The New York Times
TEHRAN — The man stood outside the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran on Sunday, his hands deep in his pockets as snow continued to fall. His son Majid had been inside the prison for over a week, after being arrested during the largest antigovernment demonstrations Iran has seen in years.
“My wife and I are here every day,” said the man, who gave only his first name, Hossein. “I don’t want trouble. I just want my son released.”
Majid, a 32-year-old employee at a telecommunications company, calls from prison daily. He had not been protesting at all, his father insists, and was arrested by mistake.
Members of Iran’s ruling establishment have taken turns assigning blame for the protests in more than 80 cities that have resulted in at least 21 deaths and shined a light on the country’s declining economic conditions, corruption and a lack of personal freedom. Some have accused foreign “enemies,” including the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, of organizing and financing the movement.
More than 500 people have been arrested in Tehran alone since the demonstrations began on Dec. 28. Local news organizations say that more than 1,000 have been detained nationwide, and even that is probably a conservative estimate. The average age of those arrested is under 25, the deputy interior minister, Hossein Zolfaghari, told the semiofficial website Jamaran.
Based on reports from family members and friends outside Evin Prison on Sunday, as well as official sources, dozens of people have been released, but hundreds more remain in prison.
A group of reformist activists wrote an open letter published on Sunday on the front page of the newspaper Etemaad calling for the release of those arrested during the demonstrations, saying that Iranians had the right to protest peacefully.
“People feel belittled and hopeless,” the letter said.
More than 100 people were gathered outside Evin Prison on Sunday: family members and friends of the detained, the women shielding themselves from the snow with umbrellas; a well-known political activist, Mohammad Nourizad; and a group of dervishes who had set up a makeshift camp under one of the prison’s watchtowers, singing an old song from their native province, Lorestan.
“Oh mother, mother, it is time for fighting, it is time to make friends with the rifle,” a man with an imposing mustache sang, with others repeating the lines after him.
They gathered around a campfire, having brought an ample supply of wood and tents in which to sleep. They had, effectively, set up a protest camp in front of the prison.
“The political prisoners must be freed,” they chanted as people filmed them with their phones, and as guards carrying machine guns on their shoulders looked down from walls and watchtowers above >>>