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Relative Of Hanged Ahwazis Calls for International Prosecution Of Judges

A relative of two executed Ahwazi Arabs is calling on the international community to issue a warrant for the arrest of two Iranian judge...

Iran: Ahwazis Arabs executed

Iran: Ahwazis Arabs executed

Two Arabs were executed in Ahwaz City, according to reports by Iranian news agencies on Wednesday.

It is unclear what crimes the men were accused of committing, with one source suggesting they had been found guilty of armed robbery and another of "waging war on God", which usually constitutes opposing the Islamic Republic.

The men were identified only by their first names: Naeem-Abdollah and Jaleel. Their names are not known to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, which has helped to highlight a number of cases involving Ahwazis detained by the authorities. However, hundreds of Ahwazis have been arrested in recent months and their relatives have been unable or unwilling to give the names of detainees to human rights organisations.

Amnesty International has recently expressed its concern over the incommunicado detention and possible torture of relatives of Ahwazi tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi, two Ahwazi teachers and a local newspaper editor, and Ahwazis who had allegedly participated in demonstrations in Ahwaz City.
BAFS complaint over BBC confusion

BAFS complaint over BBC confusion

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has lodged a complaint against the BBC for a mistake in a report that linked the organisation to an Arab separatist television channel.

A BBC Monitoring report confused the BAFS-supported "Al-Ahwaz TV", which promotes civil rights for Arabs in Iran, with a newly launched Canada-based channel called "Ahwaz TV". The BBC stated that BAFS facilitated grants and donations to the Canadian organisation running the channel, a claim that is wrong. The new channel promotes a separate state for Al-Ahwaz and armed struggle against the "Iranian enemy", positions that BAFS and its allied organisations reject. The BBC report has prompted understandable concern that BAFS supports armed conflict and terrorism.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani-Assad said: "BAFS's constitution explicitly states opposition to all violence, whether from the government or the opposition. This is our principled stand. The television channel the BBC associates us with says that Iran is the enemy of the Ahwazi people. We reject this position. The regime is the enemy of the people, not the Iranian peoples and not ordinary Persians.

"We abhor all ethnic chauvinism, Persian or Arab, and believe in non-violent resistance without hatred. We advocate a federal Iranian state with autonomy and internal self-determination for the provinces, similar to federal systems that can be found in many of the world's advanced democracies. We believe that this is the only way Ahwazi Arabs can be free of injustice and oppression. BAFS and the organisations it works alongside are progressive and secular, defending the rights of Ahwazis against persecution, poverty and oppression.

"The mistake is understandable, but the BBC should know better. It is absolute clear to anyone with any knowledge of Al-Ahwaz that we have nothing to do with these people. If the BBC had bothered to follow up the story and contacted us - as all good news organisations should - then this confusion would not have arisen. This is why we are complaining in the strongest possible manner."

The BAFS website's "about" page states: "We do not support separatism and oppose any invasion of Iran by foreign forces. We condemn all forms of terrorism and have no links to any armed group. We believe that through national civil disobedience supported by global solidarity, the people of Al-Ahwaz and the rest of Iran can build a democratic Iran where no religious or ethnic group is subject to persecution, racism or oppression. We uphold the notion of Iran as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country and believe that decentralisation, federalism and regional autonomy is essential to democracy in Iran."

Iranian Baseej forcibly conscripting Ahwazi Arab students

The Ahwaz Studies Centre has received reports that the Iranian regime is militarising education in Khuzestan by forcibly recruiting Ahwazi Arab students.

Sources in the Ahwazi Arab opposition in Iran report that some 200,000 students were forcefully taken to the headquarters of the paramilitary Baseej's Ashura civil defence batallions near Ahwaz City. The students were divided up into three batallions and deployed to camps within Khuzestan for three days of military training and manoeuvres. The Ashura units' responsibilities include riot control and civil defence.

Major military manoeuvres and training by the Baseej, which is under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also took place in Khuzestan in September to prepare for "internal unrest", according to reports in the Iranian press at the time.

The Baseej's forces are loyal to the religious elite and prioritise the defence of the Islamic revolution. Baseej commander General Mohammad Hejazi has estimated the Baseej's strength at 11 million, although the actual figure is likely to be lower.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The forced conscription of Ahwazis could be an attempt to control, indoctrinate or intimidate the local Arab youth and instill loyalty to the religious elite. It also comes in the context of the regime's aim to raise Baseej membership to 20 million. Forced conscription is the only way the regime can achieve this target. Ahwazi Arab youths have been at the forefront of anti-government protests in Iran in recent months.

"Forced conscription to the Ashura Brigades is indicative of the regime's mindset. President Ahmadinejad believes that the way to maintain social order and the regime's stability is through militarisation. But the Baseej is not a regular army, it is primarily a group of armed civilian religious fanatics intent on imposing the stability of the Islamic Republic through state terrorism.

"This forced conscription into a group that was responsible for the violent intimidation of voters in the recent presidential elections cannot be compared with compulsory army conscription in other countries."
Majlis members protest at Karoon River diversion in Ahwaz

Majlis members protest at Karoon River diversion in Ahwaz

Members of the Iranian parliament representing Khuzestan province have launched a strong protest against the government's Karoon River water diversion project, with a petition to impeach Energy Minister Parviz Fattah.

According to Tehran Times, Majlis Energy Committee Chairman Kamal Daneshyar said on Sunday that MPs from Khuzestan, the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs, have signed a protest petition. He said: "The people and the parliamentarians of the southern province of Khuzestan have strongly protested about the transfer of water from the Karun River to the city of Rafsanjan for agricultural use."

Daneshyar said that the energy minister will have to give "satisfactory" answers to the complaints lodged by the Majlis members or an impeachment motion will be presented to the Majlis Presiding Board.

The Karoon River is an important source of water supply for Ahwazi farmers. The diversion project will hit the local Arab population hard, exacerbating endemic poverty in the region by reducing water availability. Already, the construction of dams along the Karoon River is causing a decline in the quality drinking water in a land renowned for its rivers. River diversion could lead to a significant deficit in water in the Ahwazi region.

Ahwazi Arab representatives have long been campaigning against river diversion, but the Iranian government has continued to press ahead with the scheme. At a session of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in May-June 2005, Karim Abdian, Director of Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation, drew attention to the diversion of water from Karkhe River, which passes through an entirely indigenous Ahwazi Arab area of Howizeh and Boustan, to Kuwait and the diversion of the Karoon's water to central Iranian provinces.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Ahwazi Arab leaders have been protesting against the proposed river diversions for a long time, warning of the negative impact on the local population and ecological damage. The Iranian government has responded with indifference and hostility. The diversion of water from the reservoirs created by the dams to other parts of Iran would have a catastrophic effect on the Ahwazi Arabs' economic security and the ecology of their homeland.

"We welcome the move by the Majlis members, but are cautious over their motives. These politicians should have acted sooner if they had such strong concerns over the impact of river diversion, which will be an extension of the massive hydroelectric dam projects in the area.

"It is highly probable that the impeachment move is a political ploy to influence President Ahmadinejad's choice of cabinet members, rather than a serious attempt to stop river diversion. It is a repeat of the controversies surrounding the appointment of the Oil Minister, with Ahmadinejad's choices for the post being rejected by the Majlis. Majlis members from Khuzestan are mostly aligned with the so-called 'reformists', so they are likely to seek to use local grievances against hardliners in Tehran for the sake of gaining political leverage. However, their protests were notably absent during the administration of President Khatami, Ahmadinejad's predecessor."

Like Ahmadinejad, Parviz Fattah has served with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), but has no experience in the areas relevant to his post. Majlis members have reacted strongly against the appointment of former IRGC militants. Many fear that the choice of cabinet does not adequately reflect the vested interests represented in Iran's complex political system, with too much power given to those associated with the IRGC.

Bani-Assad added: "As few Ahwazi Arabs have faith in the Majlis to protect their best interests, we call upon the international community to intervene in the Karoon dam project to ensure that it does not lead to the diversion of river waters which would jeopardise the livelihoods and well-being of local inhabitants. There have been international campaigns against massive hydroelectric schemes elsewhere in the world - such as Brazil and India - due to concerns over indigenous rights and the impact on local ecology. Ahwaz should be no exception."
Amnesty appeal for Ahwazis in Iran detention

Amnesty appeal for Ahwazis in Iran detention

Amnesty International published an urgent action this week highlighting the incommunicado detention and possible torture of four Ahwazi Arabs who participated in demonstrations by Arabs during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

The detainees include the poet 23-year-old poet Nasr Daraji (also known as Firouz Abou Farhan), who is a supporter of Arab rights and had allegedly helped lead the Eid protests. Brothers Karim and Abdulali Douraghi as well as a man known only by his surname, Eshagi, were also named in the Amnesty report as being potential victims of torture.

According to the Amnesty report, Daraji had fled his family home after friends had warned him that he was on a "wanted" list: "He went into hiding, but returned to his home late in the night of 6 November, to visit his aging parents and get some clean clothing. The house was immediately raided by police and he was arrested at about 3am. Police reportedly beat his mother, who is aged about 65 and suffering from diabetes, when she asked why her son was being arrested and where he was taken."

The Eid demonstration was intended by the organisers to be a peaceful show of Arab identity and culture, but police attacked the crowd with tear gas grenades as the marchers approached the city's 5th bridge and beat and arrested youths. Some Ahwazi homes raised black flags in protest at the regime's repression during Eid.

The regime tried to portray the demonstration as a separatist ploy to generate unrest, claiming that a group called the Arab People's Group had staged a riot. No group of this name exists. Protests by Ahwazi Arabs are largely the result of economic deprivation and political and cultural oppression, with the government's own statistics revealing high levels of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and child malnutrition. The Amnesty report stated that "the Arab population do not feel they have benefited as much from the oil revenue as the Persian population; historically they have been marginalised and discriminated against, for instance being denied the right to an education in their own language."

The march and demonstration were largely a show of local defiance against state repression, which has increased following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's installation as president. More than 200 demonstrators were arrested during the Eid protest. The security forces were ordered to attack by General Amir Hayat Moghadam, recently appointed the Governor of Khuzestan by President Ahmadinejad. He had warned the demonstrators that any Ahwazi Arab wearing traditional Arabic clothing would be arrested, indicating that the regime would not tolerate any display of Arabic culture.

Days before the Eid protests, 81 Ahwazi Arabs were arrested while conducting a cultural play called Mahibis, a popular event performed during iftaar, following fasting in the month of Ramadan. The arrested included Zahra Nasser-Torfi, a feminist leader and director of the Ahwaz Al-Amjad cultural center, Arab-Iranian poet Hamid Haydari and the entire Mojadam family - Mohammad Mojadam, Hamid Mojadam, Mehdi Mojadam, Rasoul Mojadam, Khaled Bani-Saleh and Hassan Naisi. These arrests were a contributing factor to the Eid protests.

Tensions have also been running high over the arrest of seven sons and close relatives of Arab tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi. In October, two of his sons were sentenced to death for alleged insurrection. Their executions will be carried out if the Supreme Court approves the death sentence issued by the lower court. All seven have been tortured in prison. Previous Arab political detainees have been lynched or executed summarily while in prison and their bodies have been dumped in the Karun River.

Khuzestan is off-limits to reporters and outside observers while maintaining state of siege of the province whose population is 70 per cent is indigenous Arab. Al-Jazeera was banned in the province after it covered demonstrations by Arabs against the government's plan to reduce the proportion of Arabs in the province to a third of the total population.

The Amnesty International report can be downloaded by clicking here.
Iranian minorities parties meet with EU authorities

Iranian minorities parties meet with EU authorities

Between 28 and 30 November 2005 in Brussels (Belgium) the CNFI International Relations Committee had several meetings with European Unions authorities including the European parliament, the Council and Commission. Beside these meetings the CNFI international relations committee had also some meetings with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). The following topics were discussed in the above meetings.

- The political and social situation of Oppressed Nations in Iran, and the systematic violation of human rights situation of these people in their regions by the Iranian government.

- The continuation of discriminatory and repression policy by the Iranian government against Oppressed Nations and its intensification since Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad has come to power.

- The formation of Congress of Nationalities for a federal Iran.

- It is vital to solve the Oppressed Nations political situation for democratization of Iran and for the security, stability and maintenance of peace in the region.

- The foreign policy of Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear program.

- The worsening situation of political prisoner in Iran and importance of pressurising the Iranian regime to release them.

- The situation of Iranian political refuges and difficulties they are facing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey.

- The European Unions policies towards Iran.

International Relations Committee
Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran
(Nasser Boladai, Karim Abdian, Mero Aliaar)

www.federalcongress.org
Iran to build nuclear facility in Ahwazi Arab homeland

Iran to build nuclear facility in Ahwazi Arab homeland

The Iranian government decided on Sunday to construct a new nuclear power station in the Arab-majority province of Khuzestan, amid controversy over the country's nuclear programme.

Iran is accused by many governments of using nuclear power stations to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, whereas the Iranian regime claims that its intentions are peaceful. The plan for a Khuzestan nuclear power station comes after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map. There is also mounting evidence that he intends to use the province as a primary base for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's operations abroad. This week, Bassij militias are conducting military exercises in Khuzestan's Dasht-e Azadegan (Susangerd) district.

Khuzestan is home to some 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs, many of whom have been forced off their land for industrial projects and military installations. The government's plans to forcibly remove thousands of Ahwazi Arabs from the borders for the 155 square km military-industrial Arvand Free Zone project, situated along the Shatt Al-Arab dividing Khuzestan and Iraq's Basra province, have generated anxiety within the EU. Last week, delegates from the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, comprised of Kurdish, Arab, Balochi, Azeri and Turkmen groups, met with senior officials of the European Parliament, Council and Commission - the EU's three main decision-making bodies - to discuss ethnic oppression in Iran, including the impact of the militarisation of the Shatt Al-Arab.

Many Ahwazis and others living near sites for future nuclear power plants in Ahwaz and Bushehr are concerned about safety in this earthquake-prone region. The nuclear power station currently under construction and the source of international controversy is being located near Bushehr city, which has been destroyed by earthquakes on three occasions and is near the same geological faultline as the earthquake that destroyed Bam in 2003. Any tremours on a Richter Scale of 7 could destroy the Bushehr power station and any nuclear facility located in Khuzestan. But we can be sure that of these power plants go ahead, any earthquake on the magnitude of the recent earthquake in Pakistan, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, would be of major consequence to the people of the Gulf region.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The government claims that a nuclear power station in Khuzestan is essential to achieve its goal of meeting electricity demand with nuclear power supply. Yet, Khuzestan is one of the most oil-rich places on the planet.

"In terms of addressing the country's energy balance, it makes little sense to build a nuclear power station in Khuzestan instead of utilising the abundant local oil resources. Why is the regime not locating the station in the country's energy-poor areas or nearer the most urbanised and populated areas? This would reduce costs and improve transmission. There is just no economic justification for a civilian nuclear power station in Khuzestan, where less than a tenth of the total population lives.

"Neighbouring countries should be concerned over safety issues, as Khuzestan is an earthquake-prone area. The planned power station is being built using local expertise, but nuclear reactors built in earthquake zones need highly skilled engineering to minimise risks. If the nuclear power station is built without the supervision of world-class engineers, Khuzestan could witness a Chernobyl-scale disaster.

"Given that the province is heavily militarised and under de facto martial law, it seems likely that the planned station will have some military use. We have been warning the international community for months over the developments in Khuzestan and the negative impact militarisation this is having on the welfare and human rights of local inhabitants. The international community must act now to stop ethnic cleansing and militarisation in order to support human rights and peace in the region. The last thing the Ahwazi Arabs want is a nuclear power station with possible military uses in their homeland."
IRAQ: Ahwazi refugees overlooked by government

IRAQ: Ahwazi refugees overlooked by government

Hundreds of Ahwazi refugees in southern Iraq are living in deteriorating conditions, with little access to basic services such as education and healthcare, say UN officials.

According to a report released in early November by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, there are some 2,500 refugees from the Iranian city of Ahwaz currently in Iraq. They are mainly concentrated in the south, in rural areas near Dujail, a majority Shi'ite city 80km south of the capital, Baghdad. [see: UNHCR Highlights Plight of Ahwazi Refugees in Iraq]

Most Ahwazi refugees sought asylum in Iraq after fleeing neighbouring Iran, where they were accused by the government of serving as Iraqi fifth columnists during the ruinous Iran-Iraq war that lasted throughout much of the 1980s.

"People just came to my house and told us that we had 24 hours to leave Ahwaz," recalled 31-year old Salah Ali, who now lives in an empty government building near Dujail.

In Iraq, however, with prevailing insecurity, conditions for the Ahwazis have worsened.

The UNHCR report highlights dismal living conditions faced by most Ahwazis, who often live in abandoned government buildings and empty schools with little or no access to potable water or electricity.

"Most Ahwazi refugees are either living in public buildings or mud houses that lack water, electricity and sewage services," the report reads. The smell of open sewage in these make-shift dwellings, the report adds, is pervasive.

The report also goes on to state that most public buildings will almost certainly be repossessed by the government in the future, and also remain at risk from mines and unexploded ordnance.

Ziad Kardash, 27, an Ahwazi who lives in an abandoned school in Dujail, said that several of his close relatives had been injured by unexploded ordinance.

"If we leave, we'll have nowhere to go, but if we stay, we could be the next victims," said Kardash.

The report also notes that the lack of healthcare has resulted in widespread malnutrition among children.

"My son is seriously sick because we don't have enough food," said Ali. "Sometimes we have to divide the same plate of rice between more than 10 people."

In an effort to prevent a further deterioration of the health situation, the Iraq Red Crescent Society (IRCS) recently announced it would form a committee to study the case of the refugees and prepare to send medical supplies.

Ahwazis, meanwhile, complain that the current Iraqi government is indifferent to their plight.

"We don't know where to go," said Kardash. "When we go to other governorates, they just tell us it's not their problem and that it is best for us to leave the country."

Government officials, however, point out the difficulties involved in offering refuge in an already poor and war-torn country.

"If we give residence permits to all of them, we'll have more foreigners in our country than Iraqis," said Maj Omar Lattif, a senior official in the department for residency claims.

"We need time to study all the cases. We can't just give residency permits to anyone who comes to our office," he added.

During the Saddam Hussein era, Ahwazi refugees were provided with homes and monthly food rations. Because of their association with the former regime, however, Ahwazis now often face discrimination and harassment.

"My boss fired me after he found out I was Ahwazi," Ali said. "He said Ahwazis don't deserve money from Iraqis because we were Saddam's helpers."

The UNHCR report notes that 80 Ahwazi families were forced out of their homes recently by supporters of the current Iraqi government.

These families, the report adds, were subsequently relocated to a transit centre on the outskirts of Basra City.

This report was written by IRINnews, a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Balochis Appeal to Kofi Annan

Balochis Appeal to Kofi Annan

Below is the text of a letter from the Balochistan Peoples Party (BPP) sent to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday regarding the Situation of the Baloch people in Western Balochistan, Iran.

You're Excellency
On behalf of the Balochistan Peoples Party (BPP) I present my compliments to Your Excellency, and would hereby like to bring the following matter to your urgent attention.

BPP is a Liberal Democratic Party, struggling to achieve sovereignty for the Baloch people within a Federal Democratic Republic in Iran. More than three million Baloch living in current Iran are being treated as third class citizens, for the reason of not being from the ruling ethnically Persian and Shiiat sect of Islam. Under the previous monarchist and the current Islamic regimes of Iran, the Baloch people are deprived of cultural, social, economic, and other fundamental rights.

The BPP would like, in particular, to draw your kind attention to some of the repressive policies of the current Iranian government. The use of the Balochi language is forbidden in public places and Baloch children are deprived of using their mother tongue as the medium of instruction at schools; Baloch children are forced to being educated in the Farsi language; consequently risking the extinction of their native Balochi mother tongue. There are also indications that Baloch ethnicity and Sunni religion are informally and practically used as barriers for Baloch students to enter into higher education systems.

The Iranian government does not allow any kind of press freedom in Balochistan and successive Iranian governments have been engaged in demographic manipulations to systematically reduce the Baloch people to a minority in their own homeland. Government policy has been based on facilitating easy access to non-Baloch to purchase land at a cheap price and set up businesses. The policy of keeping the Baloch backward has resulted in the lack of job opportunities and the impoverishment of the entire population.

Furthermore, among the many repressive policies is the destruction of poor Baloch people's homes in Balochistan and their displacement into rural area. This is done in order to provide the best located land to the non-Baloch, specifically Security Forces which are brought in from other parts of Iran, to fulfil their chauvinistic policies. Not only the high-ranking authorities in Balochistan are non-Baloch, but also the high majority of ordinary governmental officers and clerks are employed from the other parts of Iran and brought into Balochistan.

Recent examples of the Iranian government's brutal and discriminatory policies towards the Baloch nation include the following events; In July 2005 the Islamic regime destroyed thousand of Baloch people's homes in a large area in Chahbhar, a port city in Balochistan, to make place for a new military base and residence area for its security forces. No compensation or alternative accommodation to the affected families was provided; In July 2005 Iranian Para-military agents attacked the township of Nosraat Abaad to arrest a man identified as Dorra Shabaksh near Dozaap (Zahidan), the provincial capital of Sistan and Balochistan. When the Para-military force failed to arrest the man they began random shooting, which resulted in the killing of innocent civilian Baloch women and children.

In August 2005 the village Yakoob Bazaar near Bahoo Klaat area of Balochistan was attacked by helicopters, killing and wounding many innocent civilians, following accusations by the regime that the villagers were helping the Baloch resistance forces fighting Iranian security forces in that area; In September 2005 a Baloch man identified as Houshang Baameri was hanged at a Saturday morning in the city of Pahrah (Iranshahr), accused of killing two Para-military security agents in the area, and later that same month the new government of Mr. Ahmadinejad appointed the Shi'a extremist, Mr. Habibulah Dahmarde, who was widely known for his anti-Baloch and extremist religious views, during his time as principal of the Balochistan University.

The Iranian regime has increased its military and security presence in all regions that are populated by oppressed nations, Ahwazi Arab, Azerbaijani Turks, Baloch, Kurds and Turkmen. In April this year in Alahwaz region, populated by Alahwazi Arabs, security forces fired indiscriminately amongst demonstrators that were protesting against regimes repressive policies; in June several Kurdish people were killed, arrested and injured as they took to the streets in many Kurdish cities after the killing of a Kurdish activist in the streets of Mahabad City. In Balochistan the regime has carried out attacks on certain villages, where security forces have fired aimlessly and killed and injured several civilians as a result. In Turkmen Sahara and Azerbaijan, Turkmen and Turkish regions, regimes security forces have also arrested many cultural activists.

Based on the above, and on behalf of the Baloch people in Iran, BPP kindly urges;

- to raise with the Tehran authorities the issue of the current critical situation of the Baloch people and other minorities in Iran who continue to see their basic human rights violated;

- to call upon the Tehran authorities to immediately investigate the extrajudicial killings of civilian Baloch and other minorities living in Iran;

- and to take immediate measures to ensure that the enforced displacement of the Baloch people is halted.

I hope Your Excellency will give due consideration to the appeal and request contained in this communication.

Yours Sincerely,

Nasser Boladai
Spokesperson, Balochistan Peoples Party
Ahwazi and UNPO Appeal to Javier Solana

Ahwazi and UNPO Appeal to Javier Solana

Below is a letter sent by Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO) drawing EU attention to state violence against Ahwazi Arabs in Iran's Khuzestan province:

Your Excellency,

To the kind attention of: H.E. JAVIER SOLANA High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union The Hague, 09 November 2005 On behalf of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO), I present my compliments to Your Excellency, and would hereby like to bring the following matter to Your urgent attention.

The past few weeks have seen an intensification of state violence, including arbitrary arrests and executions, against the Ahwazi Arabs in Iran's province of Khuzestan. We have had reports of a lynching by security forces, extra-judicial killings in Karoon prison and deaths during the dispersal of political demonstrations.

On Friday 4 November, during the Muslim ceremony of Eid al-Fitr, 3,000 Ahwazis staged a peaceful march towards the centre of Ahwaz City, but at 12.30pm were surrounded at the fifth bridge by Iranian security forces who fired tear gas grenades at the crowd. Two Arab youths fell unconscious into the Karoon river and drowned as a result of the attack. More than 200 demonstrators were arrested. The security forces were ordered to attack by General Amir Hayat Moghadam, recently appointed the Governor of Khuzestan by President Ahmadinejad.

Earlier in the same week, 81 Ahwazi Arabs were arrested while conducting a cultural play called Mahibis, a popular event performed during iftaar, following fasting in the month of Ramadan. The arrested included Zahra Nasser-Torfi, a feminist leader and director of the Ahwaz Al-Amjad cultural center, Arab-Iranian poet Hamid Haydari and the entire Mojadam family - Mohammad Mojadam, Hamid Mojadam, Mehdi Mojadam, Rasoul Mojadam, Khaled Bani-Saleh and Hassan Naisi.

Furthermore, tensions have been running high over the arrest of seven sons and close relatives of Arab tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi. Two of his sons have been sentenced to death for alleged insurrection. Their executions will be carried out if the Supreme Court approves the death sentence issued by the lower court. All seven have been tortured in prison. On 11 October, Esmail Ghasem Abyat and Lefteh Sarkhi, both human rights activists and students at the Chamran University in Ahwaz, were arrested. Meanwhile, Reza Salman Delphi, a 34-year-old businessman also known as B. Behjat, has been detained since 11 August and denied medical treatment for heart and kidney diseases. The refusal of medical treatment could result in his death.

In the past several weeks, dozens of political prisoners and as well as those recently arrested have been tortured into giving forced television confessionsand a political prisoner at Karoon prison, Said al-Khalafi, was executed in the prison yard. During the last month a spate of bombings - blamed on the British and Canadian governments, separatists, Ba'athists, Israelis, Wahabis, etc - have occurred in Ahwaz. It is widely believed that the bombings have been carried out by government security forces ahead of Mustafa Moin, a reformist candidate in the June presidential elections, threatened to quit as a candidate after complaining that a string of bomb attacks in Ahwaz were being staged to encourage the election of a military candidate.

The Iranian regime is embarking on a massive crack-down on the local Ahwazi population due to growing dissent in the province. This wave of arrests is taking place while many detainees from demonstrations held in April 2005 are still being held without charges and family members fear that they may be executed in a highly charged atmosphere.

Reporters and outside observers have no access to the province, maintaining the state of siege of Khuzestan whose population is 70 per cent is indigenous Arab. Al-Jazeera was banned in the province after it covered demonstrations by Arabs against the government's plan to reduce the proportion of Arabs in the province to a third of the total population.

On basis of the above, we kindly urge You to call upon Iran to stop killing of innocent indigenous Ahwaz Arab people of Khuzestan; and to dispatch an EU fact finding mission to the province as soon as possible.

I hope Your Excellency will give due consideration to the content and request contained in this communication.

Sincerely,

Marino Busdachin
General Secretary
Unrepresented Peoples and Nations Organization

Karim Abdian
Executive director
Ahwaz Human Rights Organization
Iranian Kurds: Meeting at the House of Commons, UK

Iranian Kurds: Meeting at the House of Commons, UK

Public meeting
The forgotten Kurds of Iran: Mobilising International Solidarity

Wednesday, 30 November at 7pm

The campaign of the Kurds in Iran for their political, social and cultural rights forms part of the ongoing struggle of the Kurds in all four parts of Kurdistan for a peaceful and democratic solution to the Kurdish question which must be at the heart of a just settlement for all the peoples of the Middle East. Only justice and recognition of equal human rights can bring about reconciliation. This meeting aims to shed light on the situation facing Kurds in Iran in the current political climate, with respect to UK government policy towards the current regime and its change of view on Iran what was once hoped to have dialogue with. Also seek to consolidate support for their struggle within and outside Kurdish communities in the UK, focussing on Kurdish of Diaspora to gain support and gather attention outside the kurdish community the same time to draw up viable strategies for how communities of activism outside Iran can work in solidarity with Kurdish activists, particularly new, young and student movements in Kurdistan.

The meeting is hosted and chaired by Hywel Williams, MP

Committee Room 8 House of Commons, Westminster, SW1

Speakers include:

Dr Nazila Ghanea-Hercock Senior Lecturer International Law, University of London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies (speaking on policies of the Iranian government regarding ethnic minorities in Iran)

Rosie Kane Scottish Parliament (MSP) Hugo Charlton, International Human Right lawyer-Green Party (speaking on international law)

Dr Paul Todd co-author of "Global Intelligence" PhD research on Iran under Shah (speaking on UK policy in Iran)

UK Amnesty International (speaking on Human Rights in Iran)

Pardeep Singh Rai Panjab, Britain All-Party Parliamentary Group (speaking on Mobilising communities and solidarity)

Kameel Ahmady Kurdish, journalist/student activist (speaking on mobilising the Student Movement and use of Media)

The meeting is supported by UK Kurdish Student Organisation

For information call
Tel 020 87487 917 & 0795 864 7705
Email: ka61@kent.ac.uk
More Details Emerge of Iran's Eid Crack-Down in Ahwaz

More Details Emerge of Iran's Eid Crack-Down in Ahwaz

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has released further details on the Eid protests by Ahwazi Arabs.

AHRO reports that on Friday 3,000 Ahwazis staged a peaceful march towards the centre of Ahwaz City, but at 12.30pm were surrounded at the 5th bridge by Iranian security forces who fired tear gas grenades at the crowd. Two Arab youths fell into the Karoon river and drowned as a result of the attack. More than 200 demonstrators were arrested. The security forces were ordered to attack by General Amir Hayat Moghadam, recently appointed the Governor of Khuzestan by President Ahmadinejad.

Earlier in the week, 81 Ahwazi Arabs were arrested while conducting a cultural play called Mahibis, a popular event performed during iftaar, following fasting in the month of Ramadan. The arrested included Zahra Nasser-Torfi, a feminist leader and director of the Ahwaz Al-Amjad cultural center, Arab-Iranian poet Hamid Haydari and the entire Mojadam family - Mohammad Mojadam, Hamid Mojadam, Mehdi Mojadam, Rasoul Mojadam, Khaled Bani-Saleh and Hassan Naisi. These arrests were a contributing factor to the Eid protests.

On Saturday, the families of those arrested during the protests marched to the Governor's provincial headquarers wearing traditional Arabic clothing, dishdasha (ankle-length robe) and kafieh (scarf). The families demonstrated to demand the release of those arrested during Friday's demonstration and requested a meeting with the Governor. Using a loudhailer, Governor General Heyat Mojadam began calling them terrorists and Arab nomads, using foul language to insult the families' dignity, culture and identity. He warned the demonstrators that any Ahwazi Arab wearing traditional Arabic clothing would be arrested and ordered the security forces to disperse the crowd violently.

Tensions have been running high over the arrest of seven sons and close relatives of Arab tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi. Two of his sons have been sentenced to death for alleged insurrection. Their executions will be carried out if the Supreme Court approves the death sentence issued by the lower court. All seven have been tortured in prison. On 11 October, Esmail Ghasem Abyat and Lefteh Sarkhi, both human rights activists and students at the Chamran University in Ahwaz, were arrested. Meanwhile, Reza Salman Delphi, a 34-year-old businessman also known as B. Behjat, has been detained since 11 August and denied medical treatment for heart and kidney diseases.

In the past several weeks, dozens of political prisoners and as well as those recently arrested have been tortured into giving forced television confessions. In the past week a political prisoner at Karoon prison, Said al-Khalafi, was executed in the prison yard. Also, last week the body of an Ahwazi Arab activist was found in Karoon Rover, which runs through Ahwaz City, and another was lynched in the Arab city of Hamidieh and hung from a street light.

In the past few weeks a spate of bombings - blamed on the British and Canadian governments, separatists, Ba'athists, Israelis, Wahabis, etc - have occurred in Ahwaz. It is widely believed that the bombings have been carried out by government security forces ahead of an intensification of the government's land confiscation and ethnic cleansing along the Shatt Al-Arab. Mustafa Moin, a reformist candidate in the June presidential elections, threatened to quit as a candidate after complaining that a string of bomb attacks in Ahwaz were being staged to encourage the election of a military candidate. However, the regime has blamed the British government for training "terrorists".

Khuzestan is off-limits to reporters and outside observers while maintaining state of siege of the province whose population is 70 per cent is indigenous Arab. Al-Jazeera was banned in the province after it covered demonstrations by Arabs against the government's plan to reduce the proportion of Arabs in the province to a third of the total population.
Iran: Ahwaz Eid Protests End in Arrests

Iran: Ahwaz Eid Protests End in Arrests

Following Friday's Eid prayers, 3,000-4,000 young Arabs clashed with police after marching from Darieh (Shilingabad) wearing Arabic clothing towards Naderi in Ahwaz City's centre.

Police attacked the crowd with tear gas grenades as the marchers approached the city's 5th bridge and beat and arrested youths. Vigils were held at the homes of those arrested and injured by the police, with groups of people offering gifts and comfort to their families. Some Ahwazi homes raised black flags in protest at the regime's repression during Eid.

The regime tried to portray the demonstration as a separatist ploy to generate unrest, claiming that a group called the Arab People's Group had staged a riot. No group of this name exists. The march and demonstration were largely a show of local defiance against state repression, which has increased following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's installation as president.

The government has suggested that all Ahwazi Arab unrest as a foreign conspiracy, although the government's own statistics reveal high levels of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and child malnutrition. The adversity suffered by Ahwazi Arabs is occurring in a region that contributes 80-90 per cent of the country's oil production. Independent assessments, such as the one carried out by UN Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari in July, have highlighted the adverse economic impact of land confiscations on Ahwazi Arabs. This has been a major contributor to civil unrest in Khuzestan.
UNHCR Highlights Plight of Ahwazi Refugees in Iraq

UNHCR Highlights Plight of Ahwazi Refugees in Iraq

A report on Iraq published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has drawn attention to the plight of Ahwazi Arab refugees in Iraq.

There are at least 2,500 Ahwazi refugees in Iraq, most of whom arrived after fleeing conflict between Iran and Iraq. According to the UNHCR, "they are predominantly of rural background, and live in local settlements in Southern Iraq near the Dujailah area 45 kilometres west of Al-Kut."

Before the Iraq War, the refugees had been provided with land and houses by the Iraqi government, having been forced off their land by the Iranian regime. This created resentment among local Iraqis, who have persecuted the Ahwazis since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

According to the UNHCR, around 80 Ahwazi families forced out of their homes by supporters of the new government, which contains parties sponsored by the Iranian regime, have been relocated to its transit centre on the outskirts of Basra City. The report adds that "they were later evacuated by the Iraqi authorities and ever since have been scattered throughout the Southern Governorates. Many attempted to return to Iran, but came back to Iraq due to alleged harassment by the Iranian authorities and difficulties reintegrating following years in exile."

The UN agency's report states that "most Ahwazi refugees are either living in public buildings or mud houses that lack water, electricity and sewage services. Most public buildings will almost certainly be repossessed by the Government in the future, and also remain at risk from mines and unexploded ordinance."

The UNHCR says that the Ahwazis now face problems obtaining new residency permits, which has been an obstacle to obtaining public services such as education. The agency is in the process of conducting an in-depth survey to register them and acquire necessary data. It also said it had received reports that child labour was prevalent among Ahwazi refugees and that Ahwazi refugees were being denied equal access to health services. The agency added that "most Ahwazi children are suffering malnutrition".

The report states that "many Ahwazi refugees face severe problems as regards adequate housing and access to public services such as education and health. The 104 Ahwazi refugees in the Baghdad area face similar problems to those faced by Syrian and Palestinian refugees."

Click here to read the original document
Iran: Amnesty Concern Over Bawi Brothers Death Sentence

Iran: Amnesty Concern Over Bawi Brothers Death Sentence

Amnesty International highlighted the possibility of the imminent execution of the sons of Ahwazi Arab tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi in a report published on Wednesday. The text of the report (AI Index MDE 13/065/2005) is below:

Iran: Further information on fear of torture and ill-treatment / Incommunicado detention and new concern: Death Sentence.

Imad Bawi and his brother Zamel Bawi have reportedly been sentenced to death. It is not known what they were convicted of, or whether there will be an appeal. If there is no appeal, and the sentence goes directly to the Supreme Court for ratification, they could be executed at any time.

The brothers' father, Hajj Salem Bawi, was reportedly released on 28 August. He apparently met three of his sons while he was held in Amaniya Prison, in the city of Ahwaz. He could see that they had been ill-treated.

The five Bawi brothers and their cousin Asad Bawi were reportedly arrested on 11 August, and Hajj Salem Bawi later that day when he made enquiries about their whereabouts. It is not known precisely when Mansour Tayouri or Hassan Boughedar were arrested. The Bawi family are prominent in Ahvaz, in the province of Khuzestan, which is home to most of Iran's Arab minority. Relatives have reportedly claimed that at least three of the detainees have been tortured physically and psychologically.
Iran: Tehran Bombings Point to State Terrorism

Iran: Tehran Bombings Point to State Terrorism

Bomb attacks on the offices of British Petroleum and British Airways suggest that hard-line elements allied to the Iranian government are carrying out terrorist acts to put pressure on the British government.

On Wednesday, a small bomb exploded outside the offices of the British companies, the second time the offices have been targetted in the past three months. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks and no-one has been arrested. The bomb attacks came a day after the government-backed Union of Islamic Students of Iranian Universities issued a statement threatening to beseige the British embassy. It read: "We warn brutal and slavish regimes such as the British government to stop their evil mischief before the violent fires of the Muslim nation burn you, or else you will face consequences similar to the capture of the den of American spies" - a reference to the 444-day occupation of the US embassy that began on 4 November 1979.

Ahwaz City has also witnessed bomb attacks, the most recent carried out on 15 October when six people were killed after two explosions in a shopping centre. The city also saw attacks in the run-up to the June presidential election, which reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin suggested could be the work of those seeking the election of a military figure.

The bomb attacks in Ahvaz have been followed by a wave of arrests of Arab tribal leaders, intellectuals, journalists and human rights activists. However, the attacks on BP and BA have not led to a similar crack-down on violent anti-Western elements who are either allied to or supported by the regime.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The regime arrested 30 Arabs just hours after the Ahwaz City bombings and claims that all have confessed to carry out the attacks and receiving training from the British. The regime claims it has been more successful than any other government in the world in arresting terrorist suspects. So why has it been unable to identify and arrest those responsible for bombing British companies in Tehran?

"The fact is that almost every terrorist act in Iran is carried out by the government and its allies. The Ahwaz bombings were intended to implicate the British in terrorism and to rally nationalist support behind hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The regime does not care if a few Arabs die in the attacks, for it has been willing to sacrifice Arab lives and livelihoods for the sake of its land confiscation programme in Khuzestan.

"The bombings of British firms in Tehran were carried out to terrorise British companies into putting political pressure on the Blair government to back down over the nuclear dispute. But this time it chose smaller and less lethal bombs in order not to turn public anger against the anti-Western line adopted by Ahmadinejad.

"The Ahmadinejad administration is one of the cruellest and most violent in Iranian history. No-one should under-estimate the extent it will go to in order to achieve its objectives."
BAFS Pledges to Challenge Iran's Extradition Threat

BAFS Pledges to Challenge Iran's Extradition Threat

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has pledged to challenge any attempt to extradite Ahwazi Arab exiles from Europe to Iran following the Iranian regime's claims that it will seek the arrest of any Ahwazi exile it accuses of responsibility for bomb attacks in Ahwaz City.

On Sunday, the Iranian Ministry of Information claimed that the 30 people it arrested in connection with the June and October bombings in Ahwaz had confessed to the bombings and had "disclosed many secrets about their connection with their ringleaders who are based in other countries."

The Iranian regime has repeatedly claimed that dissident groups based in Britain and Canada, along with the US, Canadian, British and Saudi governments, helped train and direct the bombers. The security forces have reportedly forwarded the names of those in foreign countries - possibly including the names of Ahwazi exiles - to the Foreign Ministry to begin extradition from these countries, using UN Resoluton resolution 1373 (2001).

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have repeatedly warned that Ahwazis recently arrested by the regime are at risk of torture. We believe that any 'evidence' or confession has been extracted through torture and will not stand up in a court of law operating on international standards.

"In addition, we believe that there is no Ahwazi group capable of carrying out such attacks, that no Ahwazi group would kill Arab civilians and that British and Iraqi forces would have nothing to gain from intability in Khuzestan, the Ahwazi Arab homeland. The only people that can gain anything from terrorist attacks in Ahwaz are those who want to militarise Iran and who are seeking excuses for increasing violent repression. Even reformists within the Iranian political system have accused hard-liners of planting bombs to portray Iran as a country that requires a hard-line leader.

"This threat to call for the extradition of Ahwazi exiles is an attempt to intimidate and close down solidarity groups like BAFS as well as Ahwazi opposition parties. The regime also wants to portray foreign governments as harbouring terrorist groups to distract world attention from Iran's proven support for international terrorism. The extradition threat is an act of desperation by a regime that fears that it may collapse in the face of popular revolt and international pressure.

"The European Parliament, the UNCHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all highlighted and condemned the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs. I am convinced that no British, European or international institution will permit the extradition of law-abiding dissidents who have advocated non-violent resistance against one of the world's most repressive states and the largest sponsor of terrorism.

"Any attempt to extradite any Ahwazi Arab on the basis of evidence gained under torture will be resisted in the courts and we will triumph over Tehran's attempts to silence the opposition.

"Moreover, we believe that if such extraditions were legally possible, then President Ahmadinejad should be extradited to Austria to face charges relating to his role in the murder of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou in Vienna in 1989, as well as a string of assassinations across the Middle East."
Iran uses Ahwazi Homeland as Terrorist Smuggling Route

Iran uses Ahwazi Homeland as Terrorist Smuggling Route

London's Sunday Telegraph has revealed that the Iranian regime is smuggling terrorists into Iraq via Khuzestan, the homeland of the persecuted Ahwazi Arabs.

According to an article by the correspondent Con Coughlin, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Qods Force, based in Ahwaz City, has set up a network of secret smuggling routes to ferry men and equipment into Iraq for attacks on coalition troops. These claims come alongside reports from Western intelligence agencies of a sharp increase in Iran's involvement in insurgent operations since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in June.

According to Coughlin, a major route is thought to be through the marshland surrounding the Shatt al-Arab waterway in southern Iraq, which enables guard units to plan attacks against British forces in Basra.

The Sunday Telegraph report comes after the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) published plans for the 155 sq km Arvand Free Zone (AFZ), a military-industrial complex along the Shatt Al-Arab.

The newspaper called the creation of the AFZ a "sinister development" which will involve the displacement of tens of thousands of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.

In an interview with the newspaper, a BAFS spokesman said: "Apart from being a serious human rights issue, any development that involves people being displaced by force obviously has a security element to it as they clearly do not want people being too near.

"The fact that they are deciding to put this huge complex right up against the border is significant. We think this is to enable them to train and send militias over the border."
Iran's Qods Day Hypocrisy

Iran's Qods Day Hypocrisy

President Ahmadinejad's is using the Palestinian issue for his own expansionist goals, while simulatenously ethnic cleansing Arab areas of Iran, claims the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, a UK-based Ahwazi Arab solidarity group.

At Tehran's annual "Qods Day" demonstrations, Ahmadinejad tried to justify his call for Israel to be wiped out, saying: "The oppressed Palestinians are martyred by Zionists, their properties are looted, their houses are bombarded and they are assassinated but the Zionists expect that no one should object them."

The regime's poor treatment of Iran's indigenous Arab population reveals that its solidarity for oppressed Palestinian Arabs is hypocritical. More than 200,000 hectares of Arab-owned land have been confiscated by the regime since the 1979 Islamic revolution and given to the government's intensive sugar cultivation project. Tens of thousands of hectares of Arab land have also been transferred to settlers brought from outside Khuzestan or to the military and the Revolutionary Guards, without any compensation. In the process, thousands of Arab homes have been destroyed by security forces and Ahwazi Arabs have been forced from their farms and villages into city slums.

The regime is now planning the development of the military-industrial Arvand Free Zone (AFZ), a 155 sq km exclusive zone along the Shatt Al-Arab waterway. This will involve the forced displacement of the entire Arab population in the area that falls within the zone and the destruction of Arab villages and farms. Last week, Ahwazi Arab residents of Minoo Island, which falls within the AFZ, complained that they were being bullied into leaving their farms and homes by government agents ahead of the official deadline for consultation.

Those who have resisted the ethnic cleansing programme have been arrested, tortured and killed by the regime. An unarmed uprising in April led to the deaths of more than 160 people across the province of Khuzestan, the heart of the Ahwazi Arab homeland, including children and a pregnant woman.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who have appointed him have no interest in the well-being and freedom of Arabs. The treatment of the Ahwazis shows that Tehran hates Arabs. The Palestinians have their own Arabic language universities, but Ahwazi Arabs are not even allowed to run an Arabic language nursery school. The Palestinians have their own independent media, but all Arabic language newspapers have been banned in Iran and receiving Arabic language satellite channels carries heavy penalties. Palestinians have an elected administration with its own police force, while the Ahwazi Arabs are not even allowed to form their own political parties.

"Iranian-backed groups use suicide bombers against civilians and receive sympathy from those who claim they are fighting oppression. But if one Ahwazi Arab lifts a finger against the Iranian regime he can find himself and his family in prison, shot in the head or lynched from a street light - while the appeasers in the international community look on indifferently and sometimes with approval!

"Ahmadinejad says he wants to liberate Palestinians, but he does not even give the Ahwazi Arabs the few rights that Palestinians enjoy. We support the right to self-determination and self-government for all peoples, including Palestinians, but Ahmadinejad wants the Arabs to behave on his terms and that does not equate to liberty. The Palestinians should be free of oppression and occupation, but so should the Ahwazis.

"The elected Palestinian National Authority has condemned Ahmadinejad's call for the elimination of Israel. All Arab governments, including Syria, have formally recognised Israel's right to exist. Which Arab elected Ahmadinejad to speak on their behalf? The Arabs in Iran don't want him and his regime, why should any other Arab accept his violent dogma and hypocrisy?"
Iran Minorities Participate in AEI Debate

Iran Minorities Participate in AEI Debate

Representatives of various Iranian minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, participated in a panel discussion chaired by Michael Ledeen at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on Wednesday night.

Persian supremacist groups had tried to stop the meeting entitled "The Unknown Iran: Another Case for Federalism?". Extremist nationalist activists launched petitions and complaints to the AEI claiming that the think tank, which specialises in foreign affairs, was advocating the break-up of Iran. However, the campaign achieved little support within the Iranian diaspora in the US or the rest of the world, with the petition receiving just 900 signatures - many of them anonymous.

Mr Ledeen, a senior fellow at the AEI, insisted the claims made by extremists were unfounded, stating that Iran needed to be understood as a country with a diverse ethnic make-up and where ethnic minorities would play a prominant role in the country's future when the regime falls.

In an interview with the Iranian American radio station Radio Sedaye, Mr Ledeen sought to counter criticism levelled at him by the extremists: "For some reason some people got it into their heads that we were somehow advocating breaking up the Iranian country into little pieces, which is one of the craziest ideas I've ever heard. And I'm extremely annoyed that many people did this without bothering to talk to us about what we were doing. They just imagined what it was going to do and they started attacking us. Not one, not one of the groups that has organized petitions and written letters and done website petitions and so forth, not one of them ever spoke to me before they did this. Not one of them gave us the courtesy of asking what are you doing and why are you doing it.

"And it's particularly irritating because I and my colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute have been among the very few Americans who for years and years have been fighting as hard as we can for the freedom of all Iranians. And the idea that we would lend ourselves to anything that would disrupt the unity of the Iranian people at the moment when they're fighting for their freedom is insulting and outrageous.

"So our discussion will be about the ways in which the various ethnic groups among the Iranian people have been singled out for repression and torture and murder by this regime, so our American listeners will get a chance to see how desperately the regime is trying to isolate various groups among the Iranian population and single them out, which is a way of disrupting the unity of the Iranian people in their fight for freedom."

Mr Ledeen compared Iran's cultural and religious diversity with the US and suggested that the US's experience of federalism shows that devolution of power can strengthen a country's unity and democracy.

The panel included Ahwazi Arab sociologist Dr Ali Al-Taie from Shaw University, Manda Zand Ervin of the Alliance of Iranian Women, Morteza Esfandiari of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Amanollah Khan Riggi of Alliance for Democracy in Iran and Rahim M. Shahbazi of the Azerbaijani Societies of North America. [Click here for full biographies]

The meeting was described as extremely successful by one Ahwazi member of the audience. The failure of extremist groups to generate enough support to stop the debate indicated that the Iranian diaspora as a whole was open to new ideas for a post-mullah Iran, including federalism and regional autonomy.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The extremists only gained support from a marginal element within the Iranian diaspora for their call for the meeting to be cancelled. A petition of just 900 signatures, out of the millions in the Iranian diaspora, shows just how unrepresentative these voices are.

"The fact that someone as senior as Michael Ledeen, who has a long history of support for freedom and democracy in Iran, is prepared to run such a debate indicates that he is convinced the participants are not in the business of violent ethnic secessionism. This should assure all Iranians that federalism is about genuine national unity of all the ethnic nations of Iran, with equality, tolerance and social justice at its heart. We welcome any attempt to promote honest and open debate on the future of Iran, free of prejudice and intolerance."
Iran Prepares to Execute Tribal Ahwazi Arab Family

Iran Prepares to Execute Tribal Ahwazi Arab Family

Two close relatives of the Ahwazi Arab tribal leader, Haj Salam Bawi, are facing imminent execution as the Iranian regime attempts to tighten its grip on the indigenous population of Khuzestan.

Amad Bawi and Zamil Bawi are among the six relatives of the tribal leader recently arrested for alleged insurrection against the Iranian regime. Reports from family members indicate that the six men are undergoing psychological and physical torture. All six are likely to face trial and execution as a way of subduing local tribesman ahead of an intensification of the government's land confiscation programme. Click here to download Amnesty International's report on the arrests.

Amad Bawi, the owner of a computer repair shop, is charged with distributing CDs containing human rights reports from the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) and the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). Zamal Bawi, a university student, is being prosecuted in connection with bomb attacks in Ahwaz City on the basis of trumped up charges and false evidence. The two young men are likely to be tried and executed in coming days as the state attempts to intimidate the local population ahead of a new wave of ethnic cleansing along the Shatt Al-Arab.

In the past week a political prisoner at Karoon prison, Said al-Khalafi, was executed in the prison yard. Also, last week the body of an Ahwazi Arab activist was found in Karoon Rover, which runs through Ahwaz City, and another was lynched in the Arab city of Hamidieh and hung from a street light.

The regime has staged a massive crack-down on the local Ahwazi population due to growing unrest in the province. On 11 October, Esmail Ghasem Abyat and Lefteh Sarkhi, both human rights activists and students at the Chamran University in Ahwaz, were arrested. Meanwhile, Reza Salman Delphi, a 34-year-old businessman also known as B. Behjat, has been detained since 11 August and denied medical treatment for heart and kidney diseases.
Iran begins ethnic cleansing of Minoo Island Arabs

Iran begins ethnic cleansing of Minoo Island Arabs


Arab farmers are being intimidated and forced to leave their homes and farms on Minoo Island, which falls under the plans for a massive military-industrial project on the border with Iraq.

The Hamsayeha newspaper has reported complaints from Arabs living on the island that agents working for the government and the Arvand Free Zone are bullying them into selling their homes ahead of a planned land confiscation programme.

Mostafa Motowarzadeh, the Majlis (parliament) member for Mohammarah (Khorramshahr), confirmed the problems facing the farmers. He added that the Iranian authorities were pushing ahead with acquisitions before the end of the official consultation period for the land acquisitions.

Mohammad Hazbari, the editor of Hamsayeha, was last month the subject of an Amnesty International appeal after he was arrested during a crack-down on journalists, intellectuals and tribal leaders in the province of Khuzestan, the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs. He was later released. Mr Hazbari's objective reporting of the developments in the Arvand Free Zone runs the risk of his incarceration and the closure of his newspaper.

The Arvand Free Zone will cover 155 square km, including Minoo Island and large sections of land around Abadan and Khorramshahr. The plans will involve the acquisition of land currently occupied by thousands of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, including entire villages. The zone is located in one of the Middle East's the most geographically strategic areas. It will enable the Iranian government to influence Shia areas of Iraq, particularly in controlling the extremist militias operating in Iraqi provinces such as Basra.

Ethnic cleansing

Similar developments in the Ahwaz region have seen large numbers of Ahwazi Arabs displaced and forced into city slums or other provinces. Many of these projects include a significant involvement of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). A report by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society on the implications of the Arvand Free Zone as well as the official documents commanding Arabs to surrender their lands can be downloaded by clicking here.

More than 200,000 hectares of land owned by Ahwazi Arabs farmers have been confiscated since the 1979 Revolution and given to the government sponsored "Sugar Cane Project", an intensive sugar cultivation project. Around 47,000 hectares of Ahwazi Arab farmland in the Jofir area have been transferred to non-indigenous Persian settlers and a further 25,000 hectares have been taken from Ahwazi Arab farmers and given to the government-owned Shilat corporation and government agencies. More than 6,000 hectares of Ahwazi farmland north of Shush have been taken to "resettle the faithful non-indigenous Persians", according to directives by the Ministry of Agriculture and the IRGC's Command. In 2004, the homes of 4,000 Arab residents of Sapidar were destroyed and bulldozed over in 2004 with little or no compensation.

UN and EU condemnation

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the European Parliament have recently condemned the forced displacement of Ahwazi Arabs. Following his visit to Khuzestan in July, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, said: "Development projects, like the ones ... in Khuzestan, are ... leading to the displacement of entire villages - with thousands of people not consulted on the projects, informed of the impending displacement, nor offered adequate resettlement and compensation. There is a strange system in the country where if the government wants to confiscate land, you can't challenge it. All you can do is to put up some sort of resistance to get good compensation.

"We looked in detail in some areas on the issue of compensation and, for example, in Khuzestan the compensation being offered to the Arab villagers who were being displaced is sometimes one fortieth of the market value - and there's nothing they can do about it. It's a fait accompli. That's how it is. And all of these phenomena are continuing. It's something that is happening almost every day." Mr Kothari's interview can be downloaded here.

On 13 October, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution on Iran that included a condemnation of the treatment of Ahwazi Arabs. The European Parliament's decision to censure the Iranian regime over the abuse of Ahwazi Arabs and Kurds was the result of intensive lobbying by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society and Portuguese Socialist MEP Paulo Casaca. The motion stated that the European Parliament "condemns the treatment of minorities such as ... the inhabitants of the area around Ahwaz city, the provincial capital of the ethnic Arab dominated Khuzestan province, who are being displaced from their villages according to statements by Miloon Kothari, UN Rapporteur on Adequate Housing."

Addressing Parliament, European Commissioner Jan Figel, speaking on behalf of Benita Ferrero-Waldner (European Commissioner for External Relations), underlined the "excessive use of force to suppress unrest in the provinces of Khuzestan and Kurdistan" as a matter of "deep concern." He added that EU would not sign a trade and cooperation treaty unless human rights issues and concerns over Iran's nuclear programme were addressed.

Call for international solidarity

Nasser Ban Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The international community should call a halt to the Arvand Free Zone, which is a major threat to regional stability and human rights. Arab farmers are being forced off lands they have settled for hundreds of years and their livelihoods will vanish, along with a date cultivation industry that has thrived for hundreds if not thousands of years.

"The area will be decimated and the Arab farming families who have lived on Minoo Island for generations will be forced into city slums, without even a decent price for their land. This is all for the benefit of a despotic government that wants to export oppression and state terrorism to Iraq. The tragedy in Minoo Island is just the beginning. The entire Shatt Al-Arab will soon witness further ethnic cleansing and militarisation.

"The international community backed the right of Kosovar Albanians to self-determination and went to war with Yugoslavia's Milosevic regime to end the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The Ahwazis do not want war or invasion, but they do expect the international community to intervene and stop the forced displacement of indigenous Arabs from the lands that belong to them."

Click here to hear Radio Farda's report on the Arvand Free Zone, in Farsi, featuring an interview with Karim Abdian, Director of the Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation
Iran's Militarisation of the Shatt Al-Arab

Iran's Militarisation of the Shatt Al-Arab

The Iranian regime is preparing to expel thousands of Ahwazi Arabs to create an exclusive military-industrial zone along the Shatt Al-Arab, which marks its southern border with Iraq's Basra province.

The government's official plans for the Arvand Free Zone, along with a translation, are contained in a document published today by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS). The document can be downloaded here. The Arvand Free Zone will stretch 30km from Abadan along the Shatt Al-Arab to the land border between Basra and Khuzestan. This is in two segments: an island and adjacent land measuring 30 square km and a strip of land north of Khorramshahr measuring 25 square km. There is also an in-land eastern segment measuring around 100 square km in area. The total land area of the Arvand Free Zone is around 155 square km and includes Arab towns and villages. At certain points, the zone is literally within a stone's throw of Basra.

Strategic importance

The satellite photo (above) shows a section of the proposed Arvand Free Zone around Khorramshahr. The port city was the scene of some of the most intense fighting during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). It is regarded as one of the Middle East's most strategic points.

The narrowness of the Shatt Al-Arab enabled Iran and Iraq to stage large-scale amphibious assaults during the war. In February 1986, 30,000 Iranian troops crossed the Shatt Al-Arab in a surprise attack to invade and occupy Iraq's Al-Faw peninsula and create a bridgehead for further advances into Iraq. The militarisation of the river and the creation of the military-industrial Arvand Free Zone will give Iran the capacity to carry out similar attacks in the future.

Land confiscation and the military

Over recent years, the Iranian regime has confiscated large tracts of land from local Arabs and transferred ownership to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and state-owned enterprises. Around 47,000 hectares of Ahwazi Arab farmland in the Jofir area near the Ahwazi city of Abadan has been transferred members of the security forces and government enterprises. More than 6,000 hectares of Ahwazi farmland north of Shush (Susa) has been taken to "resettle" the faithful non-indigenous Persians, according to directives by the Ministry of Agricultures and the Revolutionary Corp Command. These policies have forced Ahwazi Arabs into poor shanty towns.

The Arvand Free Zone will involve the mass expulsion of Arabs, the destruction of their villages and the creation of an exclusive military-industrial zone. In all, up to 500,000 Ahwazi Arabs could be displaced by the creation of a 5,000 square km security zone along the Shatt Al-Arab. The zone's industrial enterprises focus on creating strong economic links between Khuzestan and Basra, representing an opportunity to bring Basra's authorities and businesses under Iranian influence and draw them away from Baghdad's control.

The zone's security element will strengthen covert operations inside Iraq, with the objectives of securing an early exit of Coalition troops, influencing Iraq's political system and using patronage to control local authorities in Basra. The zone could also be used to train, fund and organise militias loyal to Tehran. Among the most well-known Iranian-backed groups is the Badr Corps, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) which had a strong presence in Khuzestan before the fall of Saddam Hussein. Another is the Lebanese Hezbollah, which has long enjoyed Iranian patronage. Both the Badr Corps and the Hezbollah have been implicated in human rights abuses against Ahwazi Arabs.

Current threats to Basra

Documents from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Fajr Garrison in Khuzestan, which serves as the organisation's main headquarters for southern Iran, show that Tehran is employing up to 40,000 agents in Iraq. The information was revealed in March 2005 by former Iranian agents who defected due to pay cuts. Fajr Garrison hosts the IRGC's Qods Force, which runs the vast underground network in Iraq. Agents are paid by middle-men, who carry out regular visits to Ahwaz City to obtain payments and be debriefed by Qods commanders.

The regime's activities in Khuzestan are linked to the rise of militias in Basra and the British government's discovery that weapons used by insurgents were likely to have originated from the IRGC via the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah. It is no coincidence that attacks on British troops and a sudden upsurge in militia activity in Basra province have occurred at the same time discussions are being held on the issue of Iran's nuclear fuel cycle and its potential use in the construction of nuclear warheads.

Ethnic cleansing

The Arvand Free Zone is not set up to benefit the Ahwazi Arab population living in the area. Following a visit to Khuzestan in July, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari commented: "In Khuzestan, you notice that we drove outside Ahvaz about 20 km and we visited the areas where large development projects are coming up - sugar cane plantations and other projects along the river - and the estimate we received is that between 200,000-250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages because of these projects.

"And the question that comes up in my mind is, why is it that these projects are placed directly on the lands that have been homes for these people for generations? I asked the officials, I asked the people we were with. And there is other land in Khuzestan where projects could have been placed which would have minimised the displacement."

BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban Assad said: "Land confiscation is being implemented to ethnically cleanse Ahwazi Arabs from their homeland in order to exploit its economic resources and to use the area for extra-territorial military ventures. The international community should call a halt to the Arvand Free Zone and impose the demilitarisation of the Ahwazi homeland, for the sake of security in the Middle East and human rights in Iran.

"We also warn those thinking of investing in the Arvand Free Zone that when the regime is toppled by the oppressed people of Iran, those displaced through land confiscation will demand the return of their land and compensation from those who profited from the ethnic cleansing programme. Investing in the free zone is neither wise nor ethical."
Iran: Abadan Refinery "Bomb Plot"

Iran: Abadan Refinery "Bomb Plot"

The head of judiciary for Khuzestan province, Sayed Khalil Akbar al-Sadat, claims that a planned bomb attack on a refinery in Abadan, near the border with Iraq, was foiled by Iranian security forces on Wednesday.

He claimed that "British spies" had attempted to blow up the refinery "using five Katyusha rockets with a timer on them." The allegations followed similar claims that British agents had tried to destroy a bridge in Ahwaz City on Monday and that British soldiers had been responsible for bomb attacks on a shopping centre in the city on Saturday, which killed six people.

The British government has condemned the attacks and denied any involvement. However, President Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday: "We have not found any proof that Britain is not involved in the events in Ahvaz and we have not seen anything that would dissipate our doubts about that country."

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) which lobbies on behalf of Ahwazi Arab organisations, said: "These bomb allegations are propaganda, intended to persuade the Iranian public that the Ahwazi Arabs are dangerous and bought off by foreign governments. This is a prelude to a new wave of ethnic cleansing.

"It is highly probable that there has been no attempt to attack Kianpars bridge or the refinery in Abadan and that these 'bombs' are imaginary, intended to create a climate of fear in the province in order to control the population.

"Ahmadinejad says there is no proof that the British are not involved in the attacks, but he has not given any proof that they are. It does not surprise anyone that the regime is employing such absurd arguments. Plenty of people in Iran have been imprisoned or executed because of the country's summary justice, which assumes that people are guilty until proven innocent.

"Any independent judiciary will judge a case on the facts, not suspicion. But Iran does not have an independent judiciary and there is no justice in a country that executes children in market squares and bulldozes houses of those who raise a voice against the regime. The only terrorists in Iran are those in power, who terrorise minorities, women and political opponents."
Iran-UK Relations Threatened as New Bomb is "Discovered"

Iran-UK Relations Threatened as New Bomb is "Discovered"

Calls from hardliner supporters of the Iranian regime to cut relations with the UK grew on Tuesday, while security forces claimed they had foiled an attempt to blow up the Kianpars bridge in Ahwaz City.

Before the security forces had a chance to complete their investigations, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused London of being behind the weekend bombings in the Arab-dominated city of Ahvaz. However, the British government has condemned the bombings, which killed six people and injured around 100 in a busy shopping centre and the British Charge d'Affairs to Tehran, Kate Smith, denied any link to the attacks.

The bomb packade supposedly discovered under Kianpars bridge on Monday contained eight anti-personnel mines, around a kilogram of TNT, one stun grenade and a large number of fuses. Police claimed they successfully defused the bomb.

As yet, no group has claimed responsibility for the weekend's Ahwaz City bombings. Nasser Soudani, a Majlis (parliament) member for Ahwaz City, claimed on Monday that a British soldier had been arrested and confessed to carrying out the bombings. The claim was later denied by the authorities and the judiciary. Justice Minister Jamal Karimi-Rad said police had yet to make any arrests, but alleged that "the ones who have committed these crimes in the country have been supported by foreign states." However, on Tuesday, Minister of Information Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said that over 20 suspects had been arrested.

A spate of bombings in Ahwaz City in June was claimed by a number of small exiled Ahwazi separatist groups, but eventually a group calling itself the Mohi-eldain Martyrs Guerrillas - which was disbanded in the 1980s - released a video showing the explosions and claiming responsibility. However, reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin suggested the attacks may have been the work of those seeking the election of a military hardliner, such as Ahmadinejad.

The government claimed that it had arrested those responsible for the June bombings, but has not named the suspects or brought them to trial. It accused a variety of governments for directing the attacks, the latest being Canada, but has failed to provide any evidence to substantiate its allegations.

An editorial in Kayhan, a newspaper whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for the closure of the British embassy in Tehran and "eventually sever ties."

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The situation in Iran was bad under Khatami, but Ahmadinejad is prepared to go even further to silence dissent, militarise Iranian society and extend Iranian influence through intimidation and violence. No-one should have any illusions about him. He is a military man who has worked in the secret services and who was directly responsible for the murder of Kurdish dissidents in Europe. He has proven that he will go to any lengths to achieve the tasks he has been given by the mullahs.

"There are strong suspicions that the Ahwaz bomb attacks were carried out by the government to isolate Britain, distract attention from Iranian support for terrorism, undermine the Ahwazi opposition and give an excuse to break off talks over its nuclear ambitions."
Iran Claims "British Agent" Arrested Over Ahwaz Bombings

Iran Claims "British Agent" Arrested Over Ahwaz Bombings

Majlis member for Ahwaz City Nasser Soudani claims that a British agent has been arrested in connection with Saturday's bombings in the Arab-populated city.

In an interview with the Fars news agency, Soudani alleged that the man had been trained in Iraq by "foreign agents, led by treacherous and criminal Britain."

The Majlis (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has said it is investigating the circumstances surrounding the bombings. The interior, intelligence, and foreign ministers and the national police chief are also scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday to investigate the bombings.

However, the hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pre-empted the outcome of the investigations, telling the ISNA news agency: "We are very suspicious about the role of British forces in perpetrating such terrorist acts. Our people are used to these kind of incidents, and our intelligence agents found the footprints of Britain in the same incidents before. We think the presence of British forces in southern Iraq and near the Iranian border is a factor behind insecurity for the Iraqi and Iranian people."

An editorial in the pro-government Kayhan newspaper claimed the bombers were "British soldiers" who had bungled the bombings, detonating the bombs in rubbish bins before they had a chance to deploy them at targets within the city.

The Iranian government has previously accused the British government of responsibility for the June bombings in Ahwaz City, but has also blamed the US, Canadian and Saudi governments as well as the Shell Oil Company and the opposition Mujahideen-e-Khalq. The regime claimed that it had the culprits for the June attacks in custody, but has not named or placed charges against the accused.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Whoever is responsible for the bombings does not have the best interests of the Ahwazi Arabs at heart. This was an attack on a shopping centre after iftar in an Arab-populated city and most of the victims are likely to have been Arab civilians. Moreover, such attacks usually lead to an increase in state violence against the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population.

"It is likely that the attacks were carried out by the regime or elements within the security forces who are seeking the fuel confrontation between the Iranian and British governments. Blaming the British enables the regime to divert attention from its nuclear programme and its involvement in Iraq and also gives it an excuse to step up the repression and forced displacement of the Ahwazi Arabs.

"We completely condemn all terrorism, whether by opposition groups or the government; nearly all terrorist acts in Iran are carried out by the regime and pro-government militias. Ahwazis experienced the brutality of the Iran-Iraq War and would not favour a foreign occupation of their homeland. They want social justice, autonomy and an end to ethnic cleansing by the regime. The international community should support the Ahwazi people instead of looking on while they are forced from their homes at gun-point."
IRAN: British Condemn Ahwaz Attacks

IRAN: British Condemn Ahwaz Attacks

The British government has been quick to condemn bomb attacks on a shopping centre in Ahwaz City, the provincial capital of the Arab dominated province of Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz).

In a statement published soon after the attacks, the British embassy in Tehran expressed its "revulsion at and condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Ahvaz." It added: "On behalf of the British Government and people, we extend our condolences to the families of the bereaved, the injured and all those involved. The British Government condemns all terrorist activity unequivocally."

The statement added: "There has been speculation in the past about alleged British involvement in Khuzestan. We reject these allegations. Any linkage between the British Government and these terrorist outrages is without foundation. As we have made clear officially to the Government of Iran, the British Government and British forces in Iraq stand ready to help in anyway we can to prevent attacks of this kind or identify those responsible and bring them to justice."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Iranian regime has claimed that the British government is behind Arab unrest, including rioting in April and bomb attacks in June. Despite claiming to have arrested the perpetrators it has not provided any evidence to substantiate its claims and has not put any of the alleged terrorists on trial.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Mousapour told state-run Mehr news agency: "Most probably those involved in the explosion were British agents who were involved in the previous incidents in Ahvaz and Khuzestan." His claim appeared to contradict the regime's previous claim that it had arrested all the "British agents" responsible for the June bomb attacks. He was also contradicted by Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Asefi who said that the government had not yet received information proving foreign involvement in the attacks.

Some claim the bombs could have been personal or crime-related, rather than politically motivated. It is unlikely that the attacks were carried out by Ahwazi opposition groups as an attack in Ahwaz City could only damage their support among the province's indigenous Arabs. Ahwazi militants have tended to carry out sabotage operations on Iranian oil facilities, rather than attacks on civilians.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), a lobbying group that works with Ahwazi Arab political parties and human rights groups, has suggested the attacks may have been the work of the security forces in an attempt to discredit the Ahwazi opposition and as an excuse to retaliate against Western forces in Iraq.

In the run-up to the June election, reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin told The Guardian newspaper that violent attacks by unidentified thugs and a series of bomb attacks, including attacks in Ahwaz City, may have been calculated to persuade voters to choose a candidate with a military background. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-line conservative and former senior army officer, won the presidential election with support from the Basij militias.

Ahwazi Arabs are fearing the attacks will lead to an increase in violent persecution and ethnic cleansing, which have led to unrest in Al-Ahwaz in recent months. In April, at least 160 people were killed by security forces, hundreds injured and hundreds more arrested during a government crack-down on anti-government demonstrations in the province.
IRAN: Ahwaz bomb attack

IRAN: Ahwaz bomb attack

Two bombs exploded today in a shopping centre in Ahwaz City, an ethnically Arab-dominated city in the province of Khuzestan, the Ahwazi Arab homeland.

Early reports suggested four people had been killed and over 100 injured, but the number of casualties is likely to rise. Today's bomb attacks come at a time when Iran is facing increased pressure over its nuclear programme.

Ahwaz City witnessed similar bomb attacks in June, in the run-up to the presidential election, killing eight people. These explosions were caused by high-grade plastic explosives. Ahwazi separatists were blamed, with the Mohi-eldain Martyrs Guerrillas claiming responsibility for the attacks, although the group disbanded in the 1980s.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society lobbying group, said: "These bomb attacks tend to happen at times most advantageous to the Iranian regime and the majority of deaths are Arabs. The nature of the explosives - which could not possibly be produced in the backroom of an Arab slum dwelling - and the time and place the attacks occurred lead us to suspect that the bombs were the work of the Iranian security forces.

"The regime is keen to discredit the Ahwazi movement at a time when it is gaining considerable strength and challenging the state. This provides a motive for car bomb attacks on shopping centres and streets where Ahwazi Arab civilians are present in large numbers in an attempt to dent the movement's popularity. No Ahwazi group would ever support attacks on its own people.

"The regime also wants to portray such attacks as having foreign involvement, but despite claiming to have arrested the culprits for the June attacks on Ahwaz City, the government has failed to produce any evidence to substantiate these claims or put the alleged masterminds on trial. President Ahmadinejad is bound to claim British involvement in the attacks as a way of diverting attention from his own involvement in terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere."

Ahwazi Arabs have held numerous anti-government demonstrations this year in protest at the Iranian regime's ethnic cleansing policy in Khuzestan. Thousands of Arabs are being forced out of their homeland to other provinces. The majority live in some of the worst housing conditions in the Middle East, with unemployment and poverty levels of over 50 per cent. With the Ahwazi homeland containing 90 per cent of Iran's oil resources, the plight of the Ahwazi Arabs has been compared to that of the southern Sudanese or Nigeria's Ogoni people. Following a visit to Khuzestan in July, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari condemned the regime's policy of land confiscation towards the Ahwazi Arabs, which he said was raising poverty levels.

Further information:
Human Rights and the Ahwazi People
Economic Marginalisation of the Ahwazi People
Forced Migration and Land Confiscation
"Fascist" taunt at Iran ambassador in CND conference

"Fascist" taunt at Iran ambassador in CND conference

Iran's ambassador to London, Dr Seyed Mohammed Hossein Adeli, received a hostile response from some peace activists while addressing a conference of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in London on Saturday.

Activists shouted "fascists" as Dr Adeli spoke, but were ejected from the conference. Dr Adeli had been invited by CND to speak on Iran's nuclear programme, which he insisted was for peaceful purposes.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), which works with Ahwazi Arab groups, said: "We share the outrage of some of those who attended the conference and who objected to Dr Adeli's presence. CND is supposed to be against all forms of nuclear technology. Many activists and researchers have proven the link between nuclear energy for civilian purposes and the construction of nuclear warheads as they require similar processes. There is little doubt that Iran intends to build the capacity to produce nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy programme.

"It is baffling that CND should choose to have a representative of a government heavily involved in the nuclear industry speak at its conference. CND has failed to invite members of Iranian opposition groups, human rights activists and the victims of this violent repressive regime to speak to its members. London has hundreds of Iranian political refugees, but CND has apparently shunned them and silenced those in the audience who heckled Dr Adeli. Many Iranians of all political and ethnic backgrounds will be very disappointed in the behaviour of the peace group's management."
Iran Federalists Launch Website

Iran Federalists Launch Website

The Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, an Iranian political party formed by Iran's ethnic minorities in February, has launched a new website to promote a democratic alternative to monarchy and theocracy in Iran. [www.federalcongress.org]

Comprising Ahwazi, Kurdish, Azeri, Balochi and Turkmen parties, the Congress is campaigning for recognition of Iran's identity as a multi-cultural, multi-faith society. The website states that "The present theological government, as did the previous monarchist government, treats Arabs, Baloch, Kurds, Turks, and Turkmen as second and third class citizens. This has resulted in policies that do not regard other languages and religions as equal to Persian and Shi'a Islam. The present system has hindered the economic, cultural and social progress of all oppressed nations in Iran. Except for the Persian and Shias, minorities are subject to reactionary and discriminatory government policies."

The Congress comprises the Azerbaijan Cultural Society, Balochistan People's Party, Baloch United Front, Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz, Komeleh - Revolutionary Party of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Organization for Defence of the Rights of Turkmen People. Their common agenda is the devolution of power to regions and ethnic groups that have long been oppressed by successive Iranian governments, while maintaining Iran's territorial integrity.

The Congress's manifesto states: "we believe the establishment of a federalist system of government on the basis of ethnicity-nationality and geography is the only political mechanism that is enduring, and it (Federalism) allows all Iranian nationalities to realise their aspirations and the exercise of self rule in a framework of a free, united and a democratic Iran." [click here for the manifesto]

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Federalism is the best way forward for Iran. Secessionism will never work as it is unlikely to gain the recognition of the international community. In order to maintain the unity of a democratic Iranian state, ethnic minorities and outlying geographical regions must be assured that there is an even balance of power between the authorities in Tehran and provincial authorities. At least half the population is of non-Persian descent and many non-Persian minorities wish for a distribution of power that recognises Iran's multi-ethnic identity.

"Critics claim that federalism is reactionary and ethnocentric. They fear that any move towards regional autonomy would lead to the Balkanisation of Iran. We say that there are plenty of examples where federalism has succeeded in maintaining stability in large and often diverse states: India, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Spain and Germany.

"In Iran, the devolution of power would help ease ethnic dissent, which has grown dramatically in recent months in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan), Kurdistan and Balochistan. Only the Congress is putting forward a solution that can end the ethnic unrest that has affected these provinces."