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...

BAFS Pledges to Challenge Iran's Extradition Threat

BAFS Pledges to Challenge Iran's Extradition Threat

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has pledged to challenge any attempt to extradite Ahwazi Arab exiles from Europe to Iran following the Iranian regime's claims that it will seek the arrest of any Ahwazi exile it accuses of responsibility for bomb attacks in Ahwaz City.

On Sunday, the Iranian Ministry of Information claimed that the 30 people it arrested in connection with the June and October bombings in Ahwaz had confessed to the bombings and had "disclosed many secrets about their connection with their ringleaders who are based in other countries."

The Iranian regime has repeatedly claimed that dissident groups based in Britain and Canada, along with the US, Canadian, British and Saudi governments, helped train and direct the bombers. The security forces have reportedly forwarded the names of those in foreign countries - possibly including the names of Ahwazi exiles - to the Foreign Ministry to begin extradition from these countries, using UN Resoluton resolution 1373 (2001).

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have repeatedly warned that Ahwazis recently arrested by the regime are at risk of torture. We believe that any 'evidence' or confession has been extracted through torture and will not stand up in a court of law operating on international standards.

"In addition, we believe that there is no Ahwazi group capable of carrying out such attacks, that no Ahwazi group would kill Arab civilians and that British and Iraqi forces would have nothing to gain from intability in Khuzestan, the Ahwazi Arab homeland. The only people that can gain anything from terrorist attacks in Ahwaz are those who want to militarise Iran and who are seeking excuses for increasing violent repression. Even reformists within the Iranian political system have accused hard-liners of planting bombs to portray Iran as a country that requires a hard-line leader.

"This threat to call for the extradition of Ahwazi exiles is an attempt to intimidate and close down solidarity groups like BAFS as well as Ahwazi opposition parties. The regime also wants to portray foreign governments as harbouring terrorist groups to distract world attention from Iran's proven support for international terrorism. The extradition threat is an act of desperation by a regime that fears that it may collapse in the face of popular revolt and international pressure.

"The European Parliament, the UNCHR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all highlighted and condemned the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs. I am convinced that no British, European or international institution will permit the extradition of law-abiding dissidents who have advocated non-violent resistance against one of the world's most repressive states and the largest sponsor of terrorism.

"Any attempt to extradite any Ahwazi Arab on the basis of evidence gained under torture will be resisted in the courts and we will triumph over Tehran's attempts to silence the opposition.

"Moreover, we believe that if such extraditions were legally possible, then President Ahmadinejad should be extradited to Austria to face charges relating to his role in the murder of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdorrahman Qassemlou in Vienna in 1989, as well as a string of assassinations across the Middle East."
Iran uses Ahwazi Homeland as Terrorist Smuggling Route

Iran uses Ahwazi Homeland as Terrorist Smuggling Route

London's Sunday Telegraph has revealed that the Iranian regime is smuggling terrorists into Iraq via Khuzestan, the homeland of the persecuted Ahwazi Arabs.

According to an article by the correspondent Con Coughlin, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Qods Force, based in Ahwaz City, has set up a network of secret smuggling routes to ferry men and equipment into Iraq for attacks on coalition troops. These claims come alongside reports from Western intelligence agencies of a sharp increase in Iran's involvement in insurgent operations since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in June.

According to Coughlin, a major route is thought to be through the marshland surrounding the Shatt al-Arab waterway in southern Iraq, which enables guard units to plan attacks against British forces in Basra.

The Sunday Telegraph report comes after the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) published plans for the 155 sq km Arvand Free Zone (AFZ), a military-industrial complex along the Shatt Al-Arab.

The newspaper called the creation of the AFZ a "sinister development" which will involve the displacement of tens of thousands of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.

In an interview with the newspaper, a BAFS spokesman said: "Apart from being a serious human rights issue, any development that involves people being displaced by force obviously has a security element to it as they clearly do not want people being too near.

"The fact that they are deciding to put this huge complex right up against the border is significant. We think this is to enable them to train and send militias over the border."
Iran's Qods Day Hypocrisy

Iran's Qods Day Hypocrisy

President Ahmadinejad's is using the Palestinian issue for his own expansionist goals, while simulatenously ethnic cleansing Arab areas of Iran, claims the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, a UK-based Ahwazi Arab solidarity group.

At Tehran's annual "Qods Day" demonstrations, Ahmadinejad tried to justify his call for Israel to be wiped out, saying: "The oppressed Palestinians are martyred by Zionists, their properties are looted, their houses are bombarded and they are assassinated but the Zionists expect that no one should object them."

The regime's poor treatment of Iran's indigenous Arab population reveals that its solidarity for oppressed Palestinian Arabs is hypocritical. More than 200,000 hectares of Arab-owned land have been confiscated by the regime since the 1979 Islamic revolution and given to the government's intensive sugar cultivation project. Tens of thousands of hectares of Arab land have also been transferred to settlers brought from outside Khuzestan or to the military and the Revolutionary Guards, without any compensation. In the process, thousands of Arab homes have been destroyed by security forces and Ahwazi Arabs have been forced from their farms and villages into city slums.

The regime is now planning the development of the military-industrial Arvand Free Zone (AFZ), a 155 sq km exclusive zone along the Shatt Al-Arab waterway. This will involve the forced displacement of the entire Arab population in the area that falls within the zone and the destruction of Arab villages and farms. Last week, Ahwazi Arab residents of Minoo Island, which falls within the AFZ, complained that they were being bullied into leaving their farms and homes by government agents ahead of the official deadline for consultation.

Those who have resisted the ethnic cleansing programme have been arrested, tortured and killed by the regime. An unarmed uprising in April led to the deaths of more than 160 people across the province of Khuzestan, the heart of the Ahwazi Arab homeland, including children and a pregnant woman.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who have appointed him have no interest in the well-being and freedom of Arabs. The treatment of the Ahwazis shows that Tehran hates Arabs. The Palestinians have their own Arabic language universities, but Ahwazi Arabs are not even allowed to run an Arabic language nursery school. The Palestinians have their own independent media, but all Arabic language newspapers have been banned in Iran and receiving Arabic language satellite channels carries heavy penalties. Palestinians have an elected administration with its own police force, while the Ahwazi Arabs are not even allowed to form their own political parties.

"Iranian-backed groups use suicide bombers against civilians and receive sympathy from those who claim they are fighting oppression. But if one Ahwazi Arab lifts a finger against the Iranian regime he can find himself and his family in prison, shot in the head or lynched from a street light - while the appeasers in the international community look on indifferently and sometimes with approval!

"Ahmadinejad says he wants to liberate Palestinians, but he does not even give the Ahwazi Arabs the few rights that Palestinians enjoy. We support the right to self-determination and self-government for all peoples, including Palestinians, but Ahmadinejad wants the Arabs to behave on his terms and that does not equate to liberty. The Palestinians should be free of oppression and occupation, but so should the Ahwazis.

"The elected Palestinian National Authority has condemned Ahmadinejad's call for the elimination of Israel. All Arab governments, including Syria, have formally recognised Israel's right to exist. Which Arab elected Ahmadinejad to speak on their behalf? The Arabs in Iran don't want him and his regime, why should any other Arab accept his violent dogma and hypocrisy?"
Iran Minorities Participate in AEI Debate

Iran Minorities Participate in AEI Debate

Representatives of various Iranian minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, participated in a panel discussion chaired by Michael Ledeen at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on Wednesday night.

Persian supremacist groups had tried to stop the meeting entitled "The Unknown Iran: Another Case for Federalism?". Extremist nationalist activists launched petitions and complaints to the AEI claiming that the think tank, which specialises in foreign affairs, was advocating the break-up of Iran. However, the campaign achieved little support within the Iranian diaspora in the US or the rest of the world, with the petition receiving just 900 signatures - many of them anonymous.

Mr Ledeen, a senior fellow at the AEI, insisted the claims made by extremists were unfounded, stating that Iran needed to be understood as a country with a diverse ethnic make-up and where ethnic minorities would play a prominant role in the country's future when the regime falls.

In an interview with the Iranian American radio station Radio Sedaye, Mr Ledeen sought to counter criticism levelled at him by the extremists: "For some reason some people got it into their heads that we were somehow advocating breaking up the Iranian country into little pieces, which is one of the craziest ideas I've ever heard. And I'm extremely annoyed that many people did this without bothering to talk to us about what we were doing. They just imagined what it was going to do and they started attacking us. Not one, not one of the groups that has organized petitions and written letters and done website petitions and so forth, not one of them ever spoke to me before they did this. Not one of them gave us the courtesy of asking what are you doing and why are you doing it.

"And it's particularly irritating because I and my colleagues at the American Enterprise Institute have been among the very few Americans who for years and years have been fighting as hard as we can for the freedom of all Iranians. And the idea that we would lend ourselves to anything that would disrupt the unity of the Iranian people at the moment when they're fighting for their freedom is insulting and outrageous.

"So our discussion will be about the ways in which the various ethnic groups among the Iranian people have been singled out for repression and torture and murder by this regime, so our American listeners will get a chance to see how desperately the regime is trying to isolate various groups among the Iranian population and single them out, which is a way of disrupting the unity of the Iranian people in their fight for freedom."

Mr Ledeen compared Iran's cultural and religious diversity with the US and suggested that the US's experience of federalism shows that devolution of power can strengthen a country's unity and democracy.

The panel included Ahwazi Arab sociologist Dr Ali Al-Taie from Shaw University, Manda Zand Ervin of the Alliance of Iranian Women, Morteza Esfandiari of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Amanollah Khan Riggi of Alliance for Democracy in Iran and Rahim M. Shahbazi of the Azerbaijani Societies of North America. [Click here for full biographies]

The meeting was described as extremely successful by one Ahwazi member of the audience. The failure of extremist groups to generate enough support to stop the debate indicated that the Iranian diaspora as a whole was open to new ideas for a post-mullah Iran, including federalism and regional autonomy.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The extremists only gained support from a marginal element within the Iranian diaspora for their call for the meeting to be cancelled. A petition of just 900 signatures, out of the millions in the Iranian diaspora, shows just how unrepresentative these voices are.

"The fact that someone as senior as Michael Ledeen, who has a long history of support for freedom and democracy in Iran, is prepared to run such a debate indicates that he is convinced the participants are not in the business of violent ethnic secessionism. This should assure all Iranians that federalism is about genuine national unity of all the ethnic nations of Iran, with equality, tolerance and social justice at its heart. We welcome any attempt to promote honest and open debate on the future of Iran, free of prejudice and intolerance."
Iran Prepares to Execute Tribal Ahwazi Arab Family

Iran Prepares to Execute Tribal Ahwazi Arab Family

Two close relatives of the Ahwazi Arab tribal leader, Haj Salam Bawi, are facing imminent execution as the Iranian regime attempts to tighten its grip on the indigenous population of Khuzestan.

Amad Bawi and Zamil Bawi are among the six relatives of the tribal leader recently arrested for alleged insurrection against the Iranian regime. Reports from family members indicate that the six men are undergoing psychological and physical torture. All six are likely to face trial and execution as a way of subduing local tribesman ahead of an intensification of the government's land confiscation programme. Click here to download Amnesty International's report on the arrests.

Amad Bawi, the owner of a computer repair shop, is charged with distributing CDs containing human rights reports from the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) and the UN Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). Zamal Bawi, a university student, is being prosecuted in connection with bomb attacks in Ahwaz City on the basis of trumped up charges and false evidence. The two young men are likely to be tried and executed in coming days as the state attempts to intimidate the local population ahead of a new wave of ethnic cleansing along the Shatt Al-Arab.

In the past week a political prisoner at Karoon prison, Said al-Khalafi, was executed in the prison yard. Also, last week the body of an Ahwazi Arab activist was found in Karoon Rover, which runs through Ahwaz City, and another was lynched in the Arab city of Hamidieh and hung from a street light.

The regime has staged a massive crack-down on the local Ahwazi population due to growing unrest in the province. On 11 October, Esmail Ghasem Abyat and Lefteh Sarkhi, both human rights activists and students at the Chamran University in Ahwaz, were arrested. Meanwhile, Reza Salman Delphi, a 34-year-old businessman also known as B. Behjat, has been detained since 11 August and denied medical treatment for heart and kidney diseases.
Iran begins ethnic cleansing of Minoo Island Arabs

Iran begins ethnic cleansing of Minoo Island Arabs

Arab farmers are being intimidated and forced to leave their homes and farms on Minoo Island, which falls under the plans for a massive military-industrial project on the border with Iraq.

The Hamsayeha newspaper has reported complaints from Arabs living on the island that agents working for the government and the Arvand Free Zone are bullying them into selling their homes ahead of a planned land confiscation programme.

Mostafa Motowarzadeh, the Majlis (parliament) member for Mohammarah (Khorramshahr), confirmed the problems facing the farmers. He added that the Iranian authorities were pushing ahead with acquisitions before the end of the official consultation period for the land acquisitions.

Mohammad Hazbari, the editor of Hamsayeha, was last month the subject of an Amnesty International appeal after he was arrested during a crack-down on journalists, intellectuals and tribal leaders in the province of Khuzestan, the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs. He was later released. Mr Hazbari's objective reporting of the developments in the Arvand Free Zone runs the risk of his incarceration and the closure of his newspaper.

The Arvand Free Zone will cover 155 square km, including Minoo Island and large sections of land around Abadan and Khorramshahr. The plans will involve the acquisition of land currently occupied by thousands of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, including entire villages. The zone is located in one of the Middle East's the most geographically strategic areas. It will enable the Iranian government to influence Shia areas of Iraq, particularly in controlling the extremist militias operating in Iraqi provinces such as Basra.

Ethnic cleansing

Similar developments in the Ahwaz region have seen large numbers of Ahwazi Arabs displaced and forced into city slums or other provinces. Many of these projects include a significant involvement of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). A report by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society on the implications of the Arvand Free Zone as well as the official documents commanding Arabs to surrender their lands can be downloaded by clicking here.

More than 200,000 hectares of land owned by Ahwazi Arabs farmers have been confiscated since the 1979 Revolution and given to the government sponsored "Sugar Cane Project", an intensive sugar cultivation project. Around 47,000 hectares of Ahwazi Arab farmland in the Jofir area have been transferred to non-indigenous Persian settlers and a further 25,000 hectares have been taken from Ahwazi Arab farmers and given to the government-owned Shilat corporation and government agencies. More than 6,000 hectares of Ahwazi farmland north of Shush have been taken to "resettle the faithful non-indigenous Persians", according to directives by the Ministry of Agriculture and the IRGC's Command. In 2004, the homes of 4,000 Arab residents of Sapidar were destroyed and bulldozed over in 2004 with little or no compensation.

UN and EU condemnation

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) and the European Parliament have recently condemned the forced displacement of Ahwazi Arabs. Following his visit to Khuzestan in July, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, said: "Development projects, like the ones ... in Khuzestan, are ... leading to the displacement of entire villages - with thousands of people not consulted on the projects, informed of the impending displacement, nor offered adequate resettlement and compensation. There is a strange system in the country where if the government wants to confiscate land, you can't challenge it. All you can do is to put up some sort of resistance to get good compensation.

"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." Mr Kothari's interview can be downloaded here.

On 13 October, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution on Iran that included a condemnation of the treatment of Ahwazi Arabs. The European Parliament's decision to censure the Iranian regime over the abuse of Ahwazi Arabs and Kurds was the result of intensive lobbying by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society and Portuguese Socialist MEP Paulo Casaca. The motion stated that the European Parliament "condemns the treatment of minorities such as ... the inhabitants of the area around Ahwaz city, the provincial capital of the ethnic Arab dominated Khuzestan province, who are being displaced from their villages according to statements by Miloon Kothari, UN Rapporteur on Adequate Housing."

Addressing Parliament, European Commissioner Jan Figel, speaking on behalf of Benita Ferrero-Waldner (European Commissioner for External Relations), underlined the "excessive use of force to suppress unrest in the provinces of Khuzestan and Kurdistan" as a matter of "deep concern." He added that EU would not sign a trade and cooperation treaty unless human rights issues and concerns over Iran's nuclear programme were addressed.

Call for international solidarity

Nasser Ban Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The international community should call a halt to the Arvand Free Zone, which is a major threat to regional stability and human rights. Arab farmers are being forced off lands they have settled for hundreds of years and their livelihoods will vanish, along with a date cultivation industry that has thrived for hundreds if not thousands of years.

"The area will be decimated and the Arab farming families who have lived on Minoo Island for generations will be forced into city slums, without even a decent price for their land. This is all for the benefit of a despotic government that wants to export oppression and state terrorism to Iraq. The tragedy in Minoo Island is just the beginning. The entire Shatt Al-Arab will soon witness further ethnic cleansing and militarisation.

"The international community backed the right of Kosovar Albanians to self-determination and went to war with Yugoslavia's Milosevic regime to end the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The Ahwazis do not want war or invasion, but they do expect the international community to intervene and stop the forced displacement of indigenous Arabs from the lands that belong to them."

Click here to hear Radio Farda's report on the Arvand Free Zone, in Farsi, featuring an interview with Karim Abdian, Director of the Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation
Iran's Militarisation of the Shatt Al-Arab

Iran's Militarisation of the Shatt Al-Arab

The Iranian regime is preparing to expel thousands of Ahwazi Arabs to create an exclusive military-industrial zone along the Shatt Al-Arab, which marks its southern border with Iraq's Basra province.

The government's official plans for the Arvand Free Zone, along with a translation, are contained in a document published today by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS). The document can be downloaded here. The Arvand Free Zone will stretch 30km from Abadan along the Shatt Al-Arab to the land border between Basra and Khuzestan. This is in two segments: an island and adjacent land measuring 30 square km and a strip of land north of Khorramshahr measuring 25 square km. There is also an in-land eastern segment measuring around 100 square km in area. The total land area of the Arvand Free Zone is around 155 square km and includes Arab towns and villages. At certain points, the zone is literally within a stone's throw of Basra.

Strategic importance

The satellite photo (above) shows a section of the proposed Arvand Free Zone around Khorramshahr. The port city was the scene of some of the most intense fighting during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). It is regarded as one of the Middle East's most strategic points.

The narrowness of the Shatt Al-Arab enabled Iran and Iraq to stage large-scale amphibious assaults during the war. In February 1986, 30,000 Iranian troops crossed the Shatt Al-Arab in a surprise attack to invade and occupy Iraq's Al-Faw peninsula and create a bridgehead for further advances into Iraq. The militarisation of the river and the creation of the military-industrial Arvand Free Zone will give Iran the capacity to carry out similar attacks in the future.

Land confiscation and the military

Over recent years, the Iranian regime has confiscated large tracts of land from local Arabs and transferred ownership to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and state-owned enterprises. Around 47,000 hectares of Ahwazi Arab farmland in the Jofir area near the Ahwazi city of Abadan has been transferred members of the security forces and government enterprises. More than 6,000 hectares of Ahwazi farmland north of Shush (Susa) has been taken to "resettle" the faithful non-indigenous Persians, according to directives by the Ministry of Agricultures and the Revolutionary Corp Command. These policies have forced Ahwazi Arabs into poor shanty towns.

The Arvand Free Zone will involve the mass expulsion of Arabs, the destruction of their villages and the creation of an exclusive military-industrial zone. In all, up to 500,000 Ahwazi Arabs could be displaced by the creation of a 5,000 square km security zone along the Shatt Al-Arab. The zone's industrial enterprises focus on creating strong economic links between Khuzestan and Basra, representing an opportunity to bring Basra's authorities and businesses under Iranian influence and draw them away from Baghdad's control.

The zone's security element will strengthen covert operations inside Iraq, with the objectives of securing an early exit of Coalition troops, influencing Iraq's political system and using patronage to control local authorities in Basra. The zone could also be used to train, fund and organise militias loyal to Tehran. Among the most well-known Iranian-backed groups is the Badr Corps, the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) which had a strong presence in Khuzestan before the fall of Saddam Hussein. Another is the Lebanese Hezbollah, which has long enjoyed Iranian patronage. Both the Badr Corps and the Hezbollah have been implicated in human rights abuses against Ahwazi Arabs.

Current threats to Basra

Documents from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps' (IRGC) Fajr Garrison in Khuzestan, which serves as the organisation's main headquarters for southern Iran, show that Tehran is employing up to 40,000 agents in Iraq. The information was revealed in March 2005 by former Iranian agents who defected due to pay cuts. Fajr Garrison hosts the IRGC's Qods Force, which runs the vast underground network 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.

The regime's activities in Khuzestan are linked to the rise of militias in Basra and the British government's discovery that weapons used by insurgents were likely to have originated from the IRGC via the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah. It is no coincidence that attacks on British troops and a sudden upsurge in militia activity in Basra province have occurred at the same time discussions are being held on the issue of Iran's nuclear fuel cycle and its potential use in the construction of nuclear warheads.

Ethnic cleansing

The Arvand Free Zone is not set up to benefit the Ahwazi Arab population living in the area. Following a visit to Khuzestan in July, the UN's Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari commented: "In Khuzestan, you notice that we drove outside Ahvaz 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.

"And the question that comes up in my mind is, why is it that these projects are placed directly on the lands that have been homes for these people for generations? I asked the officials, I asked the people we were with. And there is other land in Khuzestan where projects could have been placed which would have minimised the displacement."

BAFS spokesman Nasser Ban Assad said: "Land confiscation is being implemented to ethnically cleanse Ahwazi Arabs from their homeland in order to exploit its economic resources and to use the area for extra-territorial military ventures. The international community should call a halt to the Arvand Free Zone and impose the demilitarisation of the Ahwazi homeland, for the sake of security in the Middle East and human rights in Iran.

"We also warn those thinking of investing in the Arvand Free Zone that when the regime is toppled by the oppressed people of Iran, those displaced through land confiscation will demand the return of their land and compensation from those who profited from the ethnic cleansing programme. Investing in the free zone is neither wise nor ethical."
Iran: Abadan Refinery "Bomb Plot"

Iran: Abadan Refinery "Bomb Plot"

The head of judiciary for Khuzestan province, Sayed Khalil Akbar al-Sadat, claims that a planned bomb attack on a refinery in Abadan, near the border with Iraq, was foiled by Iranian security forces on Wednesday.

He claimed that "British spies" had attempted to blow up the refinery "using five Katyusha rockets with a timer on them." The allegations followed similar claims that British agents had tried to destroy a bridge in Ahwaz City on Monday and that British soldiers had been responsible for bomb attacks on a shopping centre in the city on Saturday, which killed six people.

The British government has condemned the attacks and denied any involvement. However, President Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday: "We have not found any proof that Britain is not involved in the events in Ahvaz and we have not seen anything that would dissipate our doubts about that country."

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) which lobbies on behalf of Ahwazi Arab organisations, said: "These bomb allegations are propaganda, intended to persuade the Iranian public that the Ahwazi Arabs are dangerous and bought off by foreign governments. This is a prelude to a new wave of ethnic cleansing.

"It is highly probable that there has been no attempt to attack Kianpars bridge or the refinery in Abadan and that these 'bombs' are imaginary, intended to create a climate of fear in the province in order to control the population.

"Ahmadinejad says there is no proof that the British are not involved in the attacks, but he has not given any proof that they are. It does not surprise anyone that the regime is employing such absurd arguments. Plenty of people in Iran have been imprisoned or executed because of the country's summary justice, which assumes that people are guilty until proven innocent.

"Any independent judiciary will judge a case on the facts, not suspicion. But Iran does not have an independent judiciary and there is no justice in a country that executes children in market squares and bulldozes houses of those who raise a voice against the regime. The only terrorists in Iran are those in power, who terrorise minorities, women and political opponents."
Iran-UK Relations Threatened as New Bomb is "Discovered"

Iran-UK Relations Threatened as New Bomb is "Discovered"

Calls from hardliner supporters of the Iranian regime to cut relations with the UK grew on Tuesday, while security forces claimed they had foiled an attempt to blow up the Kianpars bridge in Ahwaz City.

Before the security forces had a chance to complete their investigations, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused London of being behind the weekend bombings in the Arab-dominated city of Ahvaz. However, the British government has condemned the bombings, which killed six people and injured around 100 in a busy shopping centre and the British Charge d'Affairs to Tehran, Kate Smith, denied any link to the attacks.

The bomb packade supposedly discovered under Kianpars bridge on Monday contained eight anti-personnel mines, around a kilogram of TNT, one stun grenade and a large number of fuses. Police claimed they successfully defused the bomb.

As yet, no group has claimed responsibility for the weekend's Ahwaz City bombings. Nasser Soudani, a Majlis (parliament) member for Ahwaz City, claimed on Monday that a British soldier had been arrested and confessed to carrying out the bombings. The claim was later denied by the authorities and the judiciary. Justice Minister Jamal Karimi-Rad said police had yet to make any arrests, but alleged that "the ones who have committed these crimes in the country have been supported by foreign states." However, on Tuesday, Minister of Information Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei said that over 20 suspects had been arrested.

A spate of bombings in Ahwaz City in June was claimed by a number of small exiled Ahwazi separatist groups, but eventually a group calling itself the Mohi-eldain Martyrs Guerrillas - which was disbanded in the 1980s - released a video showing the explosions and claiming responsibility. However, reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin suggested the attacks may have been the work of those seeking the election of a military hardliner, such as Ahmadinejad.

The government claimed that it had arrested those responsible for the June bombings, but has not named the suspects or brought them to trial. It accused a variety of governments for directing the attacks, the latest being Canada, but has failed to provide any evidence to substantiate its allegations.

An editorial in Kayhan, a newspaper whose editor-in-chief is appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for the closure of the British embassy in Tehran and "eventually sever ties."

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The situation in Iran was bad under Khatami, but Ahmadinejad is prepared to go even further to silence dissent, militarise Iranian society and extend Iranian influence through intimidation and violence. No-one should have any illusions about him. He is a military man who has worked in the secret services and who was directly responsible for the murder of Kurdish dissidents in Europe. He has proven that he will go to any lengths to achieve the tasks he has been given by the mullahs.

"There are strong suspicions that the Ahwaz bomb attacks were carried out by the government to isolate Britain, distract attention from Iranian support for terrorism, undermine the Ahwazi opposition and give an excuse to break off talks over its nuclear ambitions."
Iran Claims "British Agent" Arrested Over Ahwaz Bombings

Iran Claims "British Agent" Arrested Over Ahwaz Bombings

Majlis member for Ahwaz City Nasser Soudani claims that a British agent has been arrested in connection with Saturday's bombings in the Arab-populated city.

In an interview with the Fars news agency, Soudani alleged that the man had been trained in Iraq by "foreign agents, led by treacherous and criminal Britain."

The Majlis (parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Committee has said it is investigating the circumstances surrounding the bombings. The interior, intelligence, and foreign ministers and the national police chief are also scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday to investigate the bombings.

However, the hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pre-empted the outcome of the investigations, telling the ISNA news agency: "We are very suspicious about the role of British forces in perpetrating such terrorist acts. Our people are used to these kind of incidents, and our intelligence agents found the footprints of Britain in the same incidents before. We think the presence of British forces in southern Iraq and near the Iranian border is a factor behind insecurity for the Iraqi and Iranian people."

An editorial in the pro-government Kayhan newspaper claimed the bombers were "British soldiers" who had bungled the bombings, detonating the bombs in rubbish bins before they had a chance to deploy them at targets within the city.

The Iranian government has previously accused the British government of responsibility for the June bombings in Ahwaz City, but has also blamed the US, Canadian and Saudi governments as well as the Shell Oil Company and the opposition Mujahideen-e-Khalq. The regime claimed that it had the culprits for the June attacks in custody, but has not named or placed charges against the accused.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Whoever is responsible for the bombings does not have the best interests of the Ahwazi Arabs at heart. This was an attack on a shopping centre after iftar in an Arab-populated city and most of the victims are likely to have been Arab civilians. Moreover, such attacks usually lead to an increase in state violence against the indigenous Ahwazi Arab population.

"It is likely that the attacks were carried out by the regime or elements within the security forces who are seeking the fuel confrontation between the Iranian and British governments. Blaming the British enables the regime to divert attention from its nuclear programme and its involvement in Iraq and also gives it an excuse to step up the repression and forced displacement of the Ahwazi Arabs.

"We completely condemn all terrorism, whether by opposition groups or the government; nearly all terrorist acts in Iran are carried out by the regime and pro-government militias. Ahwazis experienced the brutality of the Iran-Iraq War and would not favour a foreign occupation of their homeland. They want social justice, autonomy and an end to ethnic cleansing by the regime. The international community should support the Ahwazi people instead of looking on while they are forced from their homes at gun-point."
IRAN: British Condemn Ahwaz Attacks

IRAN: British Condemn Ahwaz Attacks

The British government has been quick to condemn bomb attacks on a shopping centre in Ahwaz City, the provincial capital of the Arab dominated province of Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz).

In a statement published soon after the attacks, the British embassy in Tehran expressed its "revulsion at and condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Ahvaz." It added: "On behalf of the British Government and people, we extend our condolences to the families of the bereaved, the injured and all those involved. The British Government condemns all terrorist activity unequivocally."

The statement added: "There has been speculation in the past about alleged British involvement in Khuzestan. We reject these allegations. Any linkage between the British Government and these terrorist outrages is without foundation. As we have made clear officially to the Government of Iran, the British Government and British forces in Iraq stand ready to help in anyway we can to prevent attacks of this kind or identify those responsible and bring them to justice."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Iranian regime has claimed that the British government is behind Arab unrest, including rioting in April and bomb attacks in June. Despite claiming to have arrested the perpetrators it has not provided any evidence to substantiate its claims and has not put any of the alleged terrorists on trial.

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Mousapour told state-run Mehr news agency: "Most probably those involved in the explosion were British agents who were involved in the previous incidents in Ahvaz and Khuzestan." His claim appeared to contradict the regime's previous claim that it had arrested all the "British agents" responsible for the June bomb attacks. He was also contradicted by Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Asefi who said that the government had not yet received information proving foreign involvement in the attacks.

Some claim the bombs could have been personal or crime-related, rather than politically motivated. It is unlikely that the attacks were carried out by Ahwazi opposition groups as an attack in Ahwaz City could only damage their support among the province's indigenous Arabs. Ahwazi militants have tended to carry out sabotage operations on Iranian oil facilities, rather than attacks on civilians.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), a lobbying group that works with Ahwazi Arab political parties and human rights groups, has suggested the attacks may have been the work of the security forces in an attempt to discredit the Ahwazi opposition and as an excuse to retaliate against Western forces in Iraq.

In the run-up to the June election, reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin told The Guardian newspaper that violent attacks by unidentified thugs and a series of bomb attacks, including attacks in Ahwaz City, may have been calculated to persuade voters to choose a candidate with a military background. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-line conservative and former senior army officer, won the presidential election with support from the Basij militias.

Ahwazi Arabs are fearing the attacks will lead to an increase in violent persecution and ethnic cleansing, which have led to unrest in Al-Ahwaz in recent months. In April, at least 160 people were killed by security forces, hundreds injured and hundreds more arrested during a government crack-down on anti-government demonstrations in the province.
IRAN: Ahwaz bomb attack

IRAN: Ahwaz bomb attack

Two bombs exploded today in a shopping centre in Ahwaz City, an ethnically Arab-dominated city in the province of Khuzestan, the Ahwazi Arab homeland.

Early reports suggested four people had been killed and over 100 injured, but the number of casualties is likely to rise. Today's bomb attacks come at a time when Iran is facing increased pressure over its nuclear programme.

Ahwaz City witnessed similar bomb attacks in June, in the run-up to the presidential election, killing eight people. These explosions were caused by high-grade plastic explosives. Ahwazi separatists were blamed, with the Mohi-eldain Martyrs Guerrillas claiming responsibility for the attacks, although the group disbanded in the 1980s.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society lobbying group, said: "These bomb attacks tend to happen at times most advantageous to the Iranian regime and the majority of deaths are Arabs. The nature of the explosives - which could not possibly be produced in the backroom of an Arab slum dwelling - and the time and place the attacks occurred lead us to suspect that the bombs were the work of the Iranian security forces.

"The regime is keen to discredit the Ahwazi movement at a time when it is gaining considerable strength and challenging the state. This provides a motive for car bomb attacks on shopping centres and streets where Ahwazi Arab civilians are present in large numbers in an attempt to dent the movement's popularity. No Ahwazi group would ever support attacks on its own people.

"The regime also wants to portray such attacks as having foreign involvement, but despite claiming to have arrested the culprits for the June attacks on Ahwaz City, the government has failed to produce any evidence to substantiate these claims or put the alleged masterminds on trial. President Ahmadinejad is bound to claim British involvement in the attacks as a way of diverting attention from his own involvement in terrorism in Iraq and elsewhere."

Ahwazi Arabs have held numerous anti-government demonstrations this year in protest at the Iranian regime's ethnic cleansing policy in Khuzestan. Thousands of Arabs are being forced out of their homeland to other provinces. The majority live in some of the worst housing conditions in the Middle East, with unemployment and poverty levels of over 50 per cent. With the Ahwazi homeland containing 90 per cent of Iran's oil resources, the plight of the Ahwazi Arabs has been compared to that of the southern Sudanese or Nigeria's Ogoni people. Following a visit to Khuzestan in July, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari condemned the regime's policy of land confiscation towards the Ahwazi Arabs, which he said was raising poverty levels.

Further information:
Human Rights and the Ahwazi People
Economic Marginalisation of the Ahwazi People
Forced Migration and Land Confiscation
"Fascist" taunt at Iran ambassador in CND conference

"Fascist" taunt at Iran ambassador in CND conference

Iran's ambassador to London, Dr Seyed Mohammed Hossein Adeli, received a hostile response from some peace activists while addressing a conference of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in London on Saturday.

Activists shouted "fascists" as Dr Adeli spoke, but were ejected from the conference. Dr Adeli had been invited by CND to speak on Iran's nuclear programme, which he insisted was for peaceful purposes.

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), which works with Ahwazi Arab groups, said: "We share the outrage of some of those who attended the conference and who objected to Dr Adeli's presence. CND is supposed to be against all forms of nuclear technology. Many activists and researchers have proven the link between nuclear energy for civilian purposes and the construction of nuclear warheads as they require similar processes. There is little doubt that Iran intends to build the capacity to produce nuclear weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear energy programme.

"It is baffling that CND should choose to have a representative of a government heavily involved in the nuclear industry speak at its conference. CND has failed to invite members of Iranian opposition groups, human rights activists and the victims of this violent repressive regime to speak to its members. London has hundreds of Iranian political refugees, but CND has apparently shunned them and silenced those in the audience who heckled Dr Adeli. Many Iranians of all political and ethnic backgrounds will be very disappointed in the behaviour of the peace group's management."
Iran Federalists Launch Website

Iran Federalists Launch Website

The Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, an Iranian political party formed by Iran's ethnic minorities in February, has launched a new website to promote a democratic alternative to monarchy and theocracy in Iran. []

Comprising Ahwazi, Kurdish, Azeri, Balochi and Turkmen parties, the Congress is campaigning for recognition of Iran's identity as a multi-cultural, multi-faith society. The website states that "The present theological government, as did the previous monarchist government, treats Arabs, Baloch, Kurds, Turks, and Turkmen as second and third class citizens. This has resulted in policies that do not regard other languages and religions as equal to Persian and Shi'a Islam. The present system has hindered the economic, cultural and social progress of all oppressed nations in Iran. Except for the Persian and Shias, minorities are subject to reactionary and discriminatory government policies."

The Congress comprises the Azerbaijan Cultural Society, Balochistan People's Party, Baloch United Front, Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz, Komeleh - Revolutionary Party of Kurdistan, Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Organization for Defence of the Rights of Turkmen People. Their common agenda is the devolution of power to regions and ethnic groups that have long been oppressed by successive Iranian governments, while maintaining Iran's territorial integrity.

The Congress's manifesto states: "we believe the establishment of a federalist system of government on the basis of ethnicity-nationality and geography is the only political mechanism that is enduring, and it (Federalism) allows all Iranian nationalities to realise their aspirations and the exercise of self rule in a framework of a free, united and a democratic Iran." [click here for the manifesto]

Nasser Ban-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Federalism is the best way forward for Iran. Secessionism will never work as it is unlikely to gain the recognition of the international community. In order to maintain the unity of a democratic Iranian state, ethnic minorities and outlying geographical regions must be assured that there is an even balance of power between the authorities in Tehran and provincial authorities. At least half the population is of non-Persian descent and many non-Persian minorities wish for a distribution of power that recognises Iran's multi-ethnic identity.

"Critics claim that federalism is reactionary and ethnocentric. They fear that any move towards regional autonomy would lead to the Balkanisation of Iran. We say that there are plenty of examples where federalism has succeeded in maintaining stability in large and often diverse states: India, the United States, Australia, Brazil, Spain and Germany.

"In Iran, the devolution of power would help ease ethnic dissent, which has grown dramatically in recent months in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan), Kurdistan and Balochistan. Only the Congress is putting forward a solution that can end the ethnic unrest that has affected these provinces."
Iran: Military Commander Appointed Provincial Governor

Iran: Military Commander Appointed Provincial Governor

The government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has appointed army commander Brigadeer General Amir Hayat-Moghaddam as governor of Khuzestan, a province where indigenous Ahwazi Arabs are in the majority.

Ahmadinejad, himself a former senior commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, is in the process of appointing IRGC and intelligence officials to key government positions. The decision to appoint Hayat-Moghaddam as Khuzestan's governor indicates the regime's desire to militarise the province, crush local anti-government opposition and intensify ethnic cleansing of the Ahwazi Arabs.

The Ahwazi homeland is strategically important to the regime, bordering Iraq's Basra province, where local militias and their sympathisers in the provincial administration are attempting to create a mini-theocracy. It contains 80-90 per cent of Iran's oil resources, extracted from lands confiscated from the indigenous Arabs

Hayat-Moghaddam was a navy commander and has also served as the IRGC's Ground Forces' Karbala Garrison. He was been responsible for scud missile attacks on Iraqi bases belonging to the armed Iranian opposition group, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, in 2001. The Mujahideen claims the attacks also hit residential areas.

Ahwaz link to Iran-backed insurgency in Iraq's Basra province

The British government has admitted that attacks on British troops in Iraq's Basra province are linked to Iran, nearly seven months after the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) warned that the regime was using Khuzestan as a terrorist base [article: 26 March 2005].

Meanwhile, BAFS is about to publish new evidence of the establishment of a large "exclusive zone" along the Khuzestan-Basra border on the Shatt Al-Arab, which could indicate that Iran is about to scale up militarisation efforts, including its covert operations in the region. The formation of the zone will result in the forced eviction of up to half a million Ahwazi Arabs and the confiscation of their land and property. The zone, which is at places within a stone's throw of Basra province, could represent a major threat to security in the Middle East.

In March, BAFS reported that the Iranian regime's Fajr Garrison in Khuzestan was employing up to 40,000 agents in Iraq. The information was revealed by former Iranian agents who defected due to pay cuts. Fajr Garrison, near the 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 the vast underground network 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.

BAFS had warned that Tehran was preparing to use the network to activate an armed uprising by insurgent groups later in 2005. It stated that the primary target in the Shia areas of eastern Iraq will be the British military presence in Basra, which borders Khuzestan.

Since BAFS's warning, eight British soldiers have died in insurgent attacks. BAFS believes the worst is yet to come, with Iran likely to step up the insurgency in response to international efforts to curtail its nuclear ambitions.

A British official today told the BBC that the insurgents had obtained weapons from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. He said that the insurgents had obtained Iranian technology via the Lebanese Hezbollah, a Tehran-backed group which has a presence in Khuzestan, the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs that borders Basra province. It appears that the British government believes that dissidents from the Mehdi Army, a group loyal to Shia radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, is suspected of carrying out the attacks.

If the Mehdi Army is carrying out the attacks on behalf of Tehran, this represents a major turning point in the regime's policy. Iran had previously pursued an alliance with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), whose armed wing, the Badr Corps, has been involved in the violent persecution of Ahwazi Arabs in Khuzestan and Basra. SCIRI is now part of the ruling coalition in Baghdad.

The Iranian government has denied responsibility for the insurgency in Basra. Instead, it has accused the British government of responsibility for the Ahwazi uprising in Khuzestan, a claim that it has failed to substantiated. Iranian officials have also blamed the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, Arab separatists and the Shell Oil company for unrest in Khuzestan. Again, the allegations are not proven and are denied by all the accused.

Nasser Bani Assad, BAFS spokesman, said: "If the British government had listened to us earlier this year, lives could have been saved and the security of Basra could have been assured. Instead, the British government has failed to take heed of events in the Ahwazis' homeland and their impact on Iraq's stability. Now a large part of the Khuzestan-Basra border is about to become an exclusive military zone, which will allow Iran to effectively annex Basra.

"We call on the international community to press for a demilitarisation of Khuzestan, an end to ethnic cleansing and terrorism in the province and the return of land stolen from the peace-loving Ahwazi people."
Iran now Blames Canada for Ahwaz Unrest

Iran now Blames Canada for Ahwaz Unrest

Seyyed Khalil Akbar, chief prosecutor for Iran's Khuzekstan province, claimed this week that the Canadian government was linked to the June bombings in Ahwaz City.

Speaking at a conference, he said: "The primary individuals responsible for the bombings were Iranian and were supported by foreign forces. They had received training in Britain and Canada and were in contact with these countries via the Internet and mail."

The Canadian government claimed the accusations were baseless. Canada has banned the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, an Iranian opposition group also banned in the US and the EU.

British Ahwazi Friendship Society spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad said: "The Iranian regime changes its mind on who is responsible for the bombings on a weekly basis. It has blamed the British, Americans, Iraqi Ba'athists, Arab separatists, Saudi Arabia, the Shell oil company, the Mujahideen-e-Khalq and now the Canadians for the bombings. But it has never substantiated its claims with any hard evidence. If Tehran sincerely believes all these governments, opposition groups and multi-national corporations were responsible for the Ahwaz bombings, then why the reluctance to publish the evidence? Could it be that no evidence exists?"

From the information that is currently available, the vehicles used in the attacks were Iranian-manufactured Peugeots which are out of the price range of most Iranians, the bombs were made with high-grade plastic explosives and the people killed were mostly Arabs. Bomb attacks also occurred in other parts of the country in the run-up to the presidential election.

Ban-Assad said: "An independent observer should ask themselves who has the capabilities to carry out such a well co-ordinated campaign and who benefits most. The bombings have certainly been useful to Iran's propaganda efforts and have been used as justification for violent repression as well as a way of deflecting international criticism of ethnic cleansing in Khuzestan.

"It is obvious why Canada has been blamed for the attacks. Iran has resisted Canadian pressure for an investigation into the death of Zahra Kazemi, a 54-year-old Canadian who was murdered and raped while in Iranian custody in 2003. Canada is putting pressure on Iran over its appalling human rights abuses and Iran is resorting to blaming Canada for the bombings."