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...

Religion a tool of tyranny in Iran

Religion a tool of tyranny in Iran

Ahwazi Arabs have rejected claims by Ahwaz City's interim Friday prayers leader, Hojjatoleslam Heydari, that the state religion unites Iran, and pointed out that the regime itself is the cause of ethnic division.

Heydari claimed ethnic tensions were being prompted by foreigners intent on undermining the unity of the Islamic republic. "Khuzestan was the first place where Iran contacted Islam and Shiism; in fact Khuzestan can be known as the gateway to Islam and Shiism for Iran," he said. "Religious bonds are the main reason for unity among various ethnic groups in Khuzestan."

BAFS spokeman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "Islam believes that all are equal, regardless of race, nationality or language. So why is it that in Khuzestan, where Arabs are the largest ethnic group, there are no Arab Friday imams in the largest cities: Ahwaz City, Khorramshahr and Abadan? Why does the Islamic Republic ban Arabic newspapers and deny Arabs the right to watch Arabic television? The regime is fundamentally anti-Arab; it does not believe in equality but ethnic Persian supremacy."

Arabs are faced with discrimination in both the public and private sector. Khuzestan's commerce, services and industrial sectors are mainly in the hands of non-Arabs. Of the top 25 governmental positions, only two or three are Arabs. This 10-15% ratio of Arabs to non-Arabs in the Ahwaz City administration drops to less than 5% at the provincial level. This means that 70% of the population of Khuzestan (the Arabs) holds less than 5% of the key and important governmental positions.

"The Ahwazi Arabs have no problem with Iranians from other ethnic groups," said Ban-Assad. "They don't want disharmony, they want equality. Last month's uprising was not communal violence but a revolt against the injustices perpetrated by a violent, greedy and racist government. It was a revolt against a tyranny that uses religion as a tool of oppression for its own survival."
Former Iranian MP in Ahwazi appeal

Former Iranian MP in Ahwazi appeal

Jasem Shadidzadeh Al-Tamimi, a former member of Iran's Majlis and the Secretary General of the Islamic Wefagh Party, has appealed to President Khatami to address the problem of displacement, homelessness and deprivation among Ahwazi Arab people.

In an open letter to the President, he brought attention to the fact that "lands are 'purchased' at a dirt cheap price from the Arab farmers and sometimes taken without any compensation." He condemned the government's practice of bulldozing Arab neighbourhoods in the Iranian province of Khuzestan, particularly the destruction of the Sepeedar Residential Complex where 4,000 Arabs were made homeless by security forces despite objections by members of parliament.

Mr Shadidzadeh, who lost his seat during last year's Majlis elections when "troublesome" reformists were barred from standing, indicated that he shared the frustration of Khuzestan's Ahwazi Arabs, who have endured "one hundred years of pain and sufferings."

He cast doubt on the ability of reformists to alleviate the suffering of Ahwazis within the current constitution, saying "our wishful thinking about reforms in Arab affairs by the Reformists has been only a mirage." He added that the government's refusal to allow Arab parties, such as the Islamic Wefagh Party, to contest elections and its continuing ban on Arabic language newspapers and magazines was denying Ahwazi Arabs the right to air their grievances in a peaceful and democratic fashion. The Iranian Arab politician called on President Khatami to "do your utmost in lowering the 'wall of mistrust' between the proud Iranian ethnicities, so that the 'infected wounds' of the Arab people of Ahwaz may heal."

In relation to the recent Ahwazi uprising, Shadidzadeh requested that the President release prisoners, especially children, women, and political and cultural activists affiliated with legal but unofficial organizations. He also asked the President to release the bodies of those killed in the protests so they can be buried and mourned. Innocent prisoners who played no role in the rioting should be compensated, he added.

Shadidzadeh, a reformist from Khuzestan, is a critic of the brutality of law enforcement forces in the province. In the past, he condemned the employment of Badr Brigade militias belonging to the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI), now members of Iraq's ruling coalition, against Ahwazi Arabs in Khuzestan. The SCIRI militias were used by the regime in December 2002 during a series of uprisings in the Khuzestan cities of Ahwaz, Khoramshahr and Koot-Abdollah. The revolt occurred after the regime decided to confiscate satellite dishes and close down shops selling music and video tapes of Arabic music and dancing. Around 300 youths aged between 12 and 18 were arrested by security forces and SCIRI militias.
Message of Solidarity to Uzbek opposition

Message of Solidarity to Uzbek opposition

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has voiced its solidarity with Uzbekistan's democratic opposition and called on the international community to investigate the massacre of civilians in Andizhan and other cities by the security forces.

BAFS has pointed to the similarities between the recent popular uprising in Uzbekistan and the uprising in Khuzestan, where more than 160 Arabs were killed at the hands of Iran's ruthless Revolutionary Guard last month. The Uzbekistan government has blamed the uprising on bandits and Islamic terrorists, while the Islamic regime in Tehran has condemned "foreign-backed separatists" in Khuzestan. In both cases, the regimes are in denial over the popular and spontaneous revolt against tyranny.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "We extend a hand of friendship to all those peaceful protestors who risk their lives struggling against dictatorship. We do not believe the government of Uzbekistan's propaganda that claims that all those murdered were Al-Qaeda mercenaries. The people gunned down in cold blood were simply voicing their opposition to Karimov's ruthless regime, which has many parallels with the tyrants of Tehran in its use of torture and mass murder.

"While the Uzbeks and the Ahwazi Arabs have very different cultures, we have a common cause: self-determination and democracy. Hundreds of Uzbeks, Ahwazi Arabs and Iranian Kurds have died in recent weeks, while the international community has turned a blind eye. It's time for the world to take a stand against fascism. It's time to stop the arms sales, stop the flow of oil and gas and stop the profits of the gangsters that run Iran and Uzbekistan. Only then will the peoples of Iran and Uzbekistan have a chance of knowing freedom and democracy."

Picture from: International Association for Democratic Reforms and the Protection of Minorities in Uzbekistan
Ahwaz hunger strike

Ahwaz hunger strike

The Kuwaiti press have reported that large numbers of Iranian Arab Ahwazis have staged a hunger strike in Karoon prison and other prisons in Ahwaz City, the provincial capital of Khuzestan.

Most of the detainees involved in the indefinite hunger strike were involved in the uprising that began in Ahwaz City on 15 April. Among them is Youssef Azizi Banitoruf, the well known Ahwazi Arab writer, journalist and researcher. Kuwait's Al-Siasieh and Al-Qabas newspapers quote the National Ahwazi Arab Democratic Human Rights movement on the widespread torture in Karoon prison.

The main reason for the hunger strike are a reaction against:

1. The use of torture during interrogation

2. The long detention without reason

3. Poor prison conditions, overcrowding, inadequate and bad food, etc.

Al-Siasieh quotes Mr Amir Khani of Iran's Justice Ministry as saying that the cases of 400 prisoners arrested during the 15 April protests were near completion and that their files will be forwarded to revolutionary and criminal courts. Previously, the government has claimed that 376 people were arrested and that all but 10 of them were released days after the 15 April uprising.

Al-Siasieh also states that Arab Iranian employees of the Ministry of Water and Electricity have been also begun an open ended hunger strike in the city of Khorramshahr (Mohammarah) since 14 May against unpaid salary and bad working conditions.
HRW condemns Iran's violence in Khuzestan

HRW condemns Iran's violence in Khuzestan

Human Rights Watch has joined Amnesty International and other human rights bodies in raising alarm over the Iranian government's violent repression of Ahwazi Arabs in Khuzestan.

In a statement released today, HRW calls for the immediate release of Ahwazi intellectual Yusuf Azizi Banitaraf and for independent journalists and human rights monitors to be allowed to report on a government crackdown on Arab protestors.

Banitaraf was arrested on 25 April during a press conference called by the Centre for the Defence of Human Rights and his house was ransacked by the police. He had condemned the killing of ethnic Arabs by the security services in Khuzestan.

Other Arab professionals being held by the authorities include: Kazem Asad, Sadegh Sewikiare, Ghasem Nasserian, Kazem Mojadam, Abdolghader Hamadi, Jaber Naam Yahuri, Mojahed Baldi, Salem Beradea, Nabi Manabi, Reza Bani-Saeed and Abood Bani Saeed.

At least 160 Arabs, including women, children and the elderly, were gunned down during a two-week period in April. The violent repression followed a 15 April protest at the the leaking of a letter from President Khatami's office outlining government plans to reduce the Arab population to one third of the total and change the names of Arab towns.

The authorities have closed the Tehran bureau of Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network, after its correspondent reported from Ahwaz on the clashes. The government has also banned foreign and Iranian journalists from travelling to Khuzistan.

"The Iranian authorities have again displayed their readiness to silence those who denounce human rights violations," said Joe Stork Washington director of Human Rights Watch's Middle East division. "We have serious allegations the government used excessive lethal force, arbitrary arrests and torture in Khuzestan."

HRW has reported that the government has been releasing only two bodies a week to families, even after collecting fees from them. Residents told the organisation that the government initially demanded a payment of 50,000,000 Iranian rials (US$6,250) for each body, allegedly to compensate for damages to public buildings sustained during the protests. This amount was later reduced to 15,000,000 rials (US$1,875).

HRW has voiced concern, also expressed by Amnesty, that those currently detained by the government are being subjected to poor conditions and possibly torture. The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation - British Ahwazi Friendship Society's partner in the US - told Human Rights Watch that Sadegh Shoiki, an engineer with the state-owned South Fishing Enterprise (Shilat Jonoob), was detained on April 16 and severely tortured "to a point that he cannot talk, walk or stand." The organisation said that this information came from Shoiki's family, who had visited him in Ahmadabad prison in Abadan.
Alarm over Ahwazi asylum seeker's treatment in Australia

Alarm over Ahwazi asylum seeker's treatment in Australia

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society has expressed its alarm over the treatment of a 27 year old Ahwazi asylum seeker, who was forcibly removed from Australia's notorious Baxter detention centre on 9 May.

Refugee advocacy groups in Australia say that the asylum seeker, known as Mojahed, was taken from Baxter in the South Australian desert, where he has been living for five years, in preparation for his deportation to Iran where he faces torture and murder. He is currently being held in Sydney's Villawood detention, where asylum seekers are held before they are sent back to their home countries.

Independent psychologist Richard Balfour has raised serious concerns over the detainee's mental health, stating that the young man is "acutely distressed" and is "threatening self-harm". He said that Mojahed was suicidal when he first assessed him two years ago and repeatedly broke down. It appears the man has not received adequate care for his problems. The claims follow a ruling by a Federal Court judge in Adelaide last year that found the government had breached its duty of care to two Baxter detainees by failing to provide adequate mental health services.

Ten Ahwazis are currently being held in Baxter and several of them are suffering serious mental illnesses. Many of the Ahwazi Baxter prisoners have discovered that members of their families were arrested and injured during the recent Ahwazi uprising in Khuzestan. Many Ahwazis imprisoned by the Australian government could face similar treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities if they are forced to return.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "The recent events in Khuzestan are an indication of the brutalisation of Ahwazis by the Iranian security services. The situation in the province is worse than ever, with international human rights groups reporting arbitrary arrests, use of lethal force against unarmed civilians and possible torture.

"The Ahwazi asylum seekers being held in Baxter and elsewhere in Australia should be granted refugee status on the grounds that they face persecution and death if they returned.

"We have received reports that the Iranian regime is arming informal militias to carry out assassinations of opposition activists in Khuzestan. Those held in Baxter will no doubt come under suspicion if they are returned to Iran and that is enough to provoke a lethal response from death squads.

"We urge the Australian government to show humanity and compassion for the Ahwazi asylum seekers in its custody and, at the very least, give them the healthcare they require, as directed by the Australian judiciary."
Ahwazis released in Syria

Ahwazis released in Syria

Five Ahwazi Arabs were released in Damascus on Friday, a week after they were arrested by the Syrian authorities.

Human rights groups had voiced concern that Syria would transfer the men, who included Ali Mazraeh of the separatist Al-Ahwaz Arab People's Democratic Popular Front (ADPF), to custody in Iran where they would be tortured and possibly killed. Mazraeh fled to Syria during the Iran-Iraq War about 20 years ago and has lived there as a refugee ever since.

The ADPF had claimed it was involved in the April intifada against the Iranian government in Khuzestan, which had led to the deaths of up to 160 Ahwazi Arabs at the hands of the security services. Syria had been holding the men at the request of Tehran. However, at least three of those held in Syrian custody had no association with the group and were in Damascus to study.

The release of all five men cam after intense lobbying pressure from human rights organisations and governments in the Gulf region.