IWPR Report Brings Change at Afghan Prison

Officials start to address prisoners’ complaints after story appears.

By IWPR Afghanistan

The Afghan authorities have taken steps to improve conditions at a prison in Badakhshan province after an IWPR report revealed serious failings at the institution.

Not only was the building was at risk of collapse, with construction on a new site still incomplete after six years, but illness was rife amid severe overcrowding and little fuel or warm water.
(See Afghan Prison Deemed Death Trap).

In late December, shortly after the story was published, Afghanistan’s council of ministers sent a high-ranking government delegation to Badakhshan.

Gul Mohammad Bedar, deputy governor of Badakhshan, said, “After IWPR’s report was posted, Abdul Hai Yasir, an advisor to the president on military affairs, travelled to Badakhshan province where he set [the construction company] a one-month deadline to complete construction of the new prison building.”

He said that building work was now in full swing.

Prison warden Sidiqullah Umari also said that major improvements were made after the publication of the IWPR report.  

Staff had been able to move 120 prisoners into newly-constructed cells, which one inmate, Shamsuddin, said meant that everyone now had a roof over their heads. Previously, some prisoners had been forced to live and sleep in the open air.

Zofanon Hasam Natiq, director of Badakhshan’s women’s affairs department, said that his office had been shocked to learn of the deplorable conditions at the prison.  

Natiq said that his department was now provided clothing and fuel to female prisoners with help from German NGO KinderBerg, adding that his office would continue to regularly monitor conditions for female prisoners.  

Zubaida, an inmate at Badakhshan women’s prison, agreed that life had improved.   

She continued, “We have been provided with wood as well as yarn and string for knitting work by the KinderBerg organisation.”

Naheed Neraan, of the KinderBerg organisation, said, “We help the prisoners by providing wood, milk for their children, raw materials for knitting sweaters and educational materials such as pens and notebooks to the prisoners every week as per their needs.”

She added that KinderBerg was also providing some healthcare training to female prisoners.

Abdul Basir Haqjo, the head of Badakhshan’s journalists’ union, said that conditions had only been improved at the prison after the IWPR report drew attention to the prisoners’ problems.

This report was produced under IWPR’s Supporting Investigative Reporting in Local Media and Strengthening Civil Society across Afghanistan initiative, funded by the British Embassy Kabul.