I want to flag your attention to what is happening tonight at Evin Prison in Tehran. Evin is a notorious prison complex known for housing many of the clerical regime’s political prisoners, including dual citizens. The complex is the scene of a fire tonight along with gunfire and explosions. I hesitate to say much more about it since it is a topic in which I have no expertise; even for those who do it is very difficult to understand just what is going on. Who started the fire or how did it start? Who is shooting who? There are reports security forces creating a cordon around the prison, preventing civilians from approaching it. But the mix of events – a fire at a prison complex heavily associated with regime repression, gunshots and explosions, ancillary protests on the periphery of the complex – have a strong regime crisis feel to them. It seems to mark a qualitative escalation from the continuing protests that roiled the country over recent weeks.
State media reports that the fire started when detainees from the recent demonstrations around the country got into a fight with prison guards within the prison, leading to the fire starting. State media reports that the fire is out and the situation is under control. Whether that is true or not is very unclear. The video emerging from the area doesn’t seem to support that claim, though what we are seeing now may be mostly protests continuing outside the complex. Again, that’s the account being broadcast on state media.
At least as a basic account – a prison riot, leading to a fire, being put down by force – doesn’t seem implausible based on the fragmentary accounts we’ve seen so far.
Late Update: My very limited and provisional take from seeing various accounts is that the fire itself is likely now out or controlled at some level. (This has been going on for a few hours.) The most recent videos show smoke still billowing but no longer flames. But again, this is what I’m gathering from fragmentary accounts on social media, doing my best to sift through for reliable journalist accounts. See it as provisional at best.