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More Details Emerge of Iran's Eid Crack-Down in Ahwaz

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has released further details on the Eid protests by Ahwazi Arabs.

AHRO reports that on Friday 3,000 Ahwazis staged a peaceful march towards the centre of Ahwaz City, but at 12.30pm were surrounded at the 5th bridge by Iranian security forces who fired tear gas grenades at the crowd. Two Arab youths fell into the Karoon river and drowned as a result of the attack. More than 200 demonstrators were arrested. The security forces were ordered to attack by General Amir Hayat Moghadam, recently appointed the Governor of Khuzestan by President Ahmadinejad.

Earlier in the week, 81 Ahwazi Arabs were arrested while conducting a cultural play called Mahibis, a popular event performed during iftaar, following fasting in the month of Ramadan. The arrested included Zahra Nasser-Torfi, a feminist leader and director of the Ahwaz Al-Amjad cultural center, Arab-Iranian poet Hamid Haydari and the entire Mojadam family - Mohammad Mojadam, Hamid Mojadam, Mehdi Mojadam, Rasoul Mojadam, Khaled Bani-Saleh and Hassan Naisi. These arrests were a contributing factor to the Eid protests.

On Saturday, the families of those arrested during the protests marched to the Governor's provincial headquarers wearing traditional Arabic clothing, dishdasha (ankle-length robe) and kafieh (scarf). The families demonstrated to demand the release of those arrested during Friday's demonstration and requested a meeting with the Governor. Using a loudhailer, Governor General Heyat Mojadam began calling them terrorists and Arab nomads, using foul language to insult the families' dignity, culture and identity. He warned the demonstrators that any Ahwazi Arab wearing traditional Arabic clothing would be arrested and ordered the security forces to disperse the crowd violently.

Tensions have been running high over the arrest of seven sons and close relatives of Arab tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi. Two of his sons have been sentenced to death for alleged insurrection. Their executions will be carried out if the Supreme Court approves the death sentence issued by the lower court. All seven have been tortured in prison. 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.

In the past several weeks, dozens of political prisoners and as well as those recently arrested have been tortured into giving forced television confessions. 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.

In the past few weeks a spate of bombings - blamed on the British and Canadian governments, separatists, Ba'athists, Israelis, Wahabis, etc - have occurred in Ahwaz. It is widely believed that the bombings have been carried out by government security forces ahead of an intensification of the government's land confiscation and ethnic cleansing along the Shatt Al-Arab. Mustafa Moin, a reformist candidate in the June presidential elections, threatened to quit as a candidate after complaining that a string of bomb attacks in Ahwaz were being staged to encourage the election of a military candidate. However, the regime has blamed the British government for training "terrorists".

Khuzestan is off-limits to reporters and outside observers while maintaining state of siege of the province whose population is 70 per cent is indigenous Arab. Al-Jazeera was banned in the province after it covered demonstrations by Arabs against the government's plan to reduce the proportion of Arabs in the province to a third of the total population.