Westerners, we do not flirt with criminal mullahs,” the anonymous hacking group said in a Telegram post.
Iran did not identify the foreign nation it thought was responsible for the hack, but it has previously blamed Israel and the United States for cyberattacks that damaged the nation’s infrastructure.
The Atomic Energy Organization stated that these illegal actions were made out of desperation in order to garner public attention.
A number of schools across Iran were forced to cancel classes due to sit-ins in protest of the government’s crackdown on student protesters, according to Iran’s leading teachers’ association.
The union published images of teachers protesting in front of classrooms while holding signs that read “Woman, Life, Freedom” in Kurdish cities like Sanandaj, Marivan, Kermanshah, and Saqez as well as in West Azerbaijan and the mountainous Hamadan provinces, among others.
In a letter distributed by the union, a teacher complained that “schools have become barracks and tear gas is thrown in the faces of elementary school students.”
Campuses have historically been a hotbed of unrest in Iran, including the student protests that took place there in 1953 under the Western-backed shah and the pro-democracy demonstrations that took place there in 1999 under the reformist president Mohammad Khatami.
Sunday saw sporadic protests continue at universities across the nation, according to video. Students tore down the barrier separating men from women in the campus cafeteria at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, where security forces had earlier this month’s hours-long siege that resulted in the arrest of dozens of students.
Liberation, Liberation, Liberation! Video captured the massive crowd pumping their fists in the air while yelling at the top of their lungs.
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