The execution of two young men in Iran for the alleged rape of a 13 year old boy could be an attempt by the regime to smear and terrorise the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population of Khuzestan, claim Ahwazi human rights activists.
The teenagers - an 18 year old and a 16 year old - were hung in Edalat Square in the city of Mashhad on 19 July. The London-based Times newspaper pointed to reports in Iranian newspapers that claimed the young men were originally from the Arab-majority province of Khuzestan. Human rights activists believe they were tortured into confessing to homosexual acts, which are punishable by death in Iran. Similar executions took place in May when three indigenous Ahwazi Arab men were executed in Susangerd, Khuzestan, for the alleged rape and murder of a six year old. In each case, the men's names were continually repeated in the Iranian press, to highlight their Arab identity.
Human rights groups in Iran and the West have condemned the recent executions. Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi claimed that Iran has violated its obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bans such executions. Since 1999, 11 children have been killed in public executions.
Peter Tatchell of the British gay human rights group Outrage! said: "This is just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran.
"The entire country is a gigantic prison, with Islamic rule sustained by detention without trial, torture and state-sanctioned murder.
"Britain's Labour government is pursuing friendly relations with this murderous regime, including aid and trade. We urge the international community to treat Iran as a pariah state, break off diplomatic relations, impose trade sanctions and give practical support to the democratic and left opposition inside Iran."
Extremists have threatened to behead Tatchell and other human rights activists for campaigning against the killing of gay people in Iran and other countries.
Outrage! claims that of the 100,000 people executed in Iran since 1979, 4,000 have been killed for alleged homosexual acts, adding that "The victims include ... political opponents of the Islamist government." Amnesty International said that Iran executed 159 people in 2004, a figure exceeded only by China.
By targetting Arabs, the Iranian regime is clearly using the social taboo of homosexuality and the heinous crime of child rape to justify the social marginalisation of the Ahwazi Arab population. Racial discrimination against Arabs and the summary nature of the Iranian justice system mean that Arabs rarely receive a fair trial. Criminal charges are often trumped up to achieve political ends, in this case the portrayal of Arabs as morally degenerate.
In the past, the government used a moral purge on pornography to raid shops that sell Arabic language literature and seize satellite dishes capable of receiving foreign transmissions. The regime is keen to highlight problems of alcoholism and heroin addiction in Khuzestan - problems that are also prevalent in many other impoverished areas of Iran - to under-line its portrayal of Arabs as lawless, backward and immoral. The regime equates Arabs with moral depravity to justify ethnic repression and state terrorism against Iran's 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs.
The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) calls for an end to the use of the death penalty against homosexuals and urges the international community act against the persecution of all minority groups in Iran.
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