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.