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Ahwazi Arab Political Prisoner Released in Iran

Ahwazi Arab Political Prisoner Released in Iran

Leading Ahwazi Arab intellectual Yossef Azizi-Banitorouf was released today (28 June) after being held in prison for two months.

Azizi-Banitorouf was arrested on 25 April after giving a radio interview criticising the regime for killing unarmed protestors in demonstrations in Ahwaz City and other cities and towns in Khuzestan. Recent reports suggested that he become ill after weeks of interrogation and harsh treatment by his captors. It is not known whether he will face trial as the Iranian security services have not announced any charges against him.

An internationally renowned journalist and academic, Azizi-Banitorouf's incarceration attracted criticism from human rights groups across the world, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation. On Monday, the General Assembly of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), which represents many of the world's marginalised ethnic minorities, passed a resolution calling on the Iranian government to release Azizi-Banitorouf and others arrested during and after the April disturbances.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Yossef Azizi-Banitorouf's release shows that international pressure, not violence, can achieve positive results for the Ahwazi people. We also hope that Akbar Ganji, another Iranian journalist who is still being held in custody despite his ailing health, will be released imminently.

"We call on the Iranian government to uphold human rights and release all Ahwazis who were rounded up and jailed in April. His imprisonment helped bring attention to the economic, social and political marginalisation and oppression of 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs, who represent around 70 per cent of the population of Khuzestan.

"We are lobbying members of the European Parliament to launch a commission of inquiry and initiate an international investigation into the shooting and killings of unarmed indigenous Ahwazi Arab civilian by the Iranian security forces."

"The Identity and Ancestry of the Indigenous Khuzestani Arabs of Iran" - a lecture by Yossef Azizi-Banitorouf
UNPO Votes in Support of Indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in Iran

UNPO Votes in Support of Indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in Iran

In the wake of the Iranian elections, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) General Assembly called on the European Parliament to take action over the human rights abuses of ethnic Ahwazi Arabs in Iran.

A resolution passed by the UNPO condemned the ethnic cleansing of Arabs in Khuzestan through land confiscation and forced migration and brought attention to the abject poverty of most Ahwazis, whose oil-rich homeland is being exploited to profit an elite in Tehran. The UNPO also highlighted the state terrorism unleashed on the Ahwazis during demonstrations in April, which led to the deaths of over 150 unarmed protestors and passers-by and the arrest of hundreds of dissidents, including Ahwazi academic Youssef Azizi-Banitoruf.

The General Assembly - which promotes the voices of Tibetans, Taiwanese, Kurds, Turkomen, native Americans and Australian aboriginals among others - also brought attention to the role of global corporations in the oppression of the Ahwazis, noting that: "contracts have been signed between the Japanese state-owned Inpex Corp and the Iranian Government, worth $2.8 billion, and the Chinese state oil company has signed a $75 billion oil and gas for the 'development' of 'Azedegan' oilfield in Southwestern Iran. Also, that a Norwegian oil firm recently signed similar oil concessions for the exploration of oil in Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz) province." The UNPO voiced concern that "newly discovered oilfields are located on Ahwazi Arab land and particularly in and around the two Indigenous Ahwazi-Arab villages of Hussinieh and Kushk", which is now being confiscated by the regime.

The delegates meeting in The Hague called on the European Parlment "to establish a commission of inquiry and initiate an international investigation into the shooting and killings of unarmed indigenous Ahwazi Arab civilian by the Iranian security forces." It also called for the release of all Ahwazis detained during the April 2005 civil uprising in Khuzestan and called on all oil deals to be abrogated "so long as the Iranian Government does not recognize the legitimate rights of the Ahwazi Arab indigenous people of Khuzestan."

The UNPO resolution will put further pressure on European oil companies to avoid investing in land stolen from one of the world's most persecuted and brutalised minority groups. European oil majors have shown a reluctance to invest in oilfields in the Ahwazi homeland, despite the huge potential in oil profits. Ahwazi groups hope that the resolution will prompt other oil firms to follow suit until Ahwazi demands over land, redistribution of wealth and political and human rights are met.
Diplomatic rift with Iran looms over detainee's release

Diplomatic rift with Iran looms over detainee's release

Fowzi Badavi Nejad, a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan who was involved in the 1980 Iranian embassy siege in London, could be released this month after a parole board hearing.

Nejad is the only surviving member of the group which besieged the embassy and threatened to kill hostages in an effort to secure independence for Arabistan or Al-Ahwaz from Iran. The other hostage-takers were killed when the SAS stormed the building to release the hostages. Nejad was sentenced to life imprisonment (25 years) for conspiracy to murder in 1981. Two hostages were killed in the incident, but Nejad was never accused of murder. Some hostages testified that Nejad had prevented further killings towards the end of the siege.

Nejad's prison tariff was reduced from 25 to 22 years last year by the Court of Appeal, with the backing of the Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf. However, he remained in prison under the orders of the then Home Secretary David Blunkett, whose anti-terrorist legislation was recently ruled illegal by the courts.

Now aged 48, he is said to be a reformed character and his group has disbanded, which indicates that he is no longer a threat to the UK. Ahmad Dadgar, one of the hostages, has campaigned for his release, claiming that Nejad has been adequately punished for his actions and calling on the British government to give him political asylum. Dadgar, a leading Iranian diplomat at the time, was shot during the siege.

His view is shared by Robin Horsfall, one of the SAS officers involved in freeing the hostages, who told the Guardian newspaper in February: "I'd have no problem with him staying in this country. We should say, 'Well, you've paid your debt to society,' and we should let him get on with the rest of his life."

A parole board ruling in Nejad's favour will cause problems for the British government as he was a member of a proscribed terrorist organisation. Nejad's release will also have serious implications for British relations with Iran. He cannot be returned to Iran as he will be executed. But allowing Nejad political asylum in the UK could be used by the Iranian regime to reinforce its claim that the British government is harbouring anti-Iran terrorists.

Tehran has already accused the UK of sponsoring Ahwazi separatism in Khuzestan. Iran claims that British and Americans are inflaming ethnic tension in the province. Demonstrations in April, which led to the killing of more than 160 unarmed Ahwazis by Iranian security services, were followed by a string of bomb attacks in Ahvaz City on 12 June. Ahwazi groups point out that the unrest is rooted in the Iranian government's campaign of ethnic cleansing and the impoverishment of Ahwazi Arabs, but Tehran is eager to blame the US and UK. The government is alleging foreign involvement in Khuzestan to back up its claim that the UK and US are preparing for an invasion of Iran.
Election results for Khuzestan

Election results for Khuzestan

The election turn-out was very low in the Arab majority province of Khuzestan, with reports of deserted polling stations and negligible voting in some Arab districts.

The regime has given various turn-out figures, some as high as 80%. Officially, turn-out was 56% - a figure rejected by Ahwazi parties. The turn-out was probably less than 25% in Khuzestan, due to the boycott, the authorities' refusal to allow people to vote and general apathy.

Reformist presidential candidates have attacked the elections for widespread fraud and intimidation, with the regime accused of directing terrorist attacks to boost the vote of hard-liners.

Despite widespread electoral fraud, intimidation and a low-turn out in Khuzestan, reformist Mehdi Karrubi - a former Majlis speaker - topped the poll with more than a third of votes cast. He was followed by former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who won around a fifth of votes. Hardline Tehran Mayor Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, who gained the backing of the religious elite, came third with just one in six of the votes.

It is unclear whether these results reflect the voting intentions of those who voted due to irregularities. But the flawed official results show that the candidate that topped the poll in Khuzestan, Mehdi Karrubi, will not be included in the second round run-off elections between Rafsanjani and Ahmadinezhad. Karrubi won roughly the same amount of votes as Rafsanjani and Ahmadinezhad combined.

With up to 80 per cent of the population of Khuzestan failing to vote in the first round, the elections revealed that most people in the Arab majority province have rejected Iran's political system.

Official results for Khuzestan

Mehdi Karrubi: 539,158 (34.5%)
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani: 319,883 (20.5%)
Mahmud Ahmadinezhad: 224,427 (14.4%)
Mustafa Moin: 148,375 (9.5%)
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf: 148,207 (9.5%)
Ali Larijani: 58,554 (3.7%)
Mohsen Mehralizadeh: 20,253 (1.3%)

Total vote cast = 1,563,000 or 56% of eligible voters
Unrest on Polling Day

Unrest on Polling Day

Ahwaz witnessed civil unrest on Friday, during Iran's presidential election. A polling station in Ahwaz City was hit by an artillery rocket and three cars were set alight. In Ramshir (Khalaf-Abad), 90km south-west of Ahwaz, a polling station was also hit a rocket. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Election boycott in Khuzestan

Election boycott in Khuzestan

Reports from Iran suggest that an overwhelming majority of Ahwazi Arabs boycotted the presidential elections in protest against the regime.

In recent weeks, Al-Ahwaz TV has been broadcasting to the Arab-majority province of Khuzestan calling for non-violent resistance and a boycott. Ahwazis responded positively to the call. Polling stations were reportedly empty throughout Friday in the province's Arab-populated districts, two months after the regime ordered a bloody crack-down on Ahwazi demonstrators which resulted in the deaths of over 160 unarmed civilians.

The regime claimed the turn-out in Khuzestan was over 80 per cent, well above the supposed national average of 65 per cent. Ahwazi groups called the claims "laughable" and "desperate propaganda".

Reformist presidential candidate Mehdi Karoubi, who came third in the polls, said: "There has been bizarre interference. Money has changed hands. They can go and file a lawsuit against me, but I will give all the names of the people in power in my defence. I see this election as being rigged."

Another reformist candidate, Mustafa Moin, complained of "irregularities". In a statement, he said: "Take seriously the danger of fascism. Such creeping and complex attempts will eventually lead to militarism, authoritarianism as well as social and political suffocation in the country. This is a threat for civil society and is blocking reform."

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "This election result was achieved through deceit, violence and fraud. Civil servants who said they were boycotting the poll were arrested and told to vote in three different polling stations or they would lose their jobs and be incarcerated. This is not a free and fair election by any standards.

"Ahwazi Arabs refuse to participate in a system that oppresses them, that rounds up hundreds of civilians, tortures them and kills them simply because of their ethnic origin and because their homeland is the most oil-rich place on the planet. Only mad men and fanatics believe that Arabs would willingly turn out to vote after two months of state violence.

"Whoever wins the second round of the elections, it makes no difference to the Ahwazis. The Ahwazis will still be living under a Supreme Leader, a tyrannical theocrat with no democratic legitimacy."
Iran bomb attacks are an inside job

Iran bomb attacks are an inside job

There is mounting speculation that a string of bomb attacks across Iran was conducted by the security services seeking to terrorise the population into voting for militarist hard-liner Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf in the presidential election.

At an election rally, former Education Minister Mostafa Moin, the candidate for the Islamic Iran Participation Front and one of the front-runners in the election, dismissed the notion that the Mujahideen or any other opposition group was involved in the attacks, which have killed at least 10 civilians.

In an interview with the UK's Guardian newspaper, Moin did not say who was directly responsible for the attacks in Ahvaz City, Tehran and other cities in the past few days. But when asked whether the attacks had official approval, Moin, whose party is in power in Khuzestan, said: "I do not consider it improbable. If they continue in this way, my supporters will hold an emergency meeting to study the situation and they will reconsider our participation in the election."

Moin's supporters have come under violent attack by supporters of Qalibaf and Rafsanjani, the other candidates tipped for the presidency. Election violence has mounted as Qalibaf's support has ebbed, despite backing for his bid for power by the mullahs.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), which lobbies on behalf of moderate Ahwazi organisations, human rights groups and the UK's 3,000-strong Ahwazi community, has dismissed reports that the bomb attacks were the work of fringe separatist groups. Ahwazi groups claiming responsibility are more likely to be seeking media attention, but do not have the military capability or organisation to conduct large bomb attacks within Iran.

BAFS has suggested that the attacks could be the work of secret police chief Hojjatol Islam Ali Younessi and his deputy Mohammad Reza Iravani, although the evidence is circumstantial. As Director of the General Directorate of Special Operations, Iravani was responsible for an attack on Imam Reza shrine which killed a number of pilgrims in June 1994, during Rafsanjani's administration. At the time, the attack was blamed on opposition groups. Iranian defectors later revealed that the attacks were a stage-managed by the DGSO in an attempt to force foreign governments into halting the activities of exiled opposition groups. The DGSO was reponsible for the murders of Christian priests, which were also initially blamed on foreign opposition groups but later revealed to be masterminded by Iravani.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad: "Khuzestan is being used by the military to stage these bomb attacks. Violence provides the most extreme elements within the regime an excuse to step up their campaign of persecution of Ahwazi Arabs, helps marginalise Ahwazi groups from the West and wins over support for their militarist agenda.

"Under President Khatami, the 'Reformists' failed to tackle these extremists and terrorists within the security infrastructure. Moin's party has achieved nothing for the Ahwazis in Khuzestan, despite having control over the provincial administration. The Ahwazis can only expect poverty and oppression from the regime, regardless of the puppet elected to the presidency.

"The regime has made the issue of voter turn-out into a referendum on the political system. We urge Ahwazis and other Iranians to abstain to deliver a vote of no confidence against the regime. Abstention will have a greater impact on the future of Iran than any bomb attack."
Ahwaz group claims responsibility for Iran attacks

Ahwaz group claims responsibility for Iran attacks

The Party of the Ahwazi Arab Movement has claimed that it was responsible for the bomb attacks in Ahwaz City on 12 June.

However, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has cast doubt on the group's claims and suggested that the bomb attacks are likely to have been carried out with support from security forces: either a faction of the Iranian military seeking to influence the elections or a unit set up by a foreign government.

Nasser Ban-Assad, BAFS spokesman, said: "Some fringe exile Ahwazi groups are keen to gain notoriety and publicity by claiming responsibility for bomb attacks and pipeline sabotage in Khuzestan. Few Ahwazis believe that such small groups can co-ordinate attacks half-way across the world. These bomb attacks in Ahvaz City - which have been followed by similar explosions in Tehran and Karaj - have nothing to do with the Ahwazis and are part of a wider national and geopolitical dispute between far greater powers.

"It is clear that any group would need expertise and an operational infrastructure to co-ordinate four large explosions within a time-frame of just two hours in one of Iran's most militarised cities. No Ahwazi group has this military capacity or support. Those groups that were once backed by Iraq and Syria were never particularly effective even when they were given arms and explosives, let alone now when they have no foreign support.

"It is highly unlikely the US or the UK would give military support to any Ahwazi group, as suggested by the Iranian government. If they wanted regime change in Tehran, it is unlikely they would turn to Ahwazi Arab groups to achieve their aims."

This is not the first time that fringe Ahwazi groups have claimed responsibility for attacks within Iran. In May, the Elaph website published a claim by Canadian resident Sabah Musawi that an attack on Pipeline 102 (Masjed-e-Soleiman to Ahwaz) was carried out by his grouping, the Canada-based Ahwaz Renaissance Movement. The site also attributes the attack on the Abadan/Abadan-Ma'shuur/Mahshur pipeline to the ARM, which was created in Damascas under the auspices of the Syrian Ba'ath party before moving the Canada some years ago. Few believe the ARM is capable of pipeline sabotage within Khuzestan.

Ban-Assad added: "The danger is that these bomb attacks have given a green light to the Iranian government to detain, torture and murder more Ahwazi Arab civilians. The Revolutionary Guards have already gunned down 160 Arabs in cold blood since the April uprising and many more have "disappeared". We have received reports that Ahwazi Arab political prisoners are being interrogated in the torture chambers of Karoon Prison, while the security forces are sweeping Arab neighbourhoods in Khuzestan arresting people arbitrarily. We fear that the cycle of violence is escalating, leaving little room for negotiation. Arabs are facing increased state violence following the attacks.

"If you want to know who is behind the attacks, you only have to think about who would benefit the most - and it is not the Arabs. Certainly, the more extreme hard-line elements of the Iranian establishment will benefit greatly from the nationalist and religious fervour and anti-Arab sentiments that will arise as a result of these bomb attacks.

"If this was the work of the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) - or MEK/MKO - they will need to have sneaked out of US custody in Camp Ashraf in Iraq and into Iran while heavily armed, unless they had some help from their captors. This would raise some profound questions about the PMOI's designation as a terrorist group in the US and Europe. I believe that if the US and UK were to use the MKO to launch strikes within Iran, they would wait at least until after the elections and at a time when diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear activities have been exhausted. But we can only speculate at this moment in time."
Bomb blasts in Ahwaz City, Iran

Bomb blasts in Ahwaz City, Iran

Ahwaz City witnessed multiple bomb attacks this morning, just two months after the Iranian government launched a bloody crack-down on Ahwazi Arab protestors in Iran's Khuzestan province.

At least eight people were killed and dozens injured after massive bombs exploded in carefully targetted areas of Ahvaz City, Khuzestan's provincial capital: opposite the governor general's office, in front of the province's housing and urban development department and outside the house of the provincial chief of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

The attacks were co-ordinated to go off at around 6.00am GMT. No group has claimed responsibility. Ali Aqamohammadi, the official spokesman for Iran's Spreme Council on National Security and Khuzestan's Governor, blamed the attacks on the separatist Ahwazi Arab Peoples Democratic Popular Front (ADPF). The ADPF, which claimed it was involved in the April demonstrations, denies any involvement. Its London-based spokesman Mahmoud Ahmad told Al-Jazeera TV: "We have no idea who has done this." The group is not known to be heavily armed and has not previously used explosives.

The armed opposition group Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), also known as the MKO and the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI), has also denied responsibility for the attacks, which were followed by a bomb blast in Tehran. Most of the MEK's combatants are being held in US custody at Camp Ashraf, the group's former headquarters in Iraq. The government's Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) has put the blame on the Brigades of Revolutionary Martyrs of Al-Ahwaz, an unknown "terrorist" group. There are suspicions that the bombs were planted by hard-liners within the regime itself to stir up religious extremism within the population and influence the results of the election.

The April riots were sparked by the publication of a letter written by the then Vice-President Ali Abtahi which outlined plans to reduce the number of Arabs in Khuzestan from three-quarters to around a third of the total population, while eliminating Arab cultural heritage and placenames in the province. The letter can be downloaded here.

Before the bomb attacks, local Ahwazi Arab leaders urged the government to give Khuzestan's largest ethnic group a fair share of the province's oil wealth and the right to political representation. In May, Jasem Shadidzadeh Al-Tamimi, a former member of parliament and the Secretary General of the Islamic Wefagh Party, a legal group representing Iranian Arabs, wrote an open letter to President Khatami. He asked him 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." He stated that the government was denying Ahwazi Arabs peaceful, democratic means for protest.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "I would not be surprised if an element of the Ahwazi Arab population decided to use violent means, but the attacks are not going to help the situation in Khuzestan. We fear that today's wave of attacks will invite retaliation on the Arab population of Khuzestan by the regime. Government forces have already killed 160 Arab civilians over the past two months and hundreds more are being detained, including intellectuals and tribal leaders. There is evidence of torture and the arbitrary use of state violence on innocent civilians.

"We are calling on Ahwazi Arabs to take up non-violent direct action against the regime and to boycott the forthcoming presidential elections. The call for civil disobedience is being broadcasted by the Al-Ahwaz TV station on the Assyrian satellite channel. We are also calling on Western governments, politicians and non-governmental organisations to highlight the plight of the Ahwazis and call for an end to their persecution and poverty."


Documents on Ahwazi Arabs in Khuzestan
Human Rights and the Ahwazi People
Ahwazis and the Legacy of War
Development and the Legacy of the Iran-Iraq War
The Economic Marginalisation of Ahwazis
Forced Migration and Land Confiscation in Khuzestan
Human Rights Watch Report on Khuzestan
Amnesty International Report on Khuzestan
Bodies of tortured Ahwazis found in Karoon River

Bodies of tortured Ahwazis found in Karoon River

The bodies of two murdered Ahwazi Arab men involved in recent demonstrations have been found washed up on the shores of Karoon River in Ahwaz City in Iran's province of Khuzestan.

The bodies were covered in raised round bruises and their hands had been tied behind their backs. The men appeared to have been badly tortured before being drowned in the river.

The discovery came just weeks after the Iranian security forces crushed a peaceful uprising by Ahwazi Arabs against the regime. At least 160 people, including a pregnant woman and three children, were killed by army snipers and death squads in the crack-down that followed mass demonstrations in Khuzestan's towns and cities. Around 1,000 indigenous Ahwazis were arrested, including tribal leaders and intellectuals.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "This was no ordinary murder. The photographs of these men show that they were beaten and tortured and deliberately drowned. This is typical of the brutality meted out to those who oppose the Iranian regime.

"There is no such thing as reformism in the Iranian establishment. President Khatami is directly responsible for state violence waged by this totalitarian theocracy against opposition parties and ethnic minorities.

"Ahwazi opposition groups are urging Ahwazi Arabs in Khuzestan to boycott the elections to show that they will not acquiesce with a political system that wishes to crush them, impoverish them and deny them their cultural and linguistic identity. The Ahwazi people are united more than ever in their desire to see a peaceful end to oppression in Iran."
Ahwaz Arab voice at the UN in Geneva

Ahwaz Arab voice at the UN in Geneva

Iran's persecution of its Ahwazi Arab population was highlighted at a top level meeting at the UN's Palais des Nations in Geneva this week.

Karim Abdian, Director of the Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation (AEHRF), gave an oral statement to the Working Group on Minorities at the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in which he brought attention to the regime's legacy of human rights violations against Ahwazis in Khuzestan province.

In his address to the Working Group on 31 May, Mr Abdian said: "The Islamic Republic government continues ethnic restructuring, confiscation of Arab and forced displacement of Ahwazi out of their land. We are being perceived as disloyal, suspicious and a security risk - who some day may re-claim the oil rich land of Khuzestan.

"The policy of the Islamic Republic, like its predecessor, is directed at the eradication of the national identity and forceful assimilation of Ahwazi Arabs, and to a lesser degree, other nationalities such as the Turks, Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen.

"In the past fifteen years alone, over 250,000 hectares of Ahwazi farmers land in regions of Jufir, Shosh, Hoizeh and Hamidieh have been confiscated and given to Persian settlers. This is done in violation of the article 4.5 of the United Nations Declaration on Minorities.

"In violation of articles 2.2 and 2.3 of UNDM, as well as articles 15 and 19 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic-governor general of Khuzestan, all other province's political, military and security commanders, officers, mayors and all high and mid-level government officials of Khuzestan, have consistently been appointed from non-Arabs outside of the native Arab population.

"Ahwazis live in extreme poverty, lack basic services such as electricity, telephone, have no schools, hospitals or health clinics - while their ancestral land produces four million barrels of oil per day and funds 90% of Iran's economy - none of this wealth, is allocated to the Ahwazi people or their region. They do not share the riches of their land."

Mr Abdian also brought attention to the recent killings of peaceful demonstrators in Khuzestan, who were protesting against the diversion of their water resources, ethnic restructuring and poverty. The protests followed the publicisation of a letter leaked from President Khatami's office which outlined a programme of ethnic restructuring. This involved migrating people of non-Arabs ethnic descent into Khuzestan to reduce the province's Arab population from 70% to 30% and eradicating Arab place names. Among the hundreds arrested in a government crack-down on Ahwazi Arabs were tribal leaders and intellectuals, including journalist Youssef Azizi-Banitoruf, whose case has been raised by leading human rights organisations and journalists' groups.

The AEHRF put forward a number of recommendations:

1. That visit of Special Reporter on Summery and Arbitrary Executions to Iran be expedited and include in his agenda a visit to Khuzestan to investigate the killing of over 60 Ahwazi Arab demonstrators and the fate of the detainees and the missing.

2. To end the state of siege and redeploy military and security forces out of the province.

3. Investigate the authenticity of the government-directed ethnic cleansing policy against Ahwazi Arabs stipulated in the recently leaked internal top-secret document from President Khatemi's office.

4. That the Islamic Republic of Iran allocates a portion of the oil money to alleviate extreme poverty among the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.

5. Free all Ahwazi detainees arrested during and after the April 15 peaceful demonstration including Mr Youssef Azizi-Banitoruf.

Mr Abdian reported a positive response from representatives of various government's attending the Working Group's session, despite verbal protests by an Iranian delegate at the meeting.

Click here to download the full text of the AEHRF's statement to the Working Group on Minorities.