One of Britain's leading human rights activists, Peter Tatchell, joined Ahwazi Arabs in a protest against the Iranian regime outside the Houses of Parliament on Friday.
Photo: Peter Tatchell with Ahwazi demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament in London
London's Metropolitan Police gave their permission for the demonstration by Ahwazi Arabs, despite new laws restricting protest in Parliament Square and Whitehall, indicating that the British authorities believe the Ahwazis are law-abiding and peaceful.
The protests marked the 81st anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Al-Ahwaz or Arabistan (Khuzestan) by Iran. Al-Ahwaz was an autonomous Arab emirate recognised by Iran's Qajar dynasty and the British government until it was over-run by forces loyal to Reza Pahlavi on 21 April 1925. The occupation was backed by the British, who believed a strong centralised Iranian state was necessary to guard against the influence of Russian Bolshevism in the Middle East.
Although their land is rich in oil, fertile land and water resources, the Ahwazi Arabs have endured increasing hardship and persecution under the Pahlavi dynasty and later the Islamic Republic.
In April 2005, exactly 80 years after the invasion of Al-Ahwaz, Ahwazi Arabs staged an uprising or intifada against the regime to protest against ethnic persecution, forced displacement and human rights abuses. The security forces temporarily lost control over large parts of the southwestern province. Since then, thousands of Ahwazis have been incarcerated and hundreds have been killed by the regime as it seeks to reassert power over the region.
On the first anniversary of the 2005 uprising, Peter Tatchell said: "As a gay and human rights campaigner, and as a member of the Green Party of England and Wales, I express my solidarity with the freedom struggle of the Ahwazi Arab people.
"Human rights are universal and indivisible. Wherever there is injustice and oppression, people have a right to rebel. It is the duty of all people everywhere to stand together, united in solidarity against all oppression.
"Iran is a racist state, with a covert agenda for the ethnic cleansing of the Ahwazi Arab nation. This is a crime against humanity under international law.
"The massacres, arrests, jailings, tortures and executions of Ahwazi Arabs are a blot on the conscience of the world.
"Despite living in the region of Iran richest in oil, the Ahwazi Arab people are victims of a cruel, deliberate impoverishment by the Iranian regime.
"This monstrous injustice must end. The tyrannical clerical dictatorship in Tehran must go, and be replaced by a democratic, secular state that ensures human rights and self-government for the Ahwazi Arab people - and freedom for all the ethnic, sexual, religious and cultural minorities of Iran." (click here for statement)
Photo: Peter Tatchell addresses the demonstration
Photo: Peter Tatchell giving his speech, opposite the Houses of Parliament
Photo: Peter Tatchell calls for an end to the ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs
Photo: Ahwazis outside Britain's Parliament building
Photo: Kurds fly their flag alongside the Ahwazi flag in a show of solidarity
Photo: Ahwazis demonstrating for the release of Ahwazi women and children being held in custody in Iran
Photo: An Ahwazi boy showing solidarity for Ahwazi children currently in prison in Iran
Photo: An Ahwazi girl calls for the release of Ahwazi children
Photo: Protestors condemn fascism and racism in Iran
Photo: The demonstration was supported by a number of Ahwazi political parties, as well as ethnic Kurds and Persians from Iran
These pictures may be reproduced for non-profit purposes provided they credit the British Ahwazi Friendship Society
Link: Ahwazis demonstrate outside the European Commission offices in London