Evin prison, the sprawling complex nestled at the foothills of the quiet, brown Zagros mountains in north Tehran, recently admitted a group of high-profile inmates. The inmates - leading reformist journalists and pro-democracy activists -- have turned the prison into a critical base for Iran's faltering reform movement.
One jail cell, measuring 12 square meters, houses four of the most popular (and in the eyes of Iran's conservatives, most dangerous) reformist journalists. Akbar Ganji, the popular investigative journalist, is there. As is Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the soft-spoken, Islamist pro-democracy editor and Latif Safari, the chest-thumping publisher of several shut-down reformist newspapers. Right next door is another bold pro-democracy journalist, Emadeddin Baghi.
Incarceration has not silenced these journalists completely. In a recent statement made to the Reuters news agency and smuggled out of the cell, Akbar Ganji predicted "an explosion" if Iran's conservatives refuse to listen to the voices of the people, who have displayed their desire for change.
In the statement, Ganji said: "Slowly and step by step, the fascist interpretation of religion will lead to terrorist acts and other crimes which take place for the sole aim of shedding blood and demanding bloodshed in revenge. Future events will act as a detonator for an explosion."
[In a related development, Iranian officials subsequently accused the American reporters who conducted the interview with Ganji - Geneive Abdo, a correspondent for the British newspaper The Guardian, and Jonathan Lyons, the Reuters bureau chief in Tehran - of illegally interviewing a political prisoner. Abdo and Lyons, who deny violating the law, fled Iran on February 4 as a precaution against possible prosecution.]
Latif Safari, the jailed publisher, told Reuters: "My friends and I are prisoners of conscience cum political prisoners
Afshin Molavi is a journalist based in Tehran, Iran. His work has appeared in the Washington Post.