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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."