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Ahmadinejad reveals his policy in Ahwaz

Ahmadinejad reveals his policy in Ahwaz

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has revealed his brutal policies to suppress dissent after a week of unrest in Khuzestan, the heart of the Ahwazi Arab homeland.

On Monday, reports from Ahwaz revealed that the burnt remains of demonstrators arrested earlier in September had been dumped outside relatives' homes. The anti-government demonstrations that followed saw security forces fire on a protestings, killing at least two protestors and injuring several others.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has drawn attention to the detention of two Ahwazi teachers and a newspaper editor, who are being held incommunicado at unknown locations and are reportedly at risk of torture or ill-treatment. The three are not known to have been charged with any offence. Amnesty states that in the past few weeks around 250 Ahwazis have been arrested, including "prominent journalists, lawyers, tribal leaders, students and human rights activists." [Click here for the full report]

State violence against Ahwazi Arabs has intensified since Ahmadinejad's inauguration. He has begun mobilising the Basij, a paramilitary group loyal to the religious elite that was involved in intimidating voters during the presidential election campaign. The Basij's riot control capabilities have been bolstered, with units participating in urban defence exercises in Ahwaz City in late September. It is widely believed that these units will be used to suppress internal dissent in provinces such as Khuzestan.
Basra Insurgency and Iran's Militarisation of Ahwaz

Basra Insurgency and Iran's Militarisation of Ahwaz

The failure to address militarisation and state terrorism in Khuzestan, the homeland of the oppressed Ahwazi Arab people, is contributing to Iranian-backed insurgency in the neighbouring Iraqi province of Basra, warns the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS).

The infiltration of the Iraqi security forces in Basra by Iranian-backed militias is part of Tehran's policy of aggressive assertion its power over the Gulf region, a policy that has also led to an intensification of state violence against Ahwazis.

BAFS revealed in March that the Iranian regime was using Khuzestan as a base for launching insurgency operations in Iraq. Fajr Garrison, near the Arab-populated city of Ahwaz, is the main headquarters of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in southern Iran. It hosts the IRGC's Qods Force, which runs a vast underground network of agents and insurgents in Iraq. Agents are paid by middle-men, who carry out regular visits to Ahwaz City to obtain payments and be debriefed by Qods commanders.

Documents from the Iranian regime's Fajr Garrison in Al-Ahwaz show that Tehran is employing up to 40,000 agents in Iraq. The information was revealed by former Iranian agents who defected due to pay cuts. Secret reports by British military intelligence, recently leaked to the press, have revealed that insurgents attacking British troops are using armour-piercing bombs developed in Iran and also used against Israeli forces by the Lebanese Hezbollah.

The group led by Abu Mustafa Al-Sheibani, which is active in Basra and has murdered 11 British soldiers, is in the pay of Tehran and is trained and directed from Ahwaz. There are suggestions from some quarters that the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to Shia extremist Moqtada al-Sadr, is now receiving support from Iran. This follows evidence of a growing rift between Tehran and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which is a member of the ruling Iraqi coalition and had been financed and armed by Iran during Saddam Hussein's rule.

The importance of Khuzestan as a spring-board for asserting Iranian control over provinces such as Basra has led to an increase in state terrorism against Ahwazis, whose demand for self-determination and federalism represents a challenge to Iran's desire for hegemony. Tehran has used armed groups such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Badr Brigades, a group of Iraqi Shia extremists tolerated by the Iraqi authorities and linked to SCIRI, as mercenaries against Ahwazis living in Khuzestan and some 30,000 Ahwazi refugees in Iraq's Basra province.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "The Ahwazis have been a persecuted minority since Iran claimed sovereignty over Al-Ahwaz 80 years ago. However, the level of violent oppression has increased dramatically since the 2003 Iraq War as Tehran has sought to maintain and extend its influence over the Khuzestan-Basra region. The regime is intent on clearing out 'troublesome' ethnic groups from the border regions in order to push its influence beyond its territorial frontiers. Khuzestan is being transformed from being a province with a unique culture and heritage into a terrorist training camp, while the province's vast oil fields serve to fund the military and religious elites.

"The failure to address Tehran's militarisation policy in the Khuzestan-Basra region has resulted in the killing of British soldiers and an upsurge in insurgency and terrorism. The situation is spiralling out of Baghdad's control.

"We have always said that what happens in Khuzestan has profound implications for regional and global security and the war against terrorism. We have been warning for months that the imposition of martial law in Khuzestan would have deleterious consequences for Iraq. Instead, the British government turned a blind eye to the massacre of more than 160 Ahwazi civilians by Iranian security forces and mercenaries in April. It was not even mentioned in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office's 2005 human rights report on Iran. Now British troops have been stung by the viper that has crawled into Basra from Khuzestan.

"It is time for a change of attitude towards Iran. The world has shown too little interest in the political realities of the Iranian state and its terrorist behaviour against its own people and neighbouring countries. Arab states have also failed to respond adequately to the problem, despite the threat Iran poses to countries such as Bahrain and Kuwait. We call on the international community to put the issue of Iran's militarisation and insurgency at the top of the agenda."
Balochis condemn Iranian regime's ethnic oppression

Balochis condemn Iranian regime's ethnic oppression

The Balochistan People's Party (BPP) has denounced a "frightening campaign of terrorizing by the new Iranian government" in a resolution passed at a party conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

The moderate Balochi opposition party declared that "Iran is a multinational state where the nations of Arabs, Balochs, Fars, Kurds, Turks, and Turkmen are living.

"Unfortunately there is only one nation within this geographical entity called Iran namely Fars or Persian dominates all aspects of its collective life. We know in any multinational state when the political, economical, cultural, and militarily components are systematically controlled by just one nation, consequently the others within that entity are inferior. Sadly, this is the case for Arabs, Balochs, Kurds, Turks, and Turkmen in Iran.

"The previous monarchist regime and the current theological government follow their system of chauvinistic policies by discriminating their own citizens for the reason that they have distinct language, culture, religion and background."

The party claims that the changing situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, where formerly persecuted ethnic and religious groups have won the right to self-determination, has prompted the current wave of state terrorism, land confiscation, imprisonment and murder against Iran's minorities. The election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has intensified the regime's ethnic chauvinism, "accompanied by a dramatic increase in the repression of all Iranian citizens, and in particular that of ethnic origin."

The BPP pointed to recent atrocities against Balochis as evidence of a wider campaign against minorities in Iran. In July, government forces destroyed thousand of Baloch people's homes in an area covering many kilometers in Chahbhar a port city in Balochistan. The demolitions were carried out to make way for a new base and residential area for Iranian security forces, but the regime refused to compensate or provide alternative housing for impoverished Balochi families affected by the policy.

In July 2005, Iranian paramilitary forces attacked the township of Nosraat Abaad - near Dozaap (Zahidan), the provincial capital of Balochistan - in order to arrest a man identified as Dorra Shabaksh. When the paramilitaries failed to arrest the man, they took revenge on the local population, resulting in killing of harmless Baloch women and children.

In August 2005, helicopter gunships attacked the village of Yakoob Bazaar in the Bahoo Klaat area of Balochistan. The regime had accused the villagers of assisting Balochi rebel fighters in the abduction of two Iranian soldiers. In September, Houshang Baameri, an ethnic Balochi, was executed in the city of Pahrah after the regime accused him of killing two Iranian paramilitaries.

The BPP criticised Ahmadinejad's appointment of Shia extremist and Farsi supremacist Habibulah Dahmarde as provincial governor of Balochistan, where much of the population is Sunni. The appointment led to the resignation of two Balochi members of the Majlis (parliament), Paymaan Frozesh and Gol Mohammed Baamari.

The BPP also highlighted the plight of the Ahwazi Arabs in Khuzestan, who are being subjected to a campaign of forced migration as a result of the regime's ethnic restructuring policies in the province. The recent violent suppression of Iranian Kurds demonstrating peacefully against the killings of Kurdish opposition activists by state agents was also condemned by the BPP.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "We stand in solidarity with the Balochis, who are being brutally oppressed by the Iranian regime. We call on the international community to act against state terror and ethnic oppression in Iran, just as it acted against the ethnic cleansing of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Iran's non-Farsi ethnic minorities - who represent around half the Iranian population - are united in their desire to see an end to this violent and oppressive regime and the creation of a multi-ethnic, democratic, federal and secular state."
Amnesty highlights case of Ahwazis detained by Iran

Amnesty highlights case of Ahwazis detained by Iran

In an Urgent Action published at the weekend, Amnesty criticised the incommunicado detention of leading members of an influential Ahwazi Arab family, whose cases were recently publicised by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society.

The men were recently arrested in a campaign of intimidation and repression by the Iranian regime in response to recent anti-government mass protests in Khuzestan province, which is the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs. They are all related to Hajj Salem Bawi, an Ahwazi Arab tribal leader and a businessman who runs a number of computer stores in Ahwaz.

The men were arrested on 11 August and are being held incommunicado at unknown locations. It is likely that they are being tortured while under interrogation. They have been accused of having contact with dissident groups operating outside Iran, but have not been charged in relation to the pre-election June bombings in Ahwaz and this month's attacks on oil facilities.

Members of the Bawi family current under arrest are:
Mohsen Bawi, IT consultant.
Imad Bawi, a law student at the Lebanese University of Beirut, who has been banned from returning to Lebanon.
Zamel Bawi, a businessman who owns shops in Ahwaz.
Hani Bawi, a student at the University of Ahvaz.
Moslem Bawi, a student.
Asad Bawi, a businessman.

To view the Amnesty International Urgent Action, click here.
Iran loses thousands of barrels of oil in attack

Iran loses thousands of barrels of oil in attack

Bomb attacks on oil installations earlier this month caused Iran to lose thousands of barrels of oil output, according to a report published by the Mehr News Agency on Saturday.

Five oil wells outside Ahwaz City were closed down due to damage caused by the explosions. Each well produced around 1,000 barrels of oil per day for export. The amount lost represents a fraction of the production in the oil-rich but restive province of Khuzestan, which is the homeland of some five million Ahwazi Arabs.

The news agency blamed the attacks, which were reported by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, on the "Khakegh-e-Arab" group. It claims that guards and workers protecting the oil installations co-operated with the group. The installations will take another three months to bring them back to full capacity.

The attacks come amid rising unrest among Ahwazi Arabs, which could threaten oil output in Iran, OPEC's second-largest producer.
Iran: Amnesty fears for the safety of Ahwazi detainees

Iran: Amnesty fears for the safety of Ahwazi detainees

Amnesty International has voiced concern over the detention of 40 Ahwazi Arabs, who it fears might be "held in incommunicado detention and are at risk of torture or ill-treatment."

The human rights group has highlighted the case of 43 year old Iranian Arab Taher Mahmoud Tamimi, who was arrested on the Iran-Turkey border along with his wife Seham and his two young boys aged 6 years and 18 months, respectively. Seham and the boys were released two days later. It reports that on 12 August, the family home in Ahwaz was raided by the members of the security forces, who confiscated a computer and some foreign currency. The cases of another two men were also mentioned in an Amnesty Urgent Action report.

The Iranian regime said on 14 August that it had arrested those involved in the April uprising, in which over 160 were killed, and the bomb attacks in Ahwaz City in June. It has also blamed the British government for being responsible for the unrest, although it has failed to publish any proof to back up its allegations.

To view the Amnesty International Urgent Action, click here.
Iran's mass arrest of Ahwazi tribal leaders and intellectuals

Iran's mass arrest of Ahwazi tribal leaders and intellectuals

The Iranian security forces have embarked on a campaign of mass arrest of Ahwazi Arabs, an Iranian minority group who make up the majority of citizens in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan.

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has received accounts from family members and eye-witnesses which confirm that in recent weeks at least 260 prominent journalists, lawyers, tribal leaders, teachers, students political and human rights activists have been arrested in the cities of Ahwaz, Hamidieh, Mohamarah (Khoramshahr), Abadan and other cities of Khuzestan. Among the arrested were many tribal leaders, including Haj Salem, his sons and extended family members: Amad Bawi, Zamal Bawi, Hani Bawi, Asad Bawi, Mohsen Bawi, Mansour Tyouri and Hassan Boughedar.

The arrests come after a series of anti-government demonstrations and the sabotage of oil wells, which have been blamed on "British agents". The government claims it has evidence of British involvement in the uprising in Khuzestan, but has not published any proof.

The AHRO has released an appeal, in which it calls for:
- the immediate release of all Ahwazi Arab detainees and all Iranian political prisoners detained since the Ahwazi uprising began on 15 April.
- intervention from the international community - in particular the European Union - to address the issue of minority rights and freedom of speech in all the bilateral and multilateral talks with Iran.
- an end to the state of siege and the redeployment of military and security forces out of the province.

Karim Abdian, the AHRO's Executive Director, said: "We warn the Iranian regime that its latest wave of oppression and arrest of the poor and desperate Ahwazis could only further frustrates and radicalize the indigenous Ahwaz youth and provide the impetus for further violence. We urge the UNHCHR to call upon Iran to stop killing of innocent indigenous Ahwaz Arab people of Khuzestan and dispatch a fact finding delegation to Khuzestan (al-Ahwaz)."

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "If the regime is so confident that the British are behind the Ahwazi uprising, then why is it arresting journalists, academics, human rights campaigners and tribal leaders? These people do not have guns; their only weapon against the Iranian state is their voice.

"The truth is that the problems in Khuzestan are related to the regime's oppression of the local population and some of the world's worst poverty rates. The Ahwazi Arabs are living in absolute squalor and are arrested, tortured and murdered if they demonstrate any objection. This is what happened in the Bloody Friday massacre in April when children and a pregnant woman were among those murdered by government snipers.

"State violence, racial discrimination and squalor are the causes of the unrest in Khuzestan, not foreign insurgency. The arrests are an attempt to silence anyone voicing dissent."

In the past 10 years, the Iranian government has confiscated more than 250,000 hectares of indigenous Ahwazi farmland and the inhabitants have been forced to leave their homeland and migrate to non-Arab provinces. United Nations Special Rappartour for Housing Miloon Kothari criticised the treatment of Ahwazi Arabs during his visit to Khuzestan in July 2005 [report].
IRAN: Oil wells sabotaged in Ahwazi Arab homeland

IRAN: Oil wells sabotaged in Ahwazi Arab homeland

Iranian authorities have admitted that a series of explosions at oil wells around the province of Khuzestan were an attempt to sabotage oil production.

Khuzestan is the centre of the Ahwazi Arab homeland and produces around 80-90 per cent of the country's oil output, representing up to 10-12 per cent of OPEC's total output. Iran is the world's fourth biggest crude producer with output capacity of around 4.2 million barrels per day. It exports 2.5 million barrels of oil per day - the equivalent of a fifth of the US's net oil imports - most of which originate from Khuzestan.

On Thursday, three home-made bombs exploded leading to the shutdown of crude oil from five wells (141, 149, 179, 250 and 255) around Ahwaz City, the provincial capital of Khuzestan. Fires following the explosions forced residents living nearby to flee their homes.

The attacks on oil installations have come amid growing political unrest within Iran's five million-strong Ahwazi Arab population. Attempts to sabotage Iranian oil production in Khuzestan could have serious implications for the global economy.

The Iranian government has blamed "British agents" for the attacks, which they claim were orchestrated from London. The regime has also claimed the British government was also behind the June bomb attacks in Ahwaz City, but has failed to publish any evidence to proove the allegations.

Ahwazi Arabs have a long-standing grievance against the confiscation of their land for the exploitation of oil, gas and commercial crops by the regime. Half the Ahwazi Arab population lives in absolute poverty, while the profits made from their ancestral lands enriches Iran's ruling elite. Poverty and discrimination is fuelling unrest, with Khuzestan along with Kurdistan witnessing the largest anti-government demonstrations in Iran since the June presidential elections. In April, an unarmed civil uprising among Ahwazi Arabs was put down by government forces, leading to hundreds of arrests and at least 160 deaths.

Following a visit to Khuzestan in July, UN Special Rapporteur on Housing, Miloon Kothari condemned the treatment of the local Ahwazi Arab population. 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 ... 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."

BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "We do not know who was responsible for the attacks on the oil installations or the bomb attacks in Ahwaz City in June. We condemn outright any acts of terror on civilians, but support civil disobedience against the regime.

"The attacks on oil installations show that the problems affecting the Ahwazi people have important implications for the global economy. The oil market is already very tight, especially after oil installations were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The international community cannot afford to ignore unrest in oil-rich areas. The attacks on oil wells are a sign of desperation. The Ahwazis' demands for economic and political justice, the redistribution of oil wealth and an end to poverty and ethnic discrimination in Iran must be met to ensure stability and security in Khuzestan. The Ahwazi issue must be prioritised in relations with Iran for the sake of global economic stability. If the situation is not addressed, Iranian oil production could be severely disrupted by further acts of sabotage."