Like many converted secret police museums around the world, the Ebrat Museum in Tehran, Iran was once the site of countless illegal incarcerations, or worse, yet today it stands as a museum devoted to remembering the bad times. At least some of them.
The prison building itself is a striking edifice with detention wings attached to a circular inner courtyard that reaches up to skylight as a barred drum. In the 1970s, the prison was a dreaded jail run by the then-Shah’s secret police, known as the SAVAK (“Sāzemān-e Ettelā’āt va Amniyat-e Keshvar” or Organization of Intelligence and National Security). The prison was originally the headquarters of section of the secret police that went by the bureaucratically innocuous handle of the “Anti-Vandalism Joint Committee.” Under their control, hundreds of political prisoners were detained in the prison and many were tortured.
In 1979, with the Islamic Revolution, the jail was renamed the Towhid Prison, and continued to operate until it was shut down in 2000 after a human rights investigation.
Today the site has been reopened as the Ebrat Museum, and features displays and dioramas that recall the atrocoties that took place at the site under the Shah. Mannequins are staged in the small cells with bloody smears as evidence of the torture they endured and thuggish fake henchmen lord over the inmates. The museum notably cites all of the worse abuses under the Shah’s regime, with little to no coverage of the prison’s conditions during its 20 years under the Islamic Republic. Take that as you will.