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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."