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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?"