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Khuzestan prisons at three times capacity

The over-crowding problem in Khuzestan's jails has been thrown into the spotlight again after the head of the province's prison organisation revealed that there were three times more prisoners than official capacity.

Reza Poostchi has admitted that more than 15,000 inmates in Khuzestan, far higher than the maximum 5,000-6,000 the prisons are designed to hold.

The over-crowding problem comes amid a massive clamp-down on dissent among Ahwazi Arabs in the region. Concern has also grown over the poor conditions facing prisoners, particularly those held for political offences who are often the subject of torture and human rights violations.

Karoon prison, the largest prison in the province, has a security and political section that holds the largest number of Ahwazi Arab political prisoners in Iran. The section is cramped with only five toilets shared by more than 300 prisoners of whom around 100 are political prisoners and the rest are dangerous gangsters and drug addicts. The section is over-capacity and many inmates are forced to live and sleep in the toilet areas and corridors. The prison is under the control of the IRGC with prison officials selected from the IRGC. There is a close relationship between Karoon Prison and secret detention facilities run by the Ministry of Intelligence.

There is a lack of access to clean water and prisoners are forced to buy drinking water from guards. Inmates suffer malnutrition caused by inadequate calorific value and no vegetables and fruit as well as food-borne diseases caused by unsanitary preparation. Medical care is insufficient and there is a shortage of medicine. There are routine incidents of physical abuse and theft by guards during inspections.

Solitary confinement is a regular practice to punish prisoners and extract confessions. Iran Briefing states: "There are specials cells at the Karoon prison where political prisoners are psychologically and physically tortured; they are hung upside down and beaten with batons while blindfolded and restrained."

Visitors also complain of abusive treatment by prison officials, including undignified bodily searches. Some family members are refused access to prisoners if they wear traditional Arabic dress. Depriving prisoners of family visits and telephone calls is used as a form of punishment.