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Iran: Ahwazis Arabs executed

Iran: Ahwazis Arabs executed

Two Arabs were executed in Ahwaz City, according to reports by Iranian news agencies on Wednesday.

It is unclear what crimes the men were accused of committing, with one source suggesting they had been found guilty of armed robbery and another of "waging war on God", which usually constitutes opposing the Islamic Republic.

The men were identified only by their first names: Naeem-Abdollah and Jaleel. Their names are not known to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, which has helped to highlight a number of cases involving Ahwazis detained by the authorities. However, hundreds of Ahwazis have been arrested in recent months and their relatives have been unable or unwilling to give the names of detainees to human rights organisations.

Amnesty International has recently expressed its concern over the incommunicado detention and possible torture of relatives of Ahwazi tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi, two Ahwazi teachers and a local newspaper editor, and Ahwazis who had allegedly participated in demonstrations in Ahwaz City.
BAFS complaint over BBC confusion

BAFS complaint over BBC confusion

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has lodged a complaint against the BBC for a mistake in a report that linked the organisation to an Arab separatist television channel.

A BBC Monitoring report confused the BAFS-supported "Al-Ahwaz TV", which promotes civil rights for Arabs in Iran, with a newly launched Canada-based channel called "Ahwaz TV". The BBC stated that BAFS facilitated grants and donations to the Canadian organisation running the channel, a claim that is wrong. The new channel promotes a separate state for Al-Ahwaz and armed struggle against the "Iranian enemy", positions that BAFS and its allied organisations reject. The BBC report has prompted understandable concern that BAFS supports armed conflict and terrorism.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani-Assad said: "BAFS's constitution explicitly states opposition to all violence, whether from the government or the opposition. This is our principled stand. The television channel the BBC associates us with says that Iran is the enemy of the Ahwazi people. We reject this position. The regime is the enemy of the people, not the Iranian peoples and not ordinary Persians.

"We abhor all ethnic chauvinism, Persian or Arab, and believe in non-violent resistance without hatred. We advocate a federal Iranian state with autonomy and internal self-determination for the provinces, similar to federal systems that can be found in many of the world's advanced democracies. We believe that this is the only way Ahwazi Arabs can be free of injustice and oppression. BAFS and the organisations it works alongside are progressive and secular, defending the rights of Ahwazis against persecution, poverty and oppression.

"The mistake is understandable, but the BBC should know better. It is absolute clear to anyone with any knowledge of Al-Ahwaz that we have nothing to do with these people. If the BBC had bothered to follow up the story and contacted us - as all good news organisations should - then this confusion would not have arisen. This is why we are complaining in the strongest possible manner."

The BAFS website's "about" page states: "We do not support separatism and oppose any invasion of Iran by foreign forces. We condemn all forms of terrorism and have no links to any armed group. We believe that through national civil disobedience supported by global solidarity, the people of Al-Ahwaz and the rest of Iran can build a democratic Iran where no religious or ethnic group is subject to persecution, racism or oppression. We uphold the notion of Iran as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country and believe that decentralisation, federalism and regional autonomy is essential to democracy in Iran."

Iranian Baseej forcibly conscripting Ahwazi Arab students

The Ahwaz Studies Centre has received reports that the Iranian regime is militarising education in Khuzestan by forcibly recruiting Ahwazi Arab students.

Sources in the Ahwazi Arab opposition in Iran report that some 200,000 students were forcefully taken to the headquarters of the paramilitary Baseej's Ashura civil defence batallions near Ahwaz City. The students were divided up into three batallions and deployed to camps within Khuzestan for three days of military training and manoeuvres. The Ashura units' responsibilities include riot control and civil defence.

Major military manoeuvres and training by the Baseej, which is under the control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), also took place in Khuzestan in September to prepare for "internal unrest", according to reports in the Iranian press at the time.

The Baseej's forces are loyal to the religious elite and prioritise the defence of the Islamic revolution. Baseej commander General Mohammad Hejazi has estimated the Baseej's strength at 11 million, although the actual figure is likely to be lower.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The forced conscription of Ahwazis could be an attempt to control, indoctrinate or intimidate the local Arab youth and instill loyalty to the religious elite. It also comes in the context of the regime's aim to raise Baseej membership to 20 million. Forced conscription is the only way the regime can achieve this target. Ahwazi Arab youths have been at the forefront of anti-government protests in Iran in recent months.

"Forced conscription to the Ashura Brigades is indicative of the regime's mindset. President Ahmadinejad believes that the way to maintain social order and the regime's stability is through militarisation. But the Baseej is not a regular army, it is primarily a group of armed civilian religious fanatics intent on imposing the stability of the Islamic Republic through state terrorism.

"This forced conscription into a group that was responsible for the violent intimidation of voters in the recent presidential elections cannot be compared with compulsory army conscription in other countries."
Majlis members protest at Karoon River diversion in Ahwaz

Majlis members protest at Karoon River diversion in Ahwaz

Members of the Iranian parliament representing Khuzestan province have launched a strong protest against the government's Karoon River water diversion project, with a petition to impeach Energy Minister Parviz Fattah.

According to Tehran Times, Majlis Energy Committee Chairman Kamal Daneshyar said on Sunday that MPs from Khuzestan, the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs, have signed a protest petition. He said: "The people and the parliamentarians of the southern province of Khuzestan have strongly protested about the transfer of water from the Karun River to the city of Rafsanjan for agricultural use."

Daneshyar said that the energy minister will have to give "satisfactory" answers to the complaints lodged by the Majlis members or an impeachment motion will be presented to the Majlis Presiding Board.

The Karoon River is an important source of water supply for Ahwazi farmers. The diversion project will hit the local Arab population hard, exacerbating endemic poverty in the region by reducing water availability. Already, the construction of dams along the Karoon River is causing a decline in the quality drinking water in a land renowned for its rivers. River diversion could lead to a significant deficit in water in the Ahwazi region.

Ahwazi Arab representatives have long been campaigning against river diversion, but the Iranian government has continued to press ahead with the scheme. At a session of the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in May-June 2005, Karim Abdian, Director of Ahwaz Education and Human Rights Foundation, drew attention to the diversion of water from Karkhe River, which passes through an entirely indigenous Ahwazi Arab area of Howizeh and Boustan, to Kuwait and the diversion of the Karoon's water to central Iranian provinces.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Ahwazi Arab leaders have been protesting against the proposed river diversions for a long time, warning of the negative impact on the local population and ecological damage. The Iranian government has responded with indifference and hostility. The diversion of water from the reservoirs created by the dams to other parts of Iran would have a catastrophic effect on the Ahwazi Arabs' economic security and the ecology of their homeland.

"We welcome the move by the Majlis members, but are cautious over their motives. These politicians should have acted sooner if they had such strong concerns over the impact of river diversion, which will be an extension of the massive hydroelectric dam projects in the area.

"It is highly probable that the impeachment move is a political ploy to influence President Ahmadinejad's choice of cabinet members, rather than a serious attempt to stop river diversion. It is a repeat of the controversies surrounding the appointment of the Oil Minister, with Ahmadinejad's choices for the post being rejected by the Majlis. Majlis members from Khuzestan are mostly aligned with the so-called 'reformists', so they are likely to seek to use local grievances against hardliners in Tehran for the sake of gaining political leverage. However, their protests were notably absent during the administration of President Khatami, Ahmadinejad's predecessor."

Like Ahmadinejad, Parviz Fattah has served with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), but has no experience in the areas relevant to his post. Majlis members have reacted strongly against the appointment of former IRGC militants. Many fear that the choice of cabinet does not adequately reflect the vested interests represented in Iran's complex political system, with too much power given to those associated with the IRGC.

Bani-Assad added: "As few Ahwazi Arabs have faith in the Majlis to protect their best interests, we call upon the international community to intervene in the Karoon dam project to ensure that it does not lead to the diversion of river waters which would jeopardise the livelihoods and well-being of local inhabitants. There have been international campaigns against massive hydroelectric schemes elsewhere in the world - such as Brazil and India - due to concerns over indigenous rights and the impact on local ecology. Ahwaz should be no exception."
Amnesty appeal for Ahwazis in Iran detention

Amnesty appeal for Ahwazis in Iran detention

Amnesty International published an urgent action this week highlighting the incommunicado detention and possible torture of four Ahwazi Arabs who participated in demonstrations by Arabs during the Eid al-Fitr celebrations.

The detainees include the poet 23-year-old poet Nasr Daraji (also known as Firouz Abou Farhan), who is a supporter of Arab rights and had allegedly helped lead the Eid protests. Brothers Karim and Abdulali Douraghi as well as a man known only by his surname, Eshagi, were also named in the Amnesty report as being potential victims of torture.

According to the Amnesty report, Daraji had fled his family home after friends had warned him that he was on a "wanted" list: "He went into hiding, but returned to his home late in the night of 6 November, to visit his aging parents and get some clean clothing. The house was immediately raided by police and he was arrested at about 3am. Police reportedly beat his mother, who is aged about 65 and suffering from diabetes, when she asked why her son was being arrested and where he was taken."

The Eid demonstration was intended by the organisers to be a peaceful show of Arab identity and culture, but police attacked the crowd with tear gas grenades as the marchers approached the city's 5th bridge and beat and arrested youths. Some Ahwazi homes raised black flags in protest at the regime's repression during Eid.

The regime tried to portray the demonstration as a separatist ploy to generate unrest, claiming that a group called the Arab People's Group had staged a riot. No group of this name exists. Protests by Ahwazi Arabs are largely the result of economic deprivation and political and cultural oppression, with the government's own statistics revealing high levels of unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and child malnutrition. The Amnesty report stated that "the Arab population do not feel they have benefited as much from the oil revenue as the Persian population; historically they have been marginalised and discriminated against, for instance being denied the right to an education in their own language."

The march and demonstration were largely a show of local defiance against state repression, which has increased following Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's installation as president. More than 200 demonstrators were arrested during the Eid protest. The security forces were ordered to attack by General Amir Hayat Moghadam, recently appointed the Governor of Khuzestan by President Ahmadinejad. He had warned the demonstrators that any Ahwazi Arab wearing traditional Arabic clothing would be arrested, indicating that the regime would not tolerate any display of Arabic culture.

Days before the Eid protests, 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.

Tensions have also been running high over the arrest of seven sons and close relatives of Arab tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi. In October, two of his sons were 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. Previous Arab political detainees have been lynched or executed summarily while in prison and their bodies have been dumped in the Karun River.

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.

The Amnesty International report can be downloaded by clicking here.
Iranian minorities parties meet with EU authorities

Iranian minorities parties meet with EU authorities

Between 28 and 30 November 2005 in Brussels (Belgium) the CNFI International Relations Committee had several meetings with European Unions authorities including the European parliament, the Council and Commission. Beside these meetings the CNFI international relations committee had also some meetings with NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations). The following topics were discussed in the above meetings.

- The political and social situation of Oppressed Nations in Iran, and the systematic violation of human rights situation of these people in their regions by the Iranian government.

- The continuation of discriminatory and repression policy by the Iranian government against Oppressed Nations and its intensification since Mr. Ahmadi Nezhad has come to power.

- The formation of Congress of Nationalities for a federal Iran.

- It is vital to solve the Oppressed Nations political situation for democratization of Iran and for the security, stability and maintenance of peace in the region.

- The foreign policy of Islamic Republic of Iran and its nuclear program.

- The worsening situation of political prisoner in Iran and importance of pressurising the Iranian regime to release them.

- The situation of Iranian political refuges and difficulties they are facing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey.

- The European Unions policies towards Iran.

International Relations Committee
Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran
(Nasser Boladai, Karim Abdian, Mero Aliaar)

www.federalcongress.org
Iran to build nuclear facility in Ahwazi Arab homeland

Iran to build nuclear facility in Ahwazi Arab homeland

The Iranian government decided on Sunday to construct a new nuclear power station in the Arab-majority province of Khuzestan, amid controversy over the country's nuclear programme.

Iran is accused by many governments of using nuclear power stations to enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons, whereas the Iranian regime claims that its intentions are peaceful. The plan for a Khuzestan nuclear power station comes after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be wiped off the map. There is also mounting evidence that he intends to use the province as a primary base for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's operations abroad. This week, Bassij militias are conducting military exercises in Khuzestan's Dasht-e Azadegan (Susangerd) district.

Khuzestan is home to some 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs, many of whom have been forced off their land for industrial projects and military installations. The government's plans to forcibly remove thousands of Ahwazi Arabs from the borders for the 155 square km military-industrial Arvand Free Zone project, situated along the Shatt Al-Arab dividing Khuzestan and Iraq's Basra province, have generated anxiety within the EU. Last week, delegates from the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, comprised of Kurdish, Arab, Balochi, Azeri and Turkmen groups, met with senior officials of the European Parliament, Council and Commission - the EU's three main decision-making bodies - to discuss ethnic oppression in Iran, including the impact of the militarisation of the Shatt Al-Arab.

Many Ahwazis and others living near sites for future nuclear power plants in Ahwaz and Bushehr are concerned about safety in this earthquake-prone region. The nuclear power station currently under construction and the source of international controversy is being located near Bushehr city, which has been destroyed by earthquakes on three occasions and is near the same geological faultline as the earthquake that destroyed Bam in 2003. Any tremours on a Richter Scale of 7 could destroy the Bushehr power station and any nuclear facility located in Khuzestan. But we can be sure that of these power plants go ahead, any earthquake on the magnitude of the recent earthquake in Pakistan, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale, would be of major consequence to the people of the Gulf region.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The government claims that a nuclear power station in Khuzestan is essential to achieve its goal of meeting electricity demand with nuclear power supply. Yet, Khuzestan is one of the most oil-rich places on the planet.

"In terms of addressing the country's energy balance, it makes little sense to build a nuclear power station in Khuzestan instead of utilising the abundant local oil resources. Why is the regime not locating the station in the country's energy-poor areas or nearer the most urbanised and populated areas? This would reduce costs and improve transmission. There is just no economic justification for a civilian nuclear power station in Khuzestan, where less than a tenth of the total population lives.

"Neighbouring countries should be concerned over safety issues, as Khuzestan is an earthquake-prone area. The planned power station is being built using local expertise, but nuclear reactors built in earthquake zones need highly skilled engineering to minimise risks. If the nuclear power station is built without the supervision of world-class engineers, Khuzestan could witness a Chernobyl-scale disaster.

"Given that the province is heavily militarised and under de facto martial law, it seems likely that the planned station will have some military use. We have been warning the international community for months over the developments in Khuzestan and the negative impact militarisation this is having on the welfare and human rights of local inhabitants. The international community must act now to stop ethnic cleansing and militarisation in order to support human rights and peace in the region. The last thing the Ahwazi Arabs want is a nuclear power station with possible military uses in their homeland."