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Ahwaz Intifada intensifies

More than 130 have been killed, 806 injured and 1,700 arrested following a week of unrest in Iran's Arab-dominated province of Khuzestan, said the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) today.

The AHRO, which has been co-operating with Amnesty International's own inquiries, gathered the information through telephone interviews, e-mails and faxes with its contacts in Khuzestan.

Kuwait's Al-Watan newspaper reported that water, electricity and power supplies were still cut from Kut-Abdullah and other parts of the province. The situation is described as "desperate".

Demonstations

Violence continued into its ninth day today, with eye-witness reports of clashes between Iranian security forces and Ahwazi demonstrators in Khafjieh (Sosangerd), leaving seven dead and dozens injured. Six were also killed in Shush. On Friday and Saturday, five people were killed in Maashur (Mahshahr) and two were killed in Fallahieah (Shadegan).

Large demonstrations by Ahwazi Arabs also took place today in Mohammarah (Khorramshahr). Soldiers sealed off the area and arrested hundreds of protestors. Residents claimed that today's Mohammarah demonstration was the largest and most confrontational since a week-long revolt in the city in 1980, which was crushed by Admiral Madani, the then governor general of Khuzestan, killing 316 demonstrators.

Snipers have been deployed on roof-tops by Revolutionary Guards in Ahwaz City, where sporadic protests have been broken up by soldiers firing into the air. Gunfire was heard through Saturday night in the city's Lashkar-Abad district. Arab residents of the city are said to be living in terror. Meanwhile, a liquefied natural gas plant in north of Ahwaz City was set alight and was still reported to be on fire on Sunday.

The government's attacks on Arabs have been indiscriminate. Among the dead are pregnant women, children and elderly, with the age of casualties ranging from six to 70 years old. Arab homes and markets have been set alight.

Hospitals are refusing to admit injured demonstrators, some of whom subsequently died of their injuries. Pharmacies have also been ordered not to sell first aid medicines to the injured.

Iranian organisations and groups representing non-Persian minorities, including the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, have voiced their solidarity with the Ahwazi Intifada.

Crack-down

The Lebanese Hezbollah - which is trained in Khuzestan - appears to have been conscripted into the crack-down. Among those attacking demonstrators were Arab-speakers with distinctly Lebanese accents, according to reports on the ground.

The regime claimed it released on Friday 135 detainees arrested in the past week, but their families claim they still have no contact with them. The government has demanded cash bonds of US$1,800 - more than twice the average annual salary of Ahwazi Arabs - to release detainees on bail. Ethnic Arab lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, nurses and university students are still being held in custody as part of the regime's effort to "dry up the source of revolt".

Propaganda
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei led a high-level delegation to Ahwaz City on Friday and staged a demonstration in support of the regime. Up to 1,000 people arrived by bus from ethnic Persian areas to attend the demonstration of loyalty, dubbed "Ahwaz Day" by the regime. Security forces reportedly handed out Arab clothing to the ethnic Persian demonstrators to give an impression of Persian-Arab unity behind the regime. A similar hastily-organised gathering occurred in Mahshahr.