Dozens of prisoners at Al-Hilla Prison in Iraq went on hunger strike on Sunday demanding better prison conditions including a solution to overcrowding, according to Al-Sharqiyah Television. Conditions of other prisons across Iraq and Kurdistan are not much better, with shortages of clean water and inadequate sanitation facilities, as well as poor ventilation, all of which continue to cause serious health risks.
Al-Hilla prison’s capacity is 750 but it currently holds over 1500 prisoners. This is a recurring problem in Iraq. In 2008 one prison was so overcrowded that detainees had to sleep in shifts. In 2010 about 100 detainees were crammed into two windowless vans designed to carry 20 people each, for a trip that took about one hour. As a result 22 detainees collapsed and seven died of asphyxiation.
In addition to poor prison conditions many prisoners report that they have no access to doctors or to needed medications. One example is Ibrahim ‘Abdel-Sattar who died in al-Kadhimiya prison on 29 October 2010. He was not treated for stomach cancer and was only taken to the hospital the day before he died.
Take action to improve prison conditions in Iraq by writing to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Send letters to the Iraqi Embassy at 3421 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007.