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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...

Iraq: rejection of Iranian system?

Iraq: rejection of Iranian system?

The drive towards federalism by Iraq's government, led by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has revealed a schism between Iran and its evangelical wing in Iraq.

Set up and funded by Tehran, SCIRI is now rejecting Iran's centralised theocratic political system in favour of a decentralised federal structure to accommodate some of Iraq's ethnic groups. While it has not fully recognised the rights of Turkomen and Assyrian minorities, the proposed constitution enshrines the right of internal self-determination for Iraqi Kurds - a demand advocated by Iran's various minority groups, including the Ahwazi Arabs. The Iraqi Constitution has opened the way for devolution as a method of internal conflict resolution in Iran, as advocated by the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) which works with representatives of Iran's Ahwazi Arab population, said: "SCIRI - a group financed an organised by Tehran - as the leading party of the Iraqi coalition government is embracing a political solution Iran's ethnic groups have long been arguing for: federalism and a fair redistribution of oil revenues.

"While the proposed constitution is not perfect, Iran's Iraqi allies recognise that a centralised Islamic Republic is not viable. However, in our opinion it does not go far enough to address the rights and concerns of Iraq's disadvantaged Assyrian and Turkomen minorities who represent a substantial proportion of the population.

"The Iraqi coalition is willing to allow the people of Iraq a vote on the Constitition, a right denied to the Iranians. We demand that Iran follows the lead of the Iraqi government and seek a federal constitution that devolves power to the country's minorities, who represent 50-60 per cent of the population."

The proposed constitution makes Islam the official religion. Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution states that no law can contradict either the rules of Islam, the principles of democracy or the people's basic rights and freedoms. Article 5 states that "the people are the source of authority" for Iraqi law, confirming the supremacy of the democratic will. In contrast in Iran, Islamic law - as dictated by an unelected theocratic elite - reigns supreme and can override the democratic will of the people.

Article 4 of the proposed constitution states: "Iraqis are guaranteed the right to educate their children in their mother tongues, such as Turkomen or Assyrian, in government educational institutions, or any other language in private." This is a right denied to Iran's ethnic minorities, who are required to speak the official language of Farsi to gain employment in the civil service.

Kurdish and Arabic are classified as the languages of the state, which Turkomens and Assyrians claim demotes them to second-class citizens. Nevertheless, the proposed Constitution states that "the Turkomen and Assyrian languages will be official in the areas where they are located", a right denied to Iran's minorities.

Ban-Assad said: "Tehran will rue the day when it celebrated the fall of Saddam Hussein, for the democratic current in Iraq poses a greater danger to the regime's foundation than any of the Iraqi dictator's weapons.

"We fear that Iran may change alliegances to some of Iraq's more fundamentalist and disruptive Shia fundamentalist groups in an effort to undermine democracy. The Mahdi Army, once dismissed by Tehran, is now mobilising, prompting clashes with SCIRI. Is this a sign of Iranian-backed insurgency against a democratic Iraq?"
Iranian parliament rejects oil revenue to help poor

Iranian parliament rejects oil revenue to help poor

The Majlis (Iran's Parliament) has rejected a bill to allocate 1.5 per cent of oil export revenue to the province of Khuzestan on procedural grounds.

The decision will anger many Ahwazi Arabs, struggling with poverty and cultural oppression. Although Khuzestan produces up to 90 per cent of Iran's total oil output, more than 50% of its indigenous Ahwazi Arab inhabitants live in absolute poverty. The situation has led to massive unrest. Last month, the UN's Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Miloon Khotari condemned the treatment of Arabs in Khuzestan, particularly the government's land confiiscation programme.

The bill was intended to address some of the concerns over the impoverishment of Ahwazis, assisting in reconstruction and development in the province. Dr Soodani, a Majlis member from Khuzestan, said he would resubmit the bill in the future. This was not the first time that this bill is being rejected by the Iranian parliament.
Iran's Assault on Press Freedom

Iran's Assault on Press Freedom

According to Iran-Emrooz, the Iran's largest electronic publication, the Sout-el-Shaab (Voice of the People) newspaper has been shut down by the Iranian regime without warning.

The newspaper was published in Ahwaz, with pages in both Arabic and Farsi. It had its accreditation withdrawn without warning after four years of publication.

The Iranian Ministry of Culture gave no reasons for the action. The publisher, Hassan Hashemian, an Ahwazi Arab, is baffled by the government's censorship of his newspaper, which had followed a progressive and moderate line in support of the cultural rights of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in Iran.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), which supports independent media projects in Ahwaz, condemns what is yet another example of state oppression of Ahwazi Arabs and the government's desire to eliminate Arab culture.
Kurds to Protest in London Against Opression in Iran

Kurds to Protest in London Against Opression in Iran

The Kurdish community in the UK condemns the brutal act of oppression by the Iranian regime against the uprising of the Kurds in Iran and urges the British government to consider the violation of human rights in Iranian Kurdistan. Kurds in Europe set up demonstrations to ask their governments and international community for urgent measures to stop the brutal oppression of the Kurdish people in Iran.

Amnesty International has asked the Iranian regime for "an urgent investigation into the killing of demonstrators" in the Kurdish towns and cities in Iran. According to the Kurdish Human Rights Project in the UK the Iranian regime is using "excessive force" against the Kurdish protestors and "has implemented de-facto martial law in many areas."

Kurdish people in Iran demand their political and social rights, but the Islamic Republic of Iran subjects them to brutal oppression. In the last month, regime's forces have killed at least 30 and wounded and imprisoned hundreds of the Kurdish activists.

In support of the Kurds in Iran and to condemn the Iranian regime's act of violence, Kurdish community in the UK will gather in front of the number 10 Downing Street. They will urge the British government to condemn the Iranian regime for the violation of human rights and to take urgent international measures to stop the atrocities committed against the Kurds in Iran. There will be short speeches in Kurdish and English and a statement will be presented to Tony Blair's office.

Date and Time: Friday 19 of August 4-6pm
Place: Downing Street SW1
Nearest tube station: Charing Cross or Westminster

Press Release from the Demonstration's Organising Committee
London, 14 August 2005
Iran blames Britain for Ahwazi unrest

Iran blames Britain for Ahwazi unrest

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi has blamed the British government for causing unrest in Khuzestan, the province that covers much of the Ahwazi Arab homeland.

Responding to the latest wave of protests in July, the AFP news agency quoted Asefi as saying: "According to the acquired information, unfortunately, Britons were involved in these riots. Some of the individuals behind the move had been trained at British military bases in Iraq. On different occasions, we raised objection to the British officials and warned them against such interference."

The regime also blamed Britain for the uprising in April, when more than 160 unarmed Ahwazis were killed by security forces in mass demonstrations, as well as bomb attacks in Ahwaz City in June.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The regime is effectively saying that the Ahwazi people will do whatever foreign governments tell them. It is absurd. Apart from some possible forced confessions signed under torture, where is the evidence to substantiate British involvement in Al-Ahwaz?

"The fact is that the anti-government mass protests by Ahwazi people are a completely spontaneous reaction to government oppression. Protestors are armed with rocks, tyres and anything else they can use in acts of civil disobedience. They do not have guns. Is Asefi afraid the British are smuggling rocks into Iran to overthrow the Revolutionary Guards? Does he think Ahwazis need special training from the British in order to throw rocks?

"Asefi and the rest of the regime are in denial. The problems are rooted in the oppressive levels of poverty endured by Ahwazis in Khuzestan. More than 50% live in absolute poverty and in Arab-populated areas of the province child malnutrition is at 80%, illiteracy is over 60% and unemployment affects over half the population. This is a direct result of the policy of Persianisation in the province, in which Arab-owned land is being confiscated and transferred to non-Arab owners and Arab identity is being eradicated.

"Neutral observers are concluding that government policies and mismanagement of resources are responsible for unrest in the province. Nobody seriously believes that young Arabs throwing rocks at police are British agents. The regime is using unrest to distract from its failure to maintain its obligations towards nuclear non-proliferation."

After visiting the oil-rich province of Khuzestan in July, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, said: "When you visit Ahwaz, in terms of the very adverse conditions in the neighbourhoods, there are thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections."

In April, a petition to the then President Khatami signed by 180 members of the Iranian parliament condemned the behaviour of "executive officials", who they claimed had failed in their duties to Iran's Arab population and had done little to address the root socio-economic causes that led to the April uprising.
Iran regime flogs Ahwazi Arab demonstrators

Iran regime flogs Ahwazi Arab demonstrators

A court has this week ordered 15 Ahwazi Arab protestors to public flogging and hefty jail sentences.

The men were allegedly involved in last month's wave of demonstrations against the regime's treatment of the Ahwazi Arab minority in Khuzestan, the heart of the Ahwazi Arab homeland. They were accused of setting up barricades made of burning tyres and throwing stones at government buildings and police vehicles in Ahwaz City.

The Ahwazi Arabs have been responsible for Iran's largest anti-government demonstrations. In April, thousands of Ahwazis demonstrated throughout the oil-rich province against land confiscation and poverty. The security forces massacred more than 160 Arabs in the protests. Since then, Ahwazis have been subjected to strict curfews and live under de facto martial law.

The 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs are among the poorest people in the Middle Eastern region, having lost their homes and land as a result of the regime's ethnic cleansing project in Khuzestan.
Iran: UN steps up criticism of minority discrimination

Iran: UN steps up criticism of minority discrimination

The United Nation's Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing has resumed his attack on discrimination against Ahwazi Arabs and other minorities by the Iranian government.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Miloon Kothari spoke of his impressions following his visit to Iran, including the Ahwazi homeland in the province of Khuzestan. He identified three groups facing discrimination regarding housing and land rights in Iran: ethnic and religious minorities, Nomadic groups and women.

He said: "When you visit Ahwaz, in terms of the very adverse conditions in the neighbourhoods, there are thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections.

"In Khuzestan ... we drove outside the city about 20 km and we visited the areas where large development projects are coming up - sugar cane plantations and other projects along the river - and the estimate we received is that between 200,000-250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages because of these projects.

"The third issue in Khuzestan, which is very disturbing, is that there is an attempt being made by the government to build new towns and bring in new people from other provinces. For example, there is the new town of Shirinshah where most of the people being brought into that town are people from Yazd province [in central Iran] - non-Arabs. So the question then is that these people who are being brought there, perhaps for work and lots of incentives, why is it that those jobs are not going to the locals?"

He attacked the land compensations schemes on offer to Ahwazi Arabs as inadequate. He said: "We looked in detail in some areas on the issue of compensation and, for example, in Khuzestan the compensation being offered to the Arab villagers who were being displaced is sometimes one fortieth of the market value - and there's nothing they can do about it. It's a fait accompli. That's how it is. And all of these phenomena are continuing. It's something that is happening almost every day."

Underlining the marginalisation of Ahwazi Arabs from the mainstream economy, Khotari said that in Khuzestan's slums, which are dominated by Arab, "you can actually see the towers of the oil refineries and the flares and all of that money, which is a lot, and it is going out of the province. Even a small percentage would significantly improve things in terms of development."

Kothari's findings back claims by Ahwazi Arab groups and social reformers in Iran, who also add that discrimination and poverty is fuelling ethnic unrest.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "We hope that the international community will listen to Mr Kothari and act against ethnic, religious and gender discrimination in Iran. We call on foreign governments to back political and economic solutions to the problem of political oppression and under-development. In our mind, the situation can only be resolved once Ahwazis and other minority groups have control over their homelands and economic resources.

"People living in Tehran and the Persian-Iranian diaspora continually reject the reality of the situation in Khuzestan. The Iranian intelligensia lives in a vacuum, which is why they deny the obvious fact that Iran is multi-ethnic.

"The West must stop listening to just the wealthier and slick elements of the Persian-dominated opposition, which embrace Persian nationalism, and start to hear the voice of Iran's oppressed and impoverished non-Persian ethnic groups. We thank Mr Kothari for highlighting the problems faced by Iran's minorities."

Recommended reading
UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing's Prelimary Findings on Iran, 16-31 July 2005
Forced Migration and Land Confiscation
Economic Marginalisation of Ahwazis
Ahwazis and the Legacy of War
Iraq federalism key to peace and democracy in Middle East

Iraq federalism key to peace and democracy in Middle East

The constitutional right to self-determination of Iraq's ethnic minorities could provide a template for the settlement of ethnic disputes across the Middle East, claims the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) which works with Iran's Ahwazi Arab community.

Iraqi Kurds are currently locked in negotiations over the future Iraqi constitution, facing opposition from the Iranian backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the largest party in the Iraqi coalition government. The Kurdish National Alliance has stated that it "will not accept any postponement" of its demands for a federalist Iraq with full autonomy for the Kurdish areas.

President Jalal Talabani, an Iraqi Kurd, has also backed a federal, devolved system of government in Iraq as the completion of the draft constitution approaches its 15 August deadline. The Kurds and other ethnic groups are opposing the transformation of Iraq into an Iranian-style Islamic republic, with power held by the Sunni Arab majority.

Iraqi Turkomen, who make up 13% of the Iraqi population and whose homeland overlaps with Iraq's Kurdish areas, are also seeking representation under a new Iraqi constitution. They claim they have been sidelined and victimised by successive Iraqi regimes and the autonomous Kurdish administration. They fear a "Kurdification" of their homeland and oppose Kurdish demands to include Kirkuk into a Kurdish zone of authority.

"Iran's non-Persian minorities believe a federal Iraqi state would boost democracy and self-determination across the region, giving a template for Iran, which is the region's most ethnically diverse country," said BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad.

"Few Iranians want a return of the monarchy, they are seeking a genuine alternative to the Islamic Republic.

"Full representation of all minorities in Iraq would set a precedent for countries such as Turkey, Israel/Palestine, Syria and Iran where ethnic and religious minorities are facing political repression and economic marginalisation.

"Devolution and self-determination should be a requisite for democratic reform in the Middle East. Federalism in Iraq would fuel pressures for reform across the Middle East."

The Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI), set up in February by parties representing Iran's largest ethnic minorities - Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Balochis and Azeris - advocates the devolution of power to minorities and sub-national regions. Minority groups have met political specialists from European nations with federal structures, such as Switzerland, to understand how devolution works in practice.

Apart from the United Arab Emirates, a federation of small emirates which are distinguished by their ruling families rather than ethnic identity, there are no federal states in the region. A federal Iraqi state would mark a radical departure from the centralised and autocratic systems of government currently in power.
Ahwazi Arabs in Solidarity with Iran's Kurds

Ahwazi Arabs in Solidarity with Iran's Kurds

Ahwaz Arabs have backed Kurdish protests against the Iranian regime after dozens of Kurds were killed in uprisings in Mahabad, Baneh and Saqqez.

The Iranian security forces used heavy weapons, including helicopter-mounted machine guns, to kill Kurdish demonstrators during nearly a month of unrest.

The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, a centre-left opposition group outlawed in Iran, has urged "international organisations, human-rights supporters and the international community to make efforts to stop the bloodshed of the Iranian Kurdish people by the Islamic republic regime of Iran".

The unrest in Iranian Kurdistan began in Mahabad after a Kurdish opposition activist Shivan Qaderi and two other Kurdish men were murdered in cold blood by Iranian forces on 9 July. The security forces then tied his body to a Toyata jeep and dragged him in the streets.

Qaderi's murder was followed by the arrest of the following Kurdish NGO leaders and intellectuals:
Dr Roya Toloui, a Kurdish women's rights activist
Azad Zamani, a member of the Association for the Defence of Children's Rights (ADCR)
Jalal Qhavami, a journalist and a member of the editorial board of the journal "Payam-e Mardom"
Mahmoud Salehi, the spokesman for the Organisational Committee to Establish Trade Unions

The Iranian government has ordered the Bassij militias into Kurdistan. The Bassij is not an official organ of the Iranian state, but are paramilitary religious vigilantes allied to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Meanwhile, the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been accused of carrying out an ambush on Iranian forces, which killed four soliders.

Iraqi Kurds have also demonstrated in support of the Iranian Kurds, with mass protests staged in Sulaimaniya close to the Iran-Iraq border. This was despite opposition from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is headed by Iraq's President Jalal Talabani and controls the Kurdish area neighbouring Iran.

The uprising in Kurdistan mirrors a series of civil uprisings in Khuzestan, where the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs have been protesting against ethnic cleansing and land confiscation. In Balochistan, indigenous Balochis have also protested against the closure of their schools and destruction of Sunni mosques and a brutal campaign of ethnic oppression by Iran's Persian-dominated political elite.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The regime is crumbling along its territorial peripheries. Non-Persian ethnic groups, which comprise 50-60 per cent of the Iranian population, are uniting to overthrow a cruel and despotic regime. The Ahwazis stand in solidarity with our Kurdish compatriots, just as they stood with us during the April uprising. The uprising is gathering pace and the world will see civil disobedience grow under Ahmadinejad. The world must now decide whether it will stand with the majority of Iranians or whether it will continue to do business with a discredited, rotten and despised government."
Europe urged to put human rights at centre of Iran negotiations

Europe urged to put human rights at centre of Iran negotiations

The European Union risks abandoning the issue of human rights in its drive to persuade the Islamic Republic to abandon its nuclear programme, warned Ahwazi Arab activists this week.

EU negotiators from France, Germany and the UK have offered Iran a number of incentives in return for a commitment not to resume uranium enrichment as part of an alleged nuclear weapons programme. Human rights campaigners fear that the EU could abandon criticism of Iran's worsening human rights record to appease the regime.

Spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), Nasser Ban-Assad, said: "The EU has gone quiet on human rights issues in Iran, which is very worrying. Since Ahmadinejad's election, there have been over 260 separate anti-government demonstrations in Iran.

"Protests in Khuzestan and Kurdistan, home to the Ahwazi Arab and Kurdish minorities, have been attacked by the security forces and rioting has erupted. Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, has highlighted the issue of land consfication, homelessness and deprivation among the country's ethnic minorities.

"We hope that the EU will respond to these problems in the same way as it has responded to concerns over nuclear proliferation. Stability and peace in the Middle East can only be guaranteed when there is respect for human rights. If the EU wants to permanently resolve the issue of an arms build-up in Iran, it must also tackle the fundamental cause, which relates to the existence of an aggressive, dictatorial government in Tehran."
Senior UN Official Lambasts Iran's Land Confiscation

Senior UN Official Lambasts Iran's Land Confiscation

The UN's Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, has condemned the Iranian government's confiscation of land owned by Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Bahais and Qashqai nomads following his visit to Iran last week.

Kothari visited Ahwaz City where he was able to meet Ahwazi lawyers and human rights activists, who showed him the devastation of Tehran's "ethnic restructuring" programme on the Ahwazi Arab population of Khuzestan. The regime has been forcibly transferring Ahwazi-owned land and property to other ethnic groups brought into Khuzestan or the oil and sugar industries. Homes have also been demolished by the regime in an attempt to force them out of the province and "Persianise" Khuzestan. Ahwazis have been made homeless and destitute by the government, while their land is being used to enrich a military-religious elite.

The Iranian government had tried to prevent Kothari from visiting Khuzestan, but after two weeks of lobbying by the Special Rapporteur's office, he was allowed to spend just one day in Ahwaz City. A preliminary report by Kothari states that: "Land confiscation and 'confiscation style' purchase of lands by the government seem to disproportionately impact on the land and property of some religious and ethnic minorities." Kothari said the Arabs in Khuzestan were particularly aggrieved to live in squalor when their province sat on most of Iran's gigantic oil fields.

Kothari also stated that "Regions historically occupied by Kurds ... seem to suffer disproportionate inadequacy of services such as water and electricity and unsatisfactory reconstruction efforts." Like the Ahwazi Arab-dominated province of Khuzestan, Iranian Kurdistan has witnessed an upsurge in ethnic discontent. Kurds rioted in the western town of Mahabad this month and Kurdish guerrillas killed a number of policemen in an ambush. Kothari also pointed to the confiscation of land belonging to the Bahai religious minority, which is regarded as heretical by the Islamic Republic. Nomads, such as the southern Qashqai tribe, are also facing discrimination, with traditional pasture land being sold to the private sector, the report said.

The Iranian media, which is heavily supervised by the state, failed to report any of Kothari's findings and the government has not made any official response. Kothari will submit a report on his findings to the sixty-second session of the Commission on Human Rights in 2006.

Housing and land ownership is a major political issue for ethnic minorities, such as the Ahwazi Arabs. Land confiscation and ethnic restructuring has led to a series of demonstrations by Ahwazi Arabs, including an uprising in April which led to the slaughter of more than 150 unarmed Ahwazi men, women and children. The April uprising following the leaking of a letter from President Khatami's office to the international media that outlined plans to reduce the Arab population to around one-third of the province's total population through forced migration and eliminating all traces of Arab culture and language, including names of streets and towns. The letter, signed by former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi and written in 1999, suggests a time-frame of 10 years to accomplish the ethnic restructuring programme.