Prison guards raided the political and religious prisoners’ ward in Orumiyeh Central Prison on 28 February, destroying prisoners’ belongings and beating some of them.

The raid comes after Kurdish political prisoner Shahin Gallehdar committed suicide and more than 800 prisoners signed an open letter calling for the removal of Peyman Khanzadeh, the head of the prison, due to the increasing number of suicides in the prison as a result of increasing pressure from the authorities.

At the same time as the raid, two Kurdish prisoners, Hassan Omarpour and Ashkan Osmannezhad, took drastic measures by setting themselves on fire in protest at their unjust 10-year sentences for alleged “spying for Israel” and the execution of four fellow inmates.

A source who spoke to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) said: “This morning, 28 February, on the orders of Peyman Khanzadeh, the head of Orumiyeh Central Prison, the prison guards, in the presence of Yahya Soltani, the head of the section, attacked the political and religious prisoners’ ward, beating the prisoners and destroying their belongings.”

According to the source, at least five political and religious prisoners were injured in the prison guards’ raid, and two inmates, Hassan Omarpour and Ashkan Osmannejad, who had previously been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on charges of “spying for Israel”, set themselves on fire in protest at their unfair sentence, the execution of four of their co-defendants and the pressure being put on inmates in the ward.

The source added: “After the prison guard’s assault and Peyman Khanzadeh’s presence in the political ward, Hassan Omarpour and Ashkan Osmannezhad poured oil on their blankets and set themselves on fire. However, the prison chief just stood by and prevented anyone from helping them to control the flames”.

The source told KHRN that while the two inmates’ feet were badly burned, the prison head told the political and religious prisoners, “I am not afraid of any international institution, not even the United Nations. In the future, I will bring any misfortune to the prisoners in this ward as I wish”.

The KHRN has learned that after the raid by the prison forces and the self-immolation of Omarpour and Osmannezhad, the door to the political and religious ward was locked. Despite their severe burns, the two prisoners are still being held in the ward and have been prevented from being transferred to the prison infirmary by order of the prison director.
The high security section of Orumiyeh Central Prison, which currently houses 42 political and religious prisoners, has been built in recent years further away from other sections of the prison, completely isolating the prisoners in this section.

In a recent letter, more than 800 prisoners, including political prisoners, raised the alarm about the increasing number of suicides in the prison due to increasing pressure from the authorities. The prisoners demanded the removal of Peyman Khanzadeh, the head of Orumiyeh Central Prison, citing harsh conditions and an atmosphere of intimidation.

In their letter, the prisoners said: “In recent months, several prisoners have committed suicide due to the pressure and harsh conditions in different sections of this prison, and every few months a family receives the body of a prisoner in tears. Each time, due to the pressure, there is no news of these suicides outside the prison. Currently, more than ten prisoners who have attempted suicide in Orumiyeh Central Prison are being treated in external medical centres”.

A few days after the letter was published, Shahin Gallehdar, a Kurdish political prisoner from the village of Haki in Orumiyeh, who was serving a two-year sentence in Orumiyeh Central Prison, committed suicide on 26 February due to pressure and torture by interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence.