A resident of the district, whose home abuts the prison, said she could see several buildings in the prison compound on fire and that she had heard screams coming from inside. Speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, she said she had heard gunshots beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday. By 9 p.m., she said, she could hear the sounds of automatic gunfire, followed by enormous explosions.
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The woman said the windows of many nearby homes had been shattered by the blasts and that locals could be heard shouting “death to the dictator.”
Well into the early hours of Sunday morning, and after the fires had been reportedly extinguished, residents continued to report hearing additional blasts.
Internet and telephone communications have been severely disrupted in Iran since anti-government protests erupted last month. On Saturday, the judiciary ordered telecom companies to ban text-messaging services, further limiting the ability of Iranians to communicate.
Saturday’s conflagration, the first at the prison in recent memory, occurred against the backdrop of nationwide protests that began in September after Mahsa Amini, 22, died while in the custody of the morality police. Ms. Amini was accused of improperly wearing a required head scarf, a violation of the law in the Islamic Republic.
Iranians, already on edge after more than a month of protests, said the fire at the prison had only increased their anxieties. The families of detainees said they feared not only for the safety of their loved ones, but also for themselves.
Human rights activists and organizations also expressed concern about the safety of the prisoners.
“Prisoners, including countless political prisoners, are completely defenseless inside that prison,” Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, said in a statement.
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