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Al-Jafaari expells Ahwazi Arabs from Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari is ordering the expulsion of Ahwazi Arab refugees, according to the el-Fekr-el-Eslami website.

Some 2,500-3,000 Ahwazi Arabs in Iraq are registered with the UNHCR as refugees, most of whom fled the fighting in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Al-Jafaari has reportedly ordered the their expulsion from the Iraqi provinces of Basra and al-Ammarah, under the orders of the Iranian regime. El-Fekr-el-Eslami website says the refugees will be handed over to the Iranian authorities.

Many Ahwazi Arab Sunnis have already fled Basra and al-Ammarah for Sunni areas of Iraq, including Fallujah, Morsel and Diali, to escape Iranian-backed Shia militias. Last year, the UNHCR raised concerns over the expulsion of Ahwazi refugees from Basra following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (click here for report). Both Shia and Sunni Ahwazi refugees have expressed concern that they will be imprisoned or even executed on their arrival in Iran.

Meanwhile, Iraq's Al-Zaman daily newspaper has quoted Basra's director of education as stating that children of Ahwazi Arab descent are being expelled from Iraqi schools and universities.

The expulsions follow the kidnapping and murder of Ahwazi political leader Ra'ad De'ayer Al-Bestan Banitorfi, reportedly by Iraqi intelligence and on the orders of Iraq's Ministry of the Interior (click here for report).

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "The Iraqi government is reneging on its commitments under the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. According to the UNHCR, those Ahwazis who have tried to resettle in Iran following the Iraq War have returned to Iraq due to the situation in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan). Even the unstable and hostile situation in Iraq is preferable to Al-Ahwaz, where the Iranian regime is carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs.

"The Iraqi government is effectively acting as Iran's henchmen in the Middle East and the Shia areas are under Tehran's de facto control. The Iranian-sponsored Iraqi parties in government are willing to break the law to serve their masters in Tehran and refugees - the most vulnerable people in the Middle East - are paying the price.

"Ahwazis are not the only victims of Iraq's contravention of Geneva Conventions. Palestinian refugees are also being purged from Iraq. It is time for Arab solidarity to counter the menace of encroaching Iranian power in the Middle East. Instead, we find that the UAE and Kuwait are signing security pacts with Iran, which could result in the expulsion or imprisonment of Ahwazi Arab opposition activists in these countries. It seems that every Arab and European leader is falling to their knees in front of President Ahmadinejad to appease the fascist government in Tehran."