A huge fire has broken out at Iran’s infamous Evin prison, where political prisoners and anti-government activists are held.
Shots were reportedly fired as the fire spread to the prison in the capital Tehran on Saturday.
An alarm was sounded when the American Center for Human Rights in Iran claimed an “armed conflict” was taking place behind prison walls.
Gunshots were heard for the first time in Ward 7 of the prison, according to unverified reports.
Thick plumes of smoke billowed from the prison, where now freed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashouri were detained.
At least eight people were reportedly injured in the blaze, but no fatalities have yet been reported, according to state news agency IRNA.
IRNA reported that there had been clashes between prisoners and staff in one ward.
A senior security official claimed inmates set fire to a warehouse full of prison uniforms, adding that the “rioters” had been separated from other prisoners to defuse the conflict.
The situation is now “completely under control” with work underway to extinguish the fire.
Eyewitnesses said the roads leading to the prison were blocked and at least three explosions were heard in the area.
Heavy traffic has built up near the prison with motorists honking their horns in solidarity.
The internet was also reportedly blocked after the fire started.
The blaze came as violent anti-government protests escalated across the country for a fifth week, sparked by the death of Mahsa Aminiwith children among the dozens of dead.
Fury over Iranian dress code crackdown
International anger erupted when Ms Amini, 22, died in police custody on September 17 after he was arrested by the vice squad in Tehran for allegedly breaking the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
Iranian officials insist she was not abused in detention and have previously said she had a heart attack.
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But his family believe his body showed signs of beatings after his detention.
On Saturday evening, the National Council of Resistance of Iran said people had gathered opposite the Iranian embassy in London to protest the regime’s “criminal attack on prisoners” – and to urge the community to “intervene to prevent another massacre in Evin prison”. .
People whose hair Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe cut in a show of defiance of the authorities – despite the risk of imprisonment.
This week, a senior Iranian official became the first to publicly criticize the regime’s crackdown on the hijab.
Ali Larijani, adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has called for a rethink in the way girls and women who do not follow the Islamic dress code are treated.
“Land of the Living Dead”
Mr Ashoori has previously revealed his struggle to survive after spending five years in Evin Prison for a crime he did not commit.
He described the prison as a “circle of hell”, revealing how he had to beg guards for basic needs such as toilet use.
He was interrogated “day after day, from eight in the morning until 10 or 11 p.m.”, as his captors threatened his family, showing him pictures of his wife and children and warning him that he would never see them again.
He eventually reached his “mental pain threshold and mentally collapsed” – leading to three failed suicide attempts, the last being a 17-day hunger strike.
“When you’re here with a heavy sorrow on you, it’s like you’re dead but you’re not completely detached from this world,” he said.
The @FreeAnnosheh Twitter account posted on Saturday evening: “I can’t imagine how awful and worried these poor families must feel. My heart goes out to everyone who has a loved one inside #Evine“.