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...

Leading Ahwazi Arab intellectual subpoenaed by revolutionary court

Leading Ahwazi Arab intellectual subpoenaed by revolutionary court

Leading Ahwazi Arab intellectual Yousef Azizi Bani Torouf has been subpoenaed to appear at branch three zone seven of Tehran revolutionary court, according to a report by the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).

Bani Torouf was detained for 68 days in 2005 following an uprising by Ahwazi Arabs. Human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation led a campaign for his release. He was released on IRR200 million bail.

Bani Torouf has written on Arab identity in Iran and has criticised the regime's human rights abuses, but has never advocated armed struggle or a secession. He has said that "Arabs of Khuzestan, as a nation or an ethnic group ... are inseparable parts of the Iranian nation. But despite the fact that we are part of the Iranian nation, we do have our own identity that is somewhat different from the rest of the Iranian peoples."

ILNA reported that Bani Torouf, a member of the Iranian Writers Centre, has been ordered to attend the court on 8 February to hear charges against him. The case had been previously heard by Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz) revolutionary court, where he was accused of acting against Iran's national security. However, the court was not eligible to rule on the matter and the case was moved to the Tehran revolutionary court.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Revolutionary courts are renowned for staging show trials. If Bani Torouf is found guilty, he could face execution. There is growing pressure from among hard-liners to stage high-profile executions of famous Ahwazi Arab figures in order to terrorise the Arab population, which has held several anti-government protests in recent months. Bani Torouf's life is in serious danger. His execution would enrage the Ahwazi Arab population. It could provoke massive unrest and in turn give the regime an excuse to step up its ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs in the name of national security.

"What makes this matter worse is that Bani Torouf is by no means a separatist or a terrorist. He has only ever called for the recognition of Ahwazi Arabs and their rights and an end to state terrorism. He is voicing the opinion of the Ahwazi Arab mainstream, but as a result he is facing imprisonment and execution. Any conviction of Bani Torouf will be a direct assault on the Ahwazi Arab people."

"The Identity and Ancestry of the Indigenous Khuzestani Arabs of Iran" - speech by Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf to University of Isfahan
Arbitrary arrest/fear of torture and ill-treatment, Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf - Amnesty International Urgent Action, 4 July 2005
Arbitrary arrest/fear of torture and ill-treatment, Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf - Amnesty International Urgent Action, 6 May 2005
Reports of Ethnic Violence Suppressed - Human Rights Watch, 11 May 2005
Yosef Azizi Banitrouf freed on bail after 68 days in prison - Reporters Without Borders, 1 July 2005
President Ahmadinejad in secret visit to Ahwaz

President Ahmadinejad in secret visit to Ahwaz

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has paid a secret visit to Ahwaz a week after bomb attacks in the city, according to a report sent from Ahwaz to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS).

Ahmadinejad was reportedly staying in Shahrak Naft near Ahwaz City at the house of the regional executive of the National Iranian Oil Company. He had talks related to the oil industry at the same time as the Iranian government has called for cuts in OPEC's oil output. There was a high level of security surrounding his visit, including an official media black-out. On Wednesday, Ahmadinejad travelled to neighbouring Bushehr.

Meanwhile, the Iranian government has announced that it has arrested at least 50 Ahwazi Arabs in connection with the bomb attacks, which it blames on the British government. Although ministers claim they have evidence of the direct involvement of British soldiers from Basra, they have not published any evidence.

Hamid Zangeneh, a non-Arab Majlis member for Khuzestan aligned with the former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezaei, has said that Arabs should be taught a lesson with high profile executions, martial law and a crack-down by security forces. In an interview with the Mehr News Agency, Zangeneh accused the regime of not doing enough, despite the killings and mass arrests of Arabs. Ahwazi Arab leaders are concerned that he is trying to fuel violent vigilantism against Arab civilians, particularly Arab leaders such as former Majlis member Jasem Shadidzadeh Al-Tamimi and the journalist and writer Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf.
Al-Ahwaz TV goes on-line

Al-Ahwaz TV goes on-line

Al-Ahwaz TV, an independent, grass-roots broadcaster transmitting to the Ahwazi Arab homeland, is now available on-line at
Al-Ahwaz TV has been transmitting to the Ahwazi homeland in Iran since 2004, broadcast on the Assyrian television channel.

The station and its journalists are supported by a number of Ahwazi non-governmental organisations and their supporters, including the Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz and the British Ahwazi Friendship Society.

It promotes non-violent opposition to the Iranian regime and advocates democratic change, focussing on the Ahwazi Arabs, who are indigenous to south-west Iran. Al-Ahwaz TV seeks to hand the media back to the Ahwazis, who are oppressed, marginalised and discriminated against.

Al-Ahwaz TV is not supported by any government or government-funded institution. It is run, staffed and owned by Ahwazi Arabs and run by a democratic editorial collective.
Iran: Liberty or death for Ahwaz imam on hunger strike

Iran: Liberty or death for Ahwaz imam on hunger strike

According to the Mohammara News Agency (MONA), Sheikh Saleh Haidari, the imam of Dayiereh mosque, has been on hunger strike since Wednesday.

Sheikh Haidari was arrested after he led the Eid-ul-Adha mass prayer and peaceful demonstration on 11 January. The demonstration was fired upon by Iran's security forces, killing an unknown number of civilians. Sheikh Haidari is reportedly refusing both food and water and is certain to die soon. He is being charged with threatening national security. The protest he led was peaceful and demanded an end to ethnic cleansing, the persecution of Arabs, poverty and unemployment and called for the release of political prisoners arrested following the Ahwazi uprising of April 2005.

Meanwhile, in Ahwaz City, the government is currently cracking down on Ahwazi Arab street vendors. Many Arab farmers made landless due to the government's land confiscation programme have been forced into informal sector employment in the cities, selling items by the roadside to feed their families. Street vendors live on the margins in the shanty towns of Khuzestan, one of the world's most oil-rich areas. The government's ban on street vending will worsen poverty among Ahwazi Arabs and is likely to prompt further anti-government demonstrations in the province.
Khuzestan MPs threaten mass resignation over river diversion

Khuzestan MPs threaten mass resignation over river diversion

Majlis (parliament) representatives for Khuzestan have threatened to resign if the project to divert the waters of the Karoon River to the provinces of Rafsanjan and Isfahan continues.

Khuzestan's Majlis members have been fiercely critical of the water diversion scheme, claiming it would seriously undermine water security and the livelihoods of many farmers in the Arab-majority province. In December, the MPs launched a petition to impeach Energy Minister Parviz Fattah over the transfer of Karoon waters.

Water quality is a major problem for residents of Khuzestan. In most of the province's towns and cities, water is polluted with industrial wastes and open sewers run through the middle of the streets. In Khafjieh, in western part of the province, the situation has become so bad that schools are failing to provide safe drinking water to children and have closed. The Iranian government has requested World Bank funding to clean up the province's water supply, although it continues to profit from oil revenue extracted from lands confiscated from Ahwazi Arabs. Meanwhile, the river diversion project along with the construction of dams is already making the situation worse.

The Karoon River is also an important source of water supply for farmers. The diversion project will hit the province's Arab majority hard, exacerbating endemic poverty in the region by reducing water availability. The Arab population is highest in the areas most affected by the river diversion. River diversion could lead to a significant deficit in water in the Ahwazi region, threatening the agricultural sustainability and creating an ecological disaster zone.

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.
Iran regime fails evidence test on Ahwaz bombings

Iran regime fails evidence test on Ahwaz bombings

The Iranian regime has blamed Britain for this week's Ahwaz bombings and claimed that the British intelligence services had armed and trained the bombers, but has refused to disclose any evidence or take any diplomatic action.

It is the third time Iran has blamed Britain for bombings in Ahwaz. Following the June and October 2005 bombings in the city, senior Iranian officials said they had evidence in the form of confessions and documents that proved British complicity and had arrested British agents involved in the bombings. However, the regime has not published any proof or convicted anyone of involvement in terrorism, despite rounding up and detaining hundreds of Ahwazis including tribal leaders and intellectuals. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also failed to take any action against the British embassy in Tehran, which continues to operate despite the severity of the allegations.

Ahmadinejad this week accused the "occupiers of Iraq" for two bombings that killed nine people in Ahwaz. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki repeated the claim that the bombings were supported by the British military from Iraq's Basra province. He said that the bombs were planted by people "who have taken souvenir pictures with British officials in London, while enjoying the intelligence facilities and the support of the British military commander in Basra." Following this week's bombings, ten people, described as local citizens "deceived by the intelligence agents of the enemies", have reportedly been arrested in connection with the recent bombings. Their names have not been released.

Mottaki appeared to play down the significance of supposed British involvement on Saturday. In a press conference on Saturday, Mottaki was quoted by the government's Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) saying that the information and evidence of British involvement in the bombings would be put "at the disposal of related British officials" and "expressed the hope to attain concrete results in that connection to prevent the occurrence of such incidents."

In relation to this week's bombings, the only people who knew about the bombings were about to occur were the President and his ministers, who cancelled their visit to Ahwaz the day before citing "heavy rain". It transpired that there was sunshine all the way from Ahwaz to Tehran. Either Iran's weather forecasters are bad at their job or the President and his government already knew the bomb attacks would occur on Tuesday and invented a lame excuse for their non-attendance. Nevertheless, Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi - accused by Human Rights Watch of leading prison massacres and serial killings of opponents - made a public visit to the city later in the week, undeterred by the threat of rain and bombs. This has raised a few eyebrows among Iran observers.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "The Iranian regime has repeatedly accused Britain of backing terrorism in Iran, but now says it will hand the evidence to the British government. It is highly unusual for a state supposedly under terrorist attack to give its military intelligence to the alleged sponsor of terrorism. If Ahmadinejad is so certain that the British are responsible, then isn't the best place for this intelligence the UN General Assembly? Why has he not expelled British diplomatic staff from Iran if the British were such a threat to his government?

"There is no evidence to link any Western governments to the Ahwaz bombings and there is only a few hastily penned words from publicity-seeking extremists to proove 'separatist' involvement. The regime knows this and is not so foolish to take action against the British government on the basis of mere suspicion. But many are beginning to suspect the terrorists live somewhat closer to Tehran than London.

"Blaming the British and the Ahwazis is part of Ahmadinejad's psychological warfare. Blaming the British is no doubt a way of playing victim in the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme. The regime is also generating fear and hatred against a marginalised ethnic minority it alleges are in league with a foreign enemy to fuel nationalist sentiment and purge the Ahwazi Arabs from their homeland.

"The regime has lost all credibility with the Iranian people. It is weak and corrupt, so has to resort to state terrorism. Who knows what crimes such a regime is capable of carrying out?"
Photos of two Ahwazis martyred by Iran

Photos of two Ahwazis martyred by Iran

These are the pictures of two young Ahwazi Arab men murdered by Iranian security forces during recent anti-government demonstrations: Abdolah Saidi-Nawaseri (age 17) and Asmad Mojadam (age 24).

An unknown number of Ahwazi Arabs have been summarily executed by Iran in the past two weeks following peaceful demonstrations in Eid-al-Adha. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has received the names of five unarmed Ahwazis killed by the Iranian regime during the protests: Ahmad Naseri (age 22), Jaber Sawari, Sayed Chabawi, Abdolah Saidi-Nawaseri (17) and Asmad Mojadam (24).

There has been a complete global media blackout on the killings and mass arrests of Ahwazi Arabs and violent state repression. This is in contrast to this week's bombings in Ahwaz, which are believed to be the work of the Baseej paramilitaries seeking to justify the oppression of Arabs and portray the Iran state as the victim instead of the perpetrator of terrorism. Bomb attacks by the quasi-military religious vigilante group are increasingly common in Iran.

Iran's crack-down as Ahwaz Eid protests continue
Iran authorities arrest hundreds and shoot demonstrators in Ahwaz
More arrests in Ahwaz
Iran prepares for ethnic cleansing the Arvand Free Zone

Iran prepares for ethnic cleansing the Arvand Free Zone

The controversial military-industrial Arvand Free Zone (AFZ), a large zone from which thousands of local Ahwazi Arab inhabitants are being forcibly expelled, could be "physically separated" from Iran, according to the Hamsayeha newspaper
which covers the southern Iranian province of Khuzestan.

Nasser Kermani, director of Iran's custom service, told the newspaper that the AFZ should be separated from the cities of Abadan and Muhammarah (Khorammshahr) and adjacent areas along the Shatt Al-Arab waterway "to prevent people and others goods into the area." A bill has been submitted to the Majlis (parliament) to enable the AFZ, which encircles the two cities, to carry out the construction of walls and barricades.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The establishment of the AFZ is an act of ethnic cleansing. The walling up of the AFZ will enable the government to militarise the border with Iraq without civilians nearby. As the AFZ completely encircles the Arab majority cities of Abadan and Muhammarah, hundreds of thousands of Ahwazi Arabs will be living under a state of siege.

"The AFZ is little different from other infrastructural projects in Khuzestan, such as the Sugar Cane Project of the 1990s which made up to 250,000 Arabs homeless. The AFZ is being built at the expense of Arabs who will lose their farmland and be forced to live in city slums. Like the Sugar Cane Project, few will gain employment and compensation will be derisory.

"While the world media promotes the Iranian regime's racist claim that Ahwazi Arabs are violent terrorists, the ethnic cleansing and economic injustices go unreported. But the AFZ is of immense geopolitical importance, acting as a base for Iran to extend its influence over Iraq and organise its network of agents behind a wall of secrecy."

BAFS report on the Arvand Free Zone
Safeguarding the Ahwazi Arabs: Essential for a Stable and Democratic Middle East
Kidnapping of Iraqis indicates Iran's plans for Shatt Al-Arab
Iran is ethnic cleansing Ahwazis claims senior European politician
Ahwaz bombings come after weeks of unrest

Ahwaz bombings come after weeks of unrest

A bomb has exploded in Ahwaz killing six people and injuring at least 30 others.

According to Iranian government news agencies, the targets were a bank and a state environmental agency. President Ahmadinejad and his cabinet cancelled their visit to Ahwaz shortly before the attacks due to rain, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). However, weather forecasts indicated that both Tehran and Ahwaz were enjoying sunny weather on Tuesday with light rain expected on Thursday or Friday. This suggests that Ahmadinejad was forewarned of the attacks or was complicit in them. Some "reformists" and opponents of the regime have in the past suggested that bomb attacks in Iran are the work of state agents seeking political leverage within Iran's complex political system rather than insurgents.

The regime has blamed previous bombings in the Arab majority province of Khuzestan on Arab separatists backed by Britain. Iran had claimed that it had arrested British agents responsible for the bombings in October 2005, but later the Ahwaz public prosecutor denied any arrests had been made. The regime has not published any evidence linking the bomb attacks to Arab groups or the British government and it has failed to charge any individual with responsibility.

In Iran, doubts have emerged over the regime's claims that bomb attacks have been carried out by British-backed terrorists. Shargh, a reformist daily newspaper, has suggested that members of the hardline Coalition Party are exagerrating foreign involvement in the explosions. Meanwhile, the reformist politician Mustafa Moin has speculated that bomb attacks in Ahwaz ahead of the June presidential elections were the work of those seeking to elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is no coincidence that bomb attacks have come in the wake of the former Revolutionary Guards commander's rise to power.

Today's bombings come after weeks of unrest in which security guards have shot at unarmed anti-government protestors. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has published a list of names of those known to have been detained, including children as young as 11, and three people killed by the Baseej paramilitaries.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani-Assad said: "There has been a complete media black-out on the events in Ahwaz. Thousands have been arrested over the past year and many have been murdered or executed. Not one Western journalist has written a single word on the killings of Ahwazi demonstrators over the past few days. The only time the world media pays attention to Ahwaz is when bombs are exploding and journalists join in the chorus of blaming Arabs.

"The world media is operating a news agenda set down by Tehran, with a complete absence of reporting on the brutal suppression of dissent and deaths at the hands of government forces. In following this line, journalists are skewing the debate away from the issue of the regime's illegitimacy, with anti-government protests going unreported. The media's portrayal of Ahwazis as terrorists without any acknowledgement of the violent oppression they face on a daily basis suits the regime very well.

"The fact Ahmadinejad used a bogus weather forecast to cancel a trip to Ahwaz before the bombings shows that he must have known about the attacks before they happened. Even Ahmadinejad's rivals within the Iranian political system are suggesting that bomb attacks are perpetrated by the Revolutionary Guards, the President's allies.

"Today's bomb attacks and those carried out in October occurred at the most politically expedient time for the regime: when it is being put under pressure over its nuclear programme. This is an attempt to distract attention from concerns over nuclear weapons and to make the regime appear to be the victim of so-called imperialism. The world should recognise that the Iranian people are the real victims of the Iranian regime."

Ahwaz Fact File
Iran authorities arrest hundreds and shoot demonstrators in Ahwaz - 17 January
More arrests in Ahwaz - 20 January
Weather report by
Balochis demonstrate in London against cultural genocide

Balochis demonstrate in London against cultural genocide

Scores of Baloch people held a large demonstration against ongoing military operations in Balochistan–Pakistan on Sunday opposite the official residence of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The demonstration was called by the Balochistan Action Committee in association with the Balochistan Rights Movement, World Sindhi Congress and the Sindhi Baloch Forum. Balochistan straddles the Iran-Pakistan border. Balochis from both Iran and Pakistan and their British supporters were present on the demonstration to show their solidarity with those Balochis suffering state violence in Pakistan.

Spokesmen conducted interviews with Geo TV, ANI TV and other media at the demonstration. They vigorously condemned the atrocities of Pakistani Army in Balochistan. They condemned the killing of 12 innocent Baloch in custody by Frontier Constabulary as well as killing of Baloch children and women and the use of phosphorus bombs as genocidal. Demonstrators also called for an immediate end to the Kala-Bagh Dam project.

The demonstrators called on Prime Minister Blair and other world leaders for their intervention to stop Pakistan's military from committing genocide in Balochistan and urged them to send a fact-finding mission to war-torn regions of Balochistan. They also demanded the immediate release of over 4,000 extra-judicially detained or missing Baloch, an end to all military operations in Balochistan and a recognition of Baloch rights. The demonstrators gave their unequivocal support to the people of Balochistan and the victims of military action in Balochistan and Sindh. A petition letter was handed in to 10 Downing Street by a number of demonstrators.

Iranian Balochi groups such as the Balochistan Peoples Party (BPP) have formed an alliance with the Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz (DSPA) to push for minority rights and devolution of power through the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI). CNFI also includes Kurds, Azeris and Turkmen, who are working together in a spirit of mutual solidarity. Iranian and Pakistani Balochis and Iran's Ahwazi Arab population share a common struggle for recognition of minority rights, an end to persecution and economic marginalisation and devolution of power. Both the BPP and the DSPA support non-violent means to empower minorities and are urging the international community to prevent attacks on innocent civilians in both Iran and Pakistan.

Click here for more information
Iran: More arrests in Ahwaz

Iran: More arrests in Ahwaz

The Mohammara News Agency (MONA) has issued its own compilation of arrests of Ahwazi protestors in addition to the one received by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS). MONA reports that Molotov cocktails have been used against offices of state-run corporations and banks as anti-government protests have escalated.

The attacks on government buildings came after mass arrests during peaceful demonstrations in Eid Al-Adha last week. Security forces fired on the crowd killing an unknown number of civilians (BAFS has received the names of three of the dead) and injuring many more. Children were present in the demonstration and some were imprisoned by the police, including an 11 year old and two 14 year old boys.

There are reports that the government is using agents provocateur to heighten violence in the province of Khuzestan, although the organisers of the Eid-al-Adha demonstrations had called for peaceful protests to mark the Muslim festival celebrating the end of Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah). For more information, click on the following link:

 F NameL NameF NameAge
1RahimAsl AbaidawiAbdulzahra19
18Hanoon HilfiRahim20
Kidnapping of Iraqis indicates Iran's plans for Shatt Al-Arab

Kidnapping of Iraqis indicates Iran's plans for Shatt Al-Arab

Iran's kidnapping of Iraqi coast guards in the Shatt Al-Arab is an indication of the regime's continuing hostile stance over the disputed waterway, claims the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS).

Nine Iraqi coast guards were seized and one allegedly killed at the weekend during a clash on the waterway that separates the Iraqi province of Basra from Iran's Arab-populated province of Khuzestan. Mohammed al-Waili, the regional governor of Basra, claimed that the Iraqi coastguards had boarded an Iranian ship, the Nour 1, which was suspected of smuggling oil in Iraqi waters when they were overpowered by an Iranian patrol. Iran took aggressive action against the Iraqi coast guards despite the supposedly warm relations between the governments of both countries.

The kidnappings come in the context of Iran's continuing militarisation of its southern border with Iraq, with thousands of Ahwazi Arabs being expelled from their lands around Mohammarah (Khorammshahr), Abadan and Minoo (Salboukh) Island. The process of ethnic cleansing and land confiscation is being carried out under the auspices of the Arvand Free Zone Organisation, which was set up ostensibly to improve trade links with Iraq and strengthen national security. Click here for more information.

BAFS spokesperson Nasser Bani-Assad 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.

"The aggressive action taken against Iraqi coast guards indicates that Iran wishes to control the Shatt Al-Arab to an extent that it is willing to jeopardise its close relations with the Iraqi government. No-one should place any confidence in the Iranian regime's displays of 'good faith' towards Iraq. It wishes to control Iraq according to its own agenda, just as it is attempting to take control of the Palestinian cause.

"The world must wake up to the plight of the Ahwazi Arabs and realise that their suffering has serious implications for regional and global security."
Iran is ethnic cleansing Ahwazis claims senior European politician

Iran is ethnic cleansing Ahwazis claims senior European politician

A senior member of the European Parliament has condemned Iran's treatment of the Ahwazi Arabs as "ethnic cleansing" in an article for the on-line Cafe Babel magazine.

Portuguese Socialist MEP Paulo Casaca, who is co-chair of the cross-party Friends of a Free Iran group and head of the EP delegation to NATO, called Iran "the number one promoter of Islamic fanaticism in Europe and the Arab World."

He added: "At the same time it has lobbied for favours from Western politicians and conducted campaigns against those who oppose its policies. No longer can this be tolerated."

He also condemned corporate investors such as Norway's Statoil for ignoring the plight of Ahwazis, who are impoverished and subjected to land confiscation programmes, and profiting from oil extracted from their homeland.

Click here to read the article.
Iran authorities arrest hundreds and shoot demonstrators in Ahwaz

Iran authorities arrest hundreds and shoot demonstrators in Ahwaz

Clashes between Ahwazi Arabs and security forces, which began with a peaceful demonstration on Eid-al-Adha, are continuing and have spread throughout Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan), including the cities of Ahwaz, Hamidieh, Mohammarah (Khorammshahr), Abadan and Sarbander.

There have been more reports of deaths and injuries in the past few days as Baseej forces violently repress Ahwazi protests. Residents report that the cell phone network and internet are being intermittently cut off. A curfew has been imposed from 10:30 pm to 7:00 am in Arab areas of Ahwaz City and surrounding towns and villages. The authorities and the state oil company NIOC have banned the wearing of the khaffieh (Arab headscarf), a symbol of Arab identity that is now regarded as subversive.

At least seven of the hundreds arrested and detained are aged below 21 years, including an 11 year old. Two imams have also been detained. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has received the names of at least 20 Ahwazis who are being held in custody as well as three Ahwazis murdered by the security forces. According to the Mohammarah News Agency, some of those injured by the police are not going to hospital for fear of arrest.

The following names are those who are known to have been killed by security forces in the Arab-populated districts of Mallashieh, Halali, Dayereh, and Shilangabad:
Ahmad Naseri (age 22 - died on the way to the hospital from a bullet wounds in his chest)
Jaber Sawari (Ahwaz)
Sayed Chabawi (Fallahieah/Shadegan)

Around 40 have been injured, including Said Silawai and Jabar Jabari-Sewari, who both reported that hospitals refused to admit them on the instruction of the authorities. Khaled Haidari, who was shot on the face and arrested in Ahwaz on Wednesday 11 January, was reportedly transferred from Gohardasht to Erwin prison in Tehran. The authorities are said to be denying him medical care for infected injuries to his jaw and face.

The following Ahwazis are known to have been arrested in Ahwaz City and are currently detained by police:
Sayed Mastoid Helal-Musawai
Mustafa Hanoor Sawari
Majid Khalaf Haidari
Reza Haidari (11 years old)
Habib Naimeh-Sawari
Fuad Khalaf-Sakhrawi (14 years old)
Kazem Majid-Fazeli
Sayed Aref
Kazem Sayahi (14 years old)
Yossef Sharifi
Syeid Kazem Mosawi (17 year old)
Hassan Jasem Sawari (18 year old) - reportedly undergoing torture during interrogations
Saleh Obidawi (Imam of Dayereh Mosque)
Hamza Haidari
Shaykh Saleh Haidari (Mosque Imam)

The following names are those who are known to have been arrested in Hamidieh and detained by the police:
Said Menabi (20 years old)
Hadi Washahi (17 years old)
Ahmad Naisi
Ebrahim Obeyat

Hamid Badawi is among some 120 Ahwazis arrested in Falehieh (Shadegan) and transported to a prison in the central province of Yazd. Jabber Jaberi and Said Sawari were shot and injured by the police and their families report that both were refused to be admitted by the only hospital there.

The Iranian authorities have banned the wearing of khaffieh to work. A ban on the khaffieh was imposed ahead of a soccer match in Abadan, when security forces prevented Arabs wearing khaffieh and dishdasha from watching the game. The Iranian oil company NIOC, which is the largest employer in the province, has also banned the khaffieh and there are reports that Ahwazis displaying any symbols of their Arab identity have been fired from their jobs. On 14 January, at least 20 Arab homes in the village of Ewaifi were demolished by NIOC. The families evicted from their homes are now staging a vigil outside the office of the governor of Khuzestan.

On 15 January, about 1,000 residents of Hamidieh demonstrated peacefully against the regime's heavy handed tactics and the killing of Arabs. They were attacked and beaten by Baseej forces from Disfuli and Shushtar. In revenge, youths attacked and set alight nearby oil installations. In Arab-populated Ghosbeh, where there is a significant Sunni population, there were demonstrations against appointment of a non-Arab Shi'ite Imam. In Abadan, around 100 Arabs working for the Iranian navy were arrested and held in an undisclosed location, according to their families.
Amid Increased International Tension UNPO Highlights Oppression of Minorities in Iran

Amid Increased International Tension UNPO Highlights Oppression of Minorities in Iran

On Saturday 14 January at the Ahwazi Culture House in Copenhagen, Denmark, Ahwazi representatives from all over Scandinavia gathered on the occasion of Eid-al-Adha. In addition to marking the major Muslim feast, the event was held to discuss various current issues affecting the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Ahwazis have been a UNPO Member since 2003, and on this occasion Mr. Goran Hansson, Chairman of the UNPO General Assembly, attended the event and gave a presentation on the organisation's behalf.

Whilst world attention currently centres on Iran's nuclear ambitions, with remaining tools of diplomacy to 'solve' the issue being explored, the situation for minorities in the republic continues to warrant increasing concern. UNPO highlights the need for the realization of democracy and human rights in Iran and is particularly alarmed by the continuing systematic social, ethnic and cultural discrimination against various ethnic minority groups in the region. UNPO further recognizes the exploration of initiatives to advance a genuine process of democratization in Iran as crucial.

Recent reports on the situation for the Ahwazi minority indicates a growing clamp down on symbols of Arab identity and violent crack-down of peaceful protests. Several voices of other minorities in Iran are expressing growing criticism and condemnation of the regime's internal, as well as external, policies. Some claim President Ahmadinejad is conducting an exercise in deflecting public attention in Iran away from domestic crises to strengthen his national power base.

Meanwhile, as international tension and confrontation is on the rise, UNPO calls upon democratic leaders, institutions and organizations to support initiatives to find peaceful solutions for the many oppressed minority groups in Iran, towards the establishment of a democratic and stable Iran, in which the human rights of all minority groups are respected.

UNPO press release
Iran's crack-down as Ahwaz Eid protests continue

Iran's crack-down as Ahwaz Eid protests continue

Clashes between Ahwazi Arab youth and security forces have erupted after Iranian security forces fired on demonstrators in Ahwaz City on Wednesday, killing an unknown number of people.

On Thursday, there were mass demonstrations in the Arab towns of Maashor (Mahshahr) and Sarbandar, with reports of clashes between protestors and the police. There are unconfirmed reports that one of those injured in the shootings, 26-year-old Mashaf Neamani, died in hospital. There are also reports of other deaths, but the names of those killed are not yet known.

A bomb exploded in the the Dar-al-thura (Dayereh) district of Ahwaz City, which was the site of protests marking the Muslimn festival of Eid-al-Adha. A second bomb exploded between the Khashayar and Dar-al-thura neighborhoods, shattering the windows of nearby building.

Residents suspect that security forces were responsible for the bombs and were attempting to provoke further confrontation. Bomb attacks in June and October last year were also thought to be the work of the security forces or allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to many opposition figures, including reformist presidential candidate Mustafa Moin.

Ahwazi community leaders continue to call for calm, advocating peaceful demonstrations. Around 200 people have been arrested, including Sheikh Sari, the Imam of Dar-al-thura (Dayereh) mosque.

Ahwazis are using officially sanctioned religious festivals as a space for protest against the regime's policy of ethnic cleansing in Khuzestan and extreme poverty. In defiance of the regime's persecution, they have displayed symbols of Arab cultural identity, including wearing of the red keffiyeh and dishdasha, flying the Ahwaz national flag and performing Arab cultural plays in the streets.

Security chiefs have previously indicated that the wearing of the keffiyeh - a traditional Arab headdress - was forbidden. In November's Eid-al-Fitr demonstrations in Ahwaz, Governor General Heyat Mojadam ordered all those wearing keffiyeh be arrested. An Ahwazi Arab youth freed from prison following his arrest during the Eid-al-Fitr protests spoke of how the prosecutor, Mr Farhadi-Rad, argued that the wearing of the red keffiyeh was a "political statement" that indicated support for secessionism.

This month, the Majlis Centre for Research think tank, which is attached to the Iranian parliament, published a report that warned that Iran could face ethnic conflict and unrest unless the government addresses the needs of Iran's ethnic minorities.
Iran security forces attack Ahwazi anti-government protest

Iran security forces attack Ahwazi anti-government protest

Iranian security forces attacked thousands of Ahwazi Arabs staging peaceful demonstrations during the Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha on Wednesday, with dozens arrested and injured and reports of deaths among the protestors.

State violence

Demonstrations were held in Hay-al-thura (al-Dayereh) district of Ahwaz City following morning prayers that mark the end of hajj (pilgrammage) to Makkah. The protests were called by a number of civil society groups and political organisations against ethnic cleansing, the persecution of Arabs, poverty and unemployment and calling for the release of political prisoners arrested following the Ahwazi uprising of April 2005.

Leaflets were distributed in Arab areas by the Ahwazi Arab National Committee for Peaceful Demonstration. In response, the regime deployed security forces to stop the demonstration, including 50,000 troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Baseej, the army and police who were brought in from Tehran and other provinces.

Up to 4,000 Ahwazis, including women and children, joined the march, which was peaceful. Protestors carried placards with slogans in Arabic and in Farsi. Some were also carrying Ahwazi national flag.

Troops blocked the White Bridge, preventing demonstrators from crossing to other parts of the city, and attacked the crowd without provocation. Tear gas and live ammunition was used against the protestors, injuring many of them. There are reports of fatalities, but the number of deaths has not been confirmed. Eyewitnesses said that at least 30 demonstrators were arrested at the Haye-althura (al-Dayereh) and 13 in Kut Abdollah. Separate demonstrations were also reported in the districts of Hamidieh and Kut Abdullah in Ahwaz City as well as the cities of Abadan, Fallahieah and Khafajieh. During the protests, Arab areas were surrounded and blockaded by Baseejis (paramilitary volunteers) wearing hoods and carrying machine guns.

State propaganda

The government's Mehr News Agency reported that the march was led by Jasem Shadidzadeh, who represented Ahwaz City in the Sixth Majlis (2000-04). Shadidzadeh is secretary general of the Islamic Wefagh Party, an ultra-reformist group seeking the redistribution of wealth and an end to poverty and ethnic cleansing in Khuzestan. He was barred from standing in the 2004 Majlis elections, but has continued campaigning for Ahwazi Arab rights. However, demonstrators confirmed that Shadidzadeh, who lives in Tehran, was not on the march, indicating that Mehr News was trying to implicate the former politician in the demonstrations. Mehr news denounced the demonstrators as "separatists" chanting secessionist slogans - a claim denied by the demonstrators.

Throughout the day, the cell phone network and internet services in Ahwaz were shut down to stop independent coverage of the protests. The province was effectively put under a stage of siege. Only the Mehr News Agency, renowned for its links to extremists within the regime, was allowed to cover the events.

Arab identity outlawed

Mass demonstrations also marked Eid-ul-Fitr, which marked the end of the month of Ramadan in November. Two people were killed as the police tried to disperse the crowd and around 200 people were arrested. Days beforehand, 81 people were arrested while conducting a cultural play called Mahibis, a popular event performed during iftaar, following fasting in the month of Ramadan. Click here for further details.

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The regime is clamping down on all symbols of Arab identity, including any Muslim festivals that display signs of Arab culture. The regime's policy of Persianisation involves not only forced migration and land confiscation and the in-migration of non-Arabs from outside the province, but the Persianisation of the Islamic religion itself.

"Ahwazi Arabs, who are mostly Shi'ite, have tried to use Muslim festivals to display their own cultural identity. It is an act of defiance against ethnic cleansing. But this is being suppressed, indicating that the mullahs are not just religious despots but are running a tyranny that is racist."
Iran's minorities protest at Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and anti-Israel stance

Iran's minorities protest at Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial and anti-Israel stance

A front representing Iran's ethnic minority parties has condemned the Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's position on the Nazi Holocaust and the destruction of Israel.

The Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI), which includes parties representing Iranian Kurds, Arabs, Baluchis, Azeri Turks and Turkmen, condemned the regime's manipulation of the Palestinian issue for its own political ends.

In the statement, the Congress argued that "the Iranian regime's internal and external policies are based on creating tension and confrontation, both inside and outside Iran. By taking an irresponsible position, President Ahmadinejad is trying to deflect public attention in Iran away from domestic economical, political and social crises. The government's foreign policy aims to position Iran as the sole defender of Palestinian people's right by allying with extremist groups to create tension in the Middle East and ultimately derail the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. While the Palestinians and Israelis are seeking a permanent solution to their problems despite the Iranian regime's intervention, Iran's own minorities are denied the right to voice their demands.

"While we condemn the Iranian government regarding Holocaust and the destruction of Israel, we appeal to all democratic forces and human rights organisations to support the oppressed Iranian nationalities (that comprise 2/3 of the population) towards the establishment of a secular, democratic and a federal state in Iran."

The group, which includes the Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz (DSPA), drew parallels between the plight of the Palestinians and Iran's ethnic minorities. They pointed out that their appeals for human rights, freedom of speech and democracy has led to "gross human rights violations by the Iranian security forces and intelligence agencies. Arrests, kidnappings, illegal detention and the extra-judicial killing of political, cultural and social activists are routine in Iran. The Iranian constitution sets in stone the systematic social, ethnic and cultural discrimination against ethnic minority groups."

The CNFI's statement was signed by the Azerbaijan Cultural Society, Balochistan National Movement - Iran, Balochistan Peoples Party, Balochistan United Front of Iran, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz, Komela and the Organization for Defence of the Rights of of Turkmen People.
Iran: Parliamentary Think Tank Warns of Ethnic Unrest

Iran: Parliamentary Think Tank Warns of Ethnic Unrest

The Islamic Majlis Centre for Research has warned that Iran could face ethnic conflict and unrest unless the government addresses the needs of Iran's ethnic minorities.

In a recently published report, the Majlis (parliament) think tank said the country faced two key challenges: poverty among non-Persian ethnic groups living in border areas and the problem of youth unemployment. It stated that various ministries had already issued their own internal studies and reports on ethnic minorities in relation to national security, but suggests that the root causes of the "surge in identity movements" must be addressed.

Ahwazi Arabs have been at the forefront of the growing ethnic minority opposition to the government, with major riots and demonstrations throughout 2005. There has also been growing unrest among Balochis and Kurds.

The immediate cause of the rioting in Ahwaz (Khuzestan) has been the government's policy of "ethnic restructuring" or "integration". This has involved the forced relocation of Arabs and the resettlement of non-Arabs from outside the province in order to reduce the Arab population from 70 per cent to 30 per cent of the province's total.

The think tank report warned that such integration policies could lead to further social upheaval, rebellions, instability, ethnic conflicts, civil war and armed conflicts.

Key to alleviating poverty among Ahwazi Arabs is the redistribution some of the revenue generated by Khuzestan's large oilfields, which together represent around 8-10 per cent of OPEC's total output. Local legislators recently failed to get parliamentary endorsement for the redistribution of 1.5% of Khuzestan's oil revenue. This is the third time such legislation has failed in the Majlis. In a report by the IRNA news agency, Abdullah Kaabi, the Majlis representative for Abadan, said: "Khuzestan has provided 100% of its oil production and revenue to Tehran for 100 years. Is allocating 1-2% of its own oil back to its inhabitants is too much?"

In an official visit to Khuzestan in July, UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari spoke of the impact of land confiscation on the impoverished Ahwazi Arab population. He said: "in deprived neighbourhoods [in Khuzestan] you can actually see the towers of the oil refineries and the flares and all of that money, which is a lot, and it is going out of the province. Even a small percentage would significantly improve things in terms of development."

Nasser Bani-Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "There is growing recognition of the negative social impact of poverty, land confiscation and forced migration on ethnic minorities in Iran. The report by the Islamic Majlis Centre for Research indicates that some parts of the establishment are realising that the continued plunder of outlying provinces with predominantly non-Persian populations will result in an ethnic backlash. We are already witnessing this with unrest among Ahwazi Arabs.

"Yet, the overwhelmingly conservative, hard-line Majlis still votes out legislation to give a few rials earned from oil back to the Arabs whose land has been confiscated for the benefit oil industry. The mullahs' greed will ultimately destroy them, for failure to address the needs of non-Persian minorities - who make up more than 50 per cent of the population - will lead to instability that will shake the foundations of the Islamic Republic."
IRAN: Freed Ahwazi Arab prisoner speaks of treatment

IRAN: Freed Ahwazi Arab prisoner speaks of treatment

A young Ahwazi Arab recently released from jail has spoken of his treatment after his arrest during demonstrations in Ahwaz City, which coincided with Eid Al-Fitr in November.

His account has been given to BAFS, translated and published below:

"After we were informed that there will be a demo on Eid-al-Fitr, I, my brother and my cousin met with around 500 youths in the 'Dialogue Garden' along the bank of Karoon river. All happy and dressed with white dishdasha [a long robe commonly worn by Arabs] and red khaffiyeh [Arab head dress], we marched to join the rest of demonstrators.

"At the end of Kianpars, we were met with a convoy of Pasdaran cars full of soldiers headed by Shiraz. They stopped and questioned us, asking where we were going. We said that we were celebrating the Eid, our most celebrated day, like our ancestors did, etc. They asked us to disperse and also offered to give us rides to go back to our homes. Some 30 people, including me agreed to catch a ride across the river. Instead, we were taken straight to jail. We were fooled.

"When we were there, we saw many children young and old people in jail with red khaffiyeh. We were kept in a room for two days without any food or water. On the third day, we were given some water and a little bread and cheese.

"On the fifth day, we were taken to the prosecutors office with Mr Giveh-che as the judge and Mr Farhadi-Rad as the prosecutor. The judge kept asking the same questions: who asked you to demonstrate, who is behind the demo, who are your leaders, what organization do you belong to? The prosecutors kept saying: they are separatist, they want to turn Khuzestan to Arabistan, they are Wahabis, that wearing red khaffiyeh is a political message, etc. We were handcuffed and they asked soldiers to severely beat all us.

"We were sentenced to three years in prison with at least six months mandatory prison term. Although I and my brothers were later released on bail, many more arrested during 15 April [a day of mass anti-government agitation in Ahwaz] and Eid Al-Fitr are still rotting in prison."

The youth cannot be named for his own security. His testimony reveals the nature of state aggression against Ahwazi Arabs who display their own cultural symbols in public, in this case the khaffiyeh. The Eid demonstrations were more of an assertion of cultural identity than a political statement. They followed the arrest of senior members of the Ahwazi Arab Bawi tribe, two of whom have received the death penalty. A number of Ahwazi Arabs arrested during Eid remain in detention and some have been the subject of an appeal by Amnesty International.

There are also concerns about the well-being of Ahwazi Arabs who were arrested during the April uprising and subsequent police crack-downs and are still in detention. Most are held in incommunicado detention and are probably suffering torture and abuse.