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...

Ahwazis face arrest, deportation and execution

Ahwazis face arrest, deportation and execution

Six Ahwazi Arabs have been sentenced to death this week at Section 3 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court.

They were convicted of involvement in bomb attacks in the city, although the names of those sentenced have not been confirmed. Reports suggest that three of those facing execution are among the six sons of moderate Ahwaz tribal leader Hajj Salem Bawi who have been the subject of an intense campaign for their release. The Bawi brothers are believed to be among the victims of the government's retribution against the Ahwazi population for unrest that has gripped the province of Khuzestan, the Ahwazi Arab homeland. However, reports from Ahwaz are unclear as the proceedings of the Revolutionary Courts are held in private, with defendents denied access to defence lawyers. In a recent report, Amnesty International has listed 11 men threatened with execution, including Zamal and Imad Bawi, pictured (click here for report).

Meanwhile, a number of Ahwazi refugees are being held in custody in Syria while their fate is decided by the Syrian government, an ally of the Iranian regime. Saeed Saki, an Ahwazi refugee registered with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has already been extradited to Iran by Syria and human rights groups have expressed concern over his treatment (click here for details).

Syria's extradition of registered Ahwazi refugees contravenes the Geneva Convention on refugees and Ahwazi activists have appealed to the Syrian government to release the refugees. The refugees' UNHCR registration documents state that they should be "protected from forcible return where he/she would face threats to his or her life or freedom." The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has obtained proof of the UNHCR refugee registration for Jamal Obeidi, a 34-year-old student and Chair of Ahwazi Student Union in Syria (click on picture for larger version).

Dutch national Faleh Abdullah al Mansouri (60), who leads the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation (ALO), is also being held by Syria. The Iranian regime claims all those arrested in Syria are Salafists, followers of a Sunni Islamist sect. However, the ALO has never propagated any religious views and has a secular nationalist ideology.
Iran links Azeri riots in Tabriz to Ahwaz intifada

Iran links Azeri riots in Tabriz to Ahwaz intifada

Iranian intelligence officials have linked a riot in Tabriz by thousands of ethnic Azeri Turks with "issues in Khuzestan".

The security services reportedly fired at the crowd killing up to 20 Azeris after demonstrators chanted slogans such as "Azeri people will not tolerate sufferings" and "Chehraganli, the hero of Azerbaijan", a reference Mahmudali Chehraganli, the leader of the Southern Azerbaijan National Awakening Movement (SANAM) which campaigns for self-determination of ethnically Azeri areas of Iran.

Speaking to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), a local intelligence ministry official said: "the ones inciting unrest and vandalism [...] were all supported by foreigners." He also accused the US and Israel of seeking to incite ethnic disputes in Iran, saying: "Now that we are more united than ever, American and Israeli intelligence services have put Iran's ethnic issues on the agenda. Exploiting yesterday's move was in line with that."

The Azeri riot was sparked by a cartoon in a conservative Iranian newspaper in which the Azeri people, who comprise around a quarter of Iran's population, were caricatured as cockroaches.

The government closed down the newspaper for "creating divisions within the people", condemned the cartoon and arrested the cartoonist and one of the newspaper's editors who are now being held in the notorious Evin Prison where political dissidents are usually imprisoned.The regime has also arrested 54 Azeris on charges of vandalism. The police have vowed to arrest more accused of violence.

The scale of the Azeri unrest has shaken the regime and forced it to take drastic action to quell the anger shown by Iran's second largest ethnic group. However, a ban on a weekly newspaper published in Iran's ethnic Azeri provinces was closed in March on charges of ethnic bias and of acting against national security. The banning of newspapers due to their protrayal of ethnic issues has inflamed ethnic divisions in Iran.

Ethnic Azeris are often subjected to ethnic slurs in Iran and the Azeri language is effectively banned in schools and restricted in the media. Although some of Iran's most senior religious and political leaders are Azeri, Persian culture and the Farsi language is imposed on the non-Persian minorities who make up at least half the country's population.

These include Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds, Balochis, Turkmen and other groups. Some regional ethnically Persian groups which have their own dialects and cultures, such as the traditionally nomadic Lurs, also hold grievances against the regime over its model of economic development which often leaves them marginalised.

The Iranian Azeri population is larger than the population of Azerbaijan, while Iran's Arab population, estimated at up to five million, is greater than the size of Gulf states such as Kuwait or the UAE.

Ethnic minorities are increasingly mobilised in their opposition to the government, with a large number of mass demonstrations and rising militancy seen in provinces such as Kurdistan, Balochistan and Khuzestan, which is the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs.

The Ahmadinejad administration is keen to portray the growth of ethnic movements as a foreign plot, although it has refused to publish the evidence it claims to have linking ethnic movements to foreign governments.

Azerbaijan Cultural Society
Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran
Syria releases three Ahwazis, but four remain in custody

Syria releases three Ahwazis, but four remain in custody

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has received reports that the Syrian authorities have released three Ahwazi Arab refugees arrested in the past two weeks, apparently on the instruction of the Iranian government.

Ahmad Abiat, Mousa Sawari and Issa Alyassin were reportedly released. Little is known of the other captives, which include Dutch national Faleh Abdullah Al-Mansouri (60), leader of the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation (ALO) which was founded in 1990 and supports independence for Arab regions of Iran. According to the Gulf Times, the Dutch government has demanded an explanation from Syria over Al-Mansouri's detention. Al-Mansouri has been a resident of Maastricht in the Netherlands since he fled to the country in 1989.

There is mounting concern for Saeed Saki, an Ahwazi refugee with protection from the UNHCR who was deported by the Syrian government to Iran. Saki is believed to be in Iranian custody and is in danger of torture and execution (click here for more information).

Over the past year, international NGOs and UN agencies have documented the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran. Many Arabs believe that the Syrian government's decision to detain Ahwazis, most of whom are registered as refugees with the UNHCR, indicates that President Bashar Al-Assad is willing to sacrifice solidarity with persecuted Arabs for the sake of his new-found allegiance to Tehran.

The arrests of Ahwazi refugees were followed by the arrests of human rights activists in Syria who called for their release and the release of Syrians who backed the Damascus-Beirut Declaration which calls for Syria to respect Lebanese independence and sovereignty.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "The Syrian government's actions have been condemned by many Arab organisations and have generated solidarity behind the Ahwazi cause, particularly among Lebanese and Syrian democrats. Iran is taking increasingly desperate measures to halt the rise in anti-regime politics among Ahwazi Arabs, but its increasingly brutal methods - the imprisonment of the babies of Ahwazi dissidents, summary killings, torture, assassinations and other crimes against humanity - have merely attracted publicity and solidarity. We are getting messages of support from Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, the UAE as well as Europe and North America as a direct result of Al-Assad's actions which were carried out on behalf of the Iranian regime.

"The arrest of eight Ahwazis in Syria has brought more solidarity and publicity than the thousands of Ahwazis arrested in Iran over the past year. The scandal surrounding Saki's deportation to Iran shows Al-Assad up as something of a blundering clown who has sold out Arabs to align with a hardline religious theocracy. Facing with criticism over Syria's alleged involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, Al-Assad is seeking protection from Tehran. Ahwazi refugees are paying a blood price for his desire for Iranian support."

In reporting the arrests of Ahwazis in Syria, the BBC has wrongly portrayed the Ahwazi struggle as a religious conflict between Sunni Arabs and the Shia-led Iranian state. In fact, 80 per cent of Ahwazi Arabs are Shia. The BBC has also claimed that the Ahwazi activists are involved in communal violence, but there is no evidence of attacks by Ahwazi Arabs on members of other ethnic groups in Khuzestan, where most Ahwazi Arabs live. Ahwazi resistance has mainly taken the form of non-violent demonstrations against the regime and its anti-Arab policies, rather than a campaign against Persians or other Iranian nationalities. Despite forced displacement of Arabs for the construction of settlements for non-Arabs brought in from outside the province, there has been little if any communal violence from Ahwazi Arabs against settlers.
Kuwaiti newspaper publishes call for an end to Syria's anti-Ahwazi policy

Kuwaiti newspaper publishes call for an end to Syria's anti-Ahwazi policy

Kuwait's independent newspaper Alqabas has published an open letter to Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad by eight Ahwazi Arab groups calling him to release Ahwazi Arab refugees arrested in Syria over the past week (click here for further information).

Referring to the deportation of UN-registered Ahwazi refugee Saeed Saki (pictured), the Ahwazi groups claimed that the the arrests were "the first time that Syrian Arab nationalist government handed an Ahwazi Arab to the Iranians," calling the arrests "a dangerous dark spot policy in Syrian history directed against our just cause."

The letter added: "The Ahwazis always have been grateful for Syrian nation to welcome them in their second homeland and they have always taken a responsible approach towards the rule of law in Syria"

The letter was signed by the Ahwazi Arab Liberation Front, the Arabistani National Party, the Ahwazi Cultural Committee, the Ahwazi National United Movement, the Ahwazi Patriotic Solidarity Party, the Ahwazi Arab Struggle Movement, the Ahwazi Democratic Assembly and the Ahwazi Patriotic Democratic Movement. Click here to read the letter.

Further information:
Amnesty International report - Syria: Fear of forcible returnSyria's Deportation Scandal
More Arrests of Ahwazi Arabs in Syria
Ahwazi Arabs arrested in Syria on Iran's request
Syrian human rights activists arrested amid Ahwazi deportation scandal
Lebanese democrats support Ahwazis
Amnesty International: Eleven Ahwazis Face Execution

Amnesty International: Eleven Ahwazis Face Execution

The following is an urgent action published by Amnesty today regarding the detention and possible execution of members of Iran's persecuted Ahwazi Arab community.

At least 11 men, all members of Iran's Arab minority, are reportedly under sentence of death and at risk of execution. They are believed to have been accused of involvement in bomb explosions in the city of Ahvaz, in Khuzestan province, southwest Iran; distributing material against the state; having contact with dissident organizations operating abroad; and endangering state security. Amnesty International recognizes the rights and responsibilities of governments to bring to justice those suspected of criminal offences, but is unconditionally opposed to the death penalty as the ultimate violation of the right to life.

Brothers Zamel Bawi, 29, and Imad Bawi, 31, were reportedly arrested by security forces on 11 August 2005 along with their three other brothers and a cousin. Their father and uncle, Hajj Salem Bawi, a tribal leader and a businessman who runs a number of computer stores in Khuzestan province, was arrested by security forces after enquiring about where his sons and nephew were being detained. He was released on 28 August 2005 and had apparently met three of his sons while he was held in Amaniya Prison, in the city of Ahvaz. He could see that they had been ill-treated.
Zamel Bawi (pictured) is a businessman who owns shops in Ahvaz. He is married and has an 11 month-old son, Hareth. Imad Bawi was studying law at the Lebanese University of Beirut. He was visiting his family in Ahvaz during the summer holiday when the Iranian authorities banned him from returning to Lebanon. Amnesty International has no further information on the reasons for the ban.

At the end of October 2005, Amnesty International received reports that both Zamel and Imad had been sentenced to death. Further reports indicated that the brothers appeared before a Tehran court on 21 February 2006 accused of distributing material against the state, having contact with dissident organizations operating abroad, and endangering state security, possibly in connection with bomb explosions in Ahvaz city. These reports also suggested that they had not been allowed legal representation and that the court sessions took place behind closed doors. On 19 March 2006 the death sentence was reportedly confirmed for Zamel Bawi. No details of the hearing or the outcome were divulged. Amnesty International has no further information about Imad Bawi.

The nine remaining men, Dr Awdeh Afrawi, Nazem Bureihi, Aliredha Salman Delfi, Ali Helfi, Ali Manbouhi, Jaafar Sawari, Risan Sawari, Mohammad Ali Sawari, Moslem al-Ha’i, may also have been sentenced to death for their alleged involvement in bomb explosions in the city of Ahvaz, which took place in October 2005. Seven of them have been shown "confessing" on local television, with one other mentioned as a participant in the bombings. Another has reportedly been convicted of the same offence. Two other men have already been executed.

There has been confusion over the convictions as the trials have been held behind closed doors. Government officials have also given conflicting statements on whether the nine men have been sentenced to death in relation to the bombings.

According to the Minister of Justice, 45 people have been arrested in connection with the October explosions. On 14 February 2006, the Minister of Justice told the state news agency IRNA that seven of them had been convicted on charges including "enmity with God and corruption on earth (moharebeh and ifsad fil-arz, for which the penalty is execution, cross amputation, crucifixion or banishment), and murder" and that their sentences would be announced shortly. On 20 February 2006, the Prosecutor General reportedly said that "some of those convicted in this case have been sentenced to death, including the two main culprits, whose presence in the recent Ahvaz incidents was proved and their execution verdict is definite". On 21 February, in a statement to IRNA commenting on this report, the Minister of Justice stated that only two had been sentenced to death and these sentences were under review by the Supreme Court. He noted that "the seven convicts have not all committed crimes that call for the death penalty."

Although seven men were said to have been convicted of involvement in the October bombings, nine men were shown "confessing" on Khuzestan Provincial TV on 1 March 2006. Among them were Mehdi Nawaseri and Ali Awdeh Afrawi, who were hanged in public the following morning; Dr Awdeh Afrawi (father of executed Ali Awdeh Afrawi), Risan Sawari, Jaafar Sawari, Aliredha Salman Delfi, Ali Manbouhi, Ali Helfi, and Nazem Burehi.

Dr Awdeh Afrawi, 52, is a psychologist at Ahvaz's Shahid Chamran hospital. He and and his son, Ali Awdeh Afrawi, were reportedly arrested in Ahvaz shortly after the October 2005 explosions.
Teacher Risan Sawari, 30, (pictured) was reportedly arrested in April 2005, released and arrested again in September.

Jaafar Sawari and Aliredha Salman Delfi were reportedly arrested in September 2005. Mehdi Nawaseri was reportedly arrested on 19 October 2005 and teacher, Mohammad Ali Sawari, on or around 4 November 2005. Moslem al-Ha'i was mentioned during the "confessions" as a participant in the bombings, but it is not known when he was arrested.

Ali Manbouhi, Ali Helfi and Nazem Bureihi have reportedly been in custody since 2000, when they were arrested on charges of "insurgency" and were each sentenced to 35 years' imprisonment. However, they also featured in the "confessions" footage. In March 2006 there were unconfirmed reports that they were to face a retrial on charges of moharebeh and murder.

On 10 May 2006, according to E'temad newspaper, the Governor of Khuzestan, Amir Hayat Moqaddam, announced that the cases of an unspecified number of people suspected of involvement in the bombings had been transferred to the judiciary and would be tried soon. He said, "It is anticipated that, on account of the type of crime committed, a number of these people will be executed."

Iran prepares for new round of executions in Ahwaz - 13 May
Executed: Young Men Hung by Iranian Tyrants - 2 March
Iran prepares to execute tribal family - 19 February
Iran sentences seven over Ahwaz bombings - 15 February
Iran increases repression in Ahwaz - 8 February
Ahwaz Bombings Come After Weeks of Unrest - 24 January
Syrian human rights activists arrested amid Ahwazi deportation scandal

Syrian human rights activists arrested amid Ahwazi deportation scandal

The director of the France-based Arab Commission for Human Rights (ACHR), Mahmood Marai, and activists from the organisation have been arrested after it published a series of statements in response to Syria's arrest of Ahwazi refugees.

In the past few days, the ACHR, an international NGO with special consultative status with the UN's Economic and Social Council, has released details regarding the arrest and detention of eight Ahwazis, mostly refugees registered with the UNHCR but also including a Dutch national. Damascus is home to a significant Ahwazi Arab community, which includes many refugees who fled persecution in their native homeland in Khuzestan, Iran. One Ahwazi UN-registered refugee, Saeed Saki, has been deported back to Iran, where he has been detained by the authorities and is in danger of torture and execution (click here for more details).

ACHR's campaign led to an appeal by Amnesty International, which said the men were "at risk of torture and of being forcibly returned to Iran, where they would face persecution and possibly the death penalty" (click here for Amnesty's report).

Among the human rights activists under arrest are Nidhal Darwish, a key member of Defence Committees for Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms in Syria, and the AHCR's Mahmood Issa and Dr Safwan Taifour. The ACHR has condemned the arrests, along with the detention of Syrian writer Mishel Kilo and Communist leader Fateh Jamoos over their support for Lebanon's independence from Syria. The organisation claims the arrests were an attempt by the Syrian authorities to intimidate Syrian civil society and has called for a demonstration at the UN's Human Rights Commission next month.
Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran Visits European Parliament in Brussels

Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran Visits European Parliament in Brussels

The following is an article by UNPO on lobbying by the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, which includes the Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz.

Organized by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and in cooperation with Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Marco Pannella (ALDE and Transnational Radical Party), a delegation of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI) meets with MEPs between 8 and 10 May 2006.

On 8 May, the CNFI delegation, accompanied by UNPO General Secretary Mr Marino Busdachin, started a first round of meetings with MEPs to inform and highlight matters of concern to the various nationalities in Iran regarding the current human rights situation. This included a meeting with Mr Graham Watson (ALDE).

Additional meetings have been scheduled with MEPs Mr Struan Stevenson (Christian Democrats), Mr Simon Coveney (Christian Democrats), Dr Ingo Friedrich (Christian Democrats), Ms Pia Elda Locatelli (Socialist Group), Ms Christa Prets (Socialist Group) and Mr Paulo Casaca (Socialist Group) and other EU officials.

UNPO and the Transnational Radical Party will jointly advocate for a resolution in the European Parliament to protect the rights of minorities in Iran, advocating that due consideration be given to the situation of the different nationalities and minority groups in Iran and that their basic human rights are respected and upheld.

For more information about the CNFI, please visit:

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation
Lebanese democrats support Ahwazis

Lebanese democrats support Ahwazis

The Lebanese Ya Libnan news agency has called on the intervention of the Arab League to support the Ahwazi Arabs and "chastise" Syria for detaining and deporting Ahwazis to Iran.

Eight Ahwazis, mostly refugees and asylum seekers but also including a Dutch national, have been detained by the Syrian authorities over the past week. One is known to have been deported to Iran and his life is in grave danger.

Criticism by Ya Liban comes amid growing awareness in the Arab world of the injustices faced by the Ahwazi Arabs under Iranian rule. The news service was founded to support democracy and independence for Lebanon following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, which UN investigators believe had Syrian backing. It was supportive of the "Cedar Revolution" which forced Syrian troops to leave Lebanon after 30 years of military occupation.

Ya Libnan criticised the problem of illiteracy among Arabs, who are denied the right to learn their own language. In the article, the writer gave a personal account of a visit to Ahwaz: "I met by accident one prominent Arab Ahwazi and found out later that he is a poet. Unfortunately I discovered later that none of his poetry was ever documented, because he could not write or read Arabic. He was so happy when I was able to write down one of his poems as he recited it. The poem was about Gamal Abd el Nasser and only a true Arab could have ever written such an emotional poem about an Arab leader."

The writer Ali Hussein added: "It is about time for the Arab League to step in and support the Arabs of Iran. Arab League Secretary General should immediately call for a summit to. The question is: Will he?"

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Many democrats and progressives across the Arab world are beginning to recognise the abuses suffered by the Ahwazis and are supporting their struggle for human rights, self-determination and freedom. Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians and Iraqis are among the various nationalities who have expressed their support for the Ahwazis in recent weeks.

"The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon has inspired many Ahwazis to take up non-violent resistance against state terrorism and occupation. It shows that people power can work."

Click here for Ya Liban article
Syria's deportation scandal

Syria's deportation scandal

Syria is undermining the Geneva Refugee Convention and the work of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees by detaining and deporting Ahwazi Arab asylum seekers and refugees to Iran, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has told officials at the Syrian embassy today.

The deportation of Saeed Saki (pictured), a 40-year-old Ahwazi asylum seeker resident in Damascus, to Iran is not only a breach of his human rights but will almost certainly lead to his death at the hands of the Iranian regime, which is seeking to silence opposition. The arrests and deportation come in the context of growing government aggression against Ahwazi Arabs in Iran's Khuzestan province, which has witnessed growing anti-government unrest.

Seven other Ahwazis have been arrested and detained by the Syrian authorities, including Dutch national, Faleh Abdullah al Mansouri (60), who leads the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation (ALO) (click here for more details).

BAFS has called on the Syrian government to stop deportations and release the men if there are no criminal charges against them. It has reminded the government of its duties and obligations to refugees under international law.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "We believe that Mr Saki's life is in danger as a direct result of the Syrian government's actions. Damascus has a large Ahwazi Arab community, including many refugees and opposition groups, that has never posed a challenge to the Syrian government. Indeed, it was not long ago that Syria professed sympathy for the persecuted Ahwazi Arabs of Iran.

"By arresting and detaining Ahwazi refugees, who have abided by Syrian law and have sought sanctuary in Damascus, the Syrian government is participating in the oppression and persecution of Arabs. We do not believe that the Syrian people support these deportations. We think Syria's actions, particularly the deportation of Mr Saki, could further alienate the government both in the Arab world and in the wider international community."
More arrests of Ahwazi Arabs in Syria

More arrests of Ahwazi Arabs in Syria

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has learned that more Ahwazi Arabs have been arrested in Syria, including the leader of the Al-Ahwaz Liberation Organisation, and at least one Ahwazi political refugee has been deported to Iran.

ALO leader Faleh Abdullah al Mansouri (60) has lived in exile in Maastricht in the Netherlands since 1989 and is believed to have Dutch nationality. He was arrested along with a colleague from his party, Abdulrasoul Ali Mazraeh (51), who is registered with the UNHCR as a refugee and lives with his six children in Damascus.

Asylum seeker Saeed Owdeh Saki has also been arrested and BAFS has received reports that he has been deported to Iran where his life is in danger.

Al-Mansouri, Mazraeh and Saki are among eight Ahwazi men known to have been detained by the Syrian authorities (click here for information on arrests).

The ALO was formed in 1990 by a number of Ahwazi Arab organisations campaigning for a separate state of Al-Ahwaz. The ALO's Ahwaz Revolutionary Council (ARC) regards itself as the Ahwazi government in exile with Al-Mansouri as its President, although there are many Ahwazi groups that do not accept the ARC's assumed leadership of the Ahwazi movement.

BAFS and its allied groups, including the Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz, do not recognise Al-Mansouri's leadership, but are concerned for his welfare and the welfare of other Ahwazis currently in Syrian custody. BAFS activists are appealing to the Syrian embassy in London to explain the charges against all those detained in the past week and are calling on the Syrian government to respect the Geneva Refugee Convention and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. If Al-Mansouri has EU citizenship, any attempt to deport him to Iran could have a negative impact on Iran-EU relations.

Saki's deportation could pave the way for further deportations of Ahwazi Arabs from Syria, which has for many years been regarded as a sanctuary for Ahwazis fleeing persecution in Iran. Ahwazi refugees in Middle Eastern countries are facing increased insecurity as Iran seeks to stamp out all opposition to its regime, both inside and outside the country. Iranian agents are known to have assassinated an Ahwazi opposition leader Ra'ad De'ayer Al-Bestan Banitorfi in Iraq's Basra province (click here for report). Refugees in Kuwait and the UAE have also received death threats and are now in the process of being relocated. The Iranian government now appears to be expanding its state terror tactics against opposition activists outside Iran.

Many Ahwazi activists in the UK now fear that Iran may try to carry out assassinations in Europe in an attempt to halt the growing Ahwazi Arab uprising in Iran. Some Austrian politicians have accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of involvement in the assassination of Iranian Kurdish leader Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou and two of his associates in Vienna in 1989 during peace negotiations with the Iranian government. At the time, Ahmadinejad was an engineer serving with a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards specialising in extra-territorial activities; some organisations claim he gave logistical support to the assassination campaign in Austria. Now he is President, many fear he is seeking to step up violence against exiled dissidents.

Deportations from Syria and the assassination in Iraq, along with reports that Ahwazi Arab refugees are being expelled by the Iranian-influenced Iraqi government, indicates that the Iranian regime is prepared to export the kind of terror tactics it has used against Ahwazi Arabs in their homeland in Khuzestan.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "The Syrian authorities need to explain why they are suddenly arresting Ahwazi Arabs who have been resident in Syria for many years and are legally recognised as refugees. Due to Saki's deportation, it appears that the Ahwazis are being detained on the request of the Iranian government rather than any allegation that they have broken Syrian law.

"If the Ahwazis are being charged with any crime committed in Syria, then we request the Syrian authorities to ensure the accused are guaranteed a free, fair and transparent trial that meets international standards. If they are not being held in connection with any alleged crime, then they should be released immediately.

"We would like to remind the Syrian and Iraqi governments that any assassination or kidnap of residents and citizens of other countries is illegal and in our view constitutes an act of terrorism. Syria's deportation of Saki, who has not to our knowledge broken any Syrian law, indicates that the Syrian government is a participant in Iran's terror tactics against Ahwazis.

"If this is all about creating a good impression with the Iranian regime, then Syria is playing a dangerous game. Al-Mansouri's detention could prompt interest in the arrests by EU officials as he is a permanent Dutch resident and possibly and EU citizen. If he is not released, then Syria's involvement with Iran's repression of Ahwazi groups will come under scrutiny by the Dutch government and the European Commission.

"It remains to be seen whether Syria is willing to heighten diplomatic tensions with the EU over the Ahwazi issue at a time when President Bashar al-Assad is facing mounting pressure over the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri."
Ahwazi Arabs arrested in Syria on Iran's request

Ahwazi Arabs arrested in Syria on Iran's request

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information in Syria has revealed that Ahwazis were arrested by Syrian intelligence services on Thursday afternoon, although the charges against them are unknown. have been arrested with unknown reason in Syria on Thursday 11/5/06 afternoon.

The arrested include:

  • Mousa Sawari - English Literature student at Damascus University, 32 years old, single
  • Issa Alyassin - English Literature student at Damascus University, 30 years old, married
  • Gamal Obaidy -Politics student at Damascus University, 34 years old, single, Chair of Ahwazi Student Union in Syria
  • Ahmad Abiat - father's name: Abdul Jabbar, 20 years old, Student of Arabic literature at Damascus University)
  • Taher Ali Mazraeh: married, 40 years old, father's name Ali

The men are all registered as refugees with the UNHCR's office in Syria and were waiting to be transferred to the EU or Canada. Of those arrested, only Mazraeh is known to be a member of the Al-Ahwaz Arab Peoples Democratic Popular Front (ADPF), a group which Iran has previously accused of carrying out bomb attacks in Ahwaz. However, the organisation is not affiliated to the groups that have claimed responsibility for attacks and has not advocated armed struggle. Ahwazi activists fear that if the men are deported to Iran, they are likely to be put on trial and executed. Any deportation would constitute a breach of the Geneva Refugee Convention by the Syrian government.

Syria has a large Ahwazi Arab community, which includes many political refugees. However, the new alliance between Syria and Iran has prompted Syrian security services to intimidate opponents of the regime in the Ahwazi community. Ahwazi refugees were arrested in Syria in April last year, but were quickly released without charge (click here for report).

Since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in August, Iran has taken an increasingly aggressive stance towards dissidents in neighbouring countries. In April, Ahwazi opposition politician Ra'ad De'ayer Al-Bestan Banitorfi was kidnapped by Iranian-backed militias in Basra, Iraq, and murdered. Ahwazi dissidents in Kuwait and the UAE have also reported death threats by Iranian agents.
Iran prepares for new round of executions in Ahwaz

Iran prepares for new round of executions in Ahwaz

Ahwazi Arab activists are warning of a potential massacre in Ahwaz as the Iranian regime prepares to execute up to seven Arabs in its campaign to stop anti-government unrest in the region in the southwest of Iran.

The Governor of Khuzestan has promised more "trials" and executions of Ahwazis, according to IRNA, an Iranian government news agency.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has received a list of seven Ahwazis currently in custody who are likely to be executed by the regime in the immediate future:
Ali Matouri Zadeh
Abdullah Abdulhousain Salman
Abdulamir Farajulla Chaab
Mohammad Chaab Pour
Khalaf Khazirawi
Malek Banitamim
Jalil Moghadam

Ali Matouri Zadeh's wife, Fahima Ismail Badawi, is also in custody. In March, she gave birth to a baby girl Salma in prison. At just under eight weeks old, Salma is the world's youngest political prisoner (click here for more information).

Ahwaz previously witnessed a wave of executions in March, including the public hangings of Ali Afrawi and Mehdi Nawaseri following show trials over recent bomb attacks in the city (click here for report). The executions were broadcast around the world, including a special report on human rights in Iran by the UK's Channel 4 News. The trials, televised "confessions" and executions were condemned by Amnesty International, the world's leading human rights organisation.

Ahwaz is a focus of anti-government anger, with Ahwazi Arabs enraged by ongoing persecution, land confiscation, poverty and state terrorism. Unrest began in April 2005 after revelations that the government had a 10-year plan to reduce the Arab proportion of the province's population from 70 per cent to 30 per cent, contained in a leaked secret letter by former Vice-President Ali Abtahi (click here to download). Thousands have been arrested and scores killed since the uprising began.

Ahwazi activists have written to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) fearing a "big massacre in Ahwaz" and calling on the "international community to take a stand against this crime against humanity."
Ahwazis at parliamentary conference on self-determination

Ahwazis at parliamentary conference on self-determination

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) this week participated in a conference on self-determination hosted by Lord Nazir Ahmed at the British Houses of Parliament (Lord Ahmed is pictured with Ahwazi activists).

Lord Ahmad, who chairs the Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination (PNSD), Liberal Democrat President Simon Hughes MP, Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales) leader Elfyn Llwyd MP, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannon, Scottish Nationalist MP Peter Wishart and Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) General Secretary Marino Busdachin were among the participants at the meeting which sought to explore common goals and challenges among nationalist movements (click here for more details).

Self-determination is a fundamental human right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is regarded as an important instrument in conflict resolution. The PNSD, which organised the meeting, is a forum for aspiring nation states to advocate the management of their own internal affairs, development and nurturing of their national resources, and direct external engagement with international bodies to promote economic, environmental and cultural co-operation for mutual benefit.

Aside from Ahwazis, the conference was attended by Sikhs, Kashmiris, Nagas, Assamese, Manipuris, Kurds, Chechens, Palestinians, Kosovans and Tamils.
Iran minister blames MKO for Ahwaz attacks

Iran minister blames MKO for Ahwaz attacks

Iran's Acting Deputy Interior Minister Brigadier General Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr on Monday blamed the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organisation (MKO) for bomb attacks in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan) just hours after Iran said it was submitting evidence of Sunni extremist involvement.

His accusations against the MKO, an armed populist group once sheltered by Saddam Hussein in Iraq, appear to contradict the claims by Deputy Governor General of Khuzestan Mohsen Farrokhi Nezhad that Arab Wahhabi fundamentalists were responsible for a string of bombings in Ahwaz. Zolqadr referred to "Farsi speaking mercenaries", whereas previous government statements had blamed Arab separatists.

On Monday morning, Iranian news agencies reported that Iran was submitting documents it says prooves "interference by foreigners in the terrorist incidents in Khuzestan province last year" to the United Nations. Khuzestan's Deputy Governor had blamed the 'occupiers of Iraq' and also claimed that the group they were sponsoring was affiliated to Al-Qaeda and held Wahhabi and anti-Shi'ite views. However, the government has not revealed the name of the group.

The government has claimed it has arrested all those involved in the bombings. However, among the detainees are the wives and young children of members of moderate Arab groups, such as the Wefagh Party which campaigns for Arabs rights but opposes armed opposition and separatism. Some of those accused have been in prison for the past five years and therefore could not have been responsible for the recent spate of bomb attacks.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "The Iranian regime has so many enemies, it does not know who to blame for its domestic problems. It is highly unlikely that the MKO, Al-Qaeda, Ba'athists, Arab separatists and Western governments could all be colluding in a bombing campaign in Ahwaz. But the Iranian regime is propagating this absurd conspiracy theory and expecting the world to believe it.

"It will be interesting to see what 'evidence' the regime has presented to the UN. The evidence published so far is riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions that lead us to believe that Iran has very little evidence to back up its claims.

"The only people who have benefitted from the bomb attacks are those seeking a hardening of the government's stance against its opponents. The attacks have given the authorities a licence to arrest, imprison, torture and execute innocent Ahwazi Arab civilians. As a result of the attacks, hardliners have successfully developed a security policy based on paranoia and prejudice against religious and ethnic minorities as well as trade unionists and human rights activists.

"If the hardliners are the only ones to benefit from the bombing campaign and if they are the ones weaving conspiracy theories, it is not inconceivable that the government's Basseej paramilitaries planted the bombs, which have killed many Ahwazi Arab civilians over the past year.

"We challenge the government to publish all its 'evidence' and let the world judge for itself the veracity of Iran's claims."
Iran to hand over 'terrorist' documents to the UN

Iran to hand over 'terrorist' documents to the UN

The Iranian government is submitting documents it says prooves "interference by foreigners in the terrorist incidents in Khuzestan province last year" to the United Nations.

Deputy Governor General of Khuzestan Mohsen Farrokhi Nezhad told Fars News Agency that the 'evidence', including documents, showed that those responsible for the bomb attacks and sabotage operations had been organised and trained by the 'occupiers of Iraq'. He also alleged that they had carried out a number of armed robberies over the past two years to finance their operations.

The government claims that the US, Israel and UK backed group was affiliated to Al-Qaeda and held Wahhabi and anti-Shi'ite views. However, the government has not revealed the name of the group.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "The government has been making these claims for the past year, but has failed to publish the proof. So, the submission to the UN is a welcome development, allowing the international community to assess Iran's various claims. We would like the Iranian authorities to publish the 'evidence' publically. We want the regime to state which individuals and organisations it is accusing of responsibility for the bomb attacks.

"Several Ahwazis - mostly Shi'ites - have been arrested for possessing 'terrorist' or 'separatist' propaganda, which has turned out to be reports by human rights groups such as Amnesty International as well as UN agencies. It would be ironic if the documents submitted to the UN include UNCHR reports!

"There are several inconsistencies in the government's claims. If the alleged terrorist group was sponsored by the British and Americans, why would it rely on the proceeds of armed robberies to fund its activities? This raises the question of what Iran means by 'foreign influence'. If the regime is suggesting that the presence of terrorists in Iraq is proof of British or American involvement in the Ahwaz bomb attacks, then it will have a tough time selling its case.

"We know that Iran is assisting Shia militias associated with Iraqi political parties. The downing of the British helicopter in Basra last week probably utilised equipment brought in from Iran. The attempt to accuse Western governments of terrorist acts in Iran could back-fire, highlighting Iran's involvement in militia activity in Iraq."
Water, water everwhere, but not a drop to drink in Ahwaz

Water, water everwhere, but not a drop to drink in Ahwaz

A documentary about the Karoon River has highlighted one of the Middle East's most serious environmental problems, which has developed into a major crisis as a result of neglect by the Iranian government and is threatening the lives of thousands of Ahwazi Arabs (right-click here and save to view film).

The Karoon River runs through the predominantly Arab city of Ahwaz City in the south-west Iranian province of Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz), providing an important source of irrigation and drinking water. However, the failure to treat raw industrial and human waste being pumped into the river along with the government's refusal to invest in de-siltation has created a hazardous environment.

Disruptions to water supplies force many Ahwazis to rely on contaminated water from the Karoon, which contains high levels of human sewage and industrial pollutants. Fishermen are reporting outbreaks of disease in fish and a sharp decline in fish numbers, indicating that Iran's mismanagement of water resources has devastated river life.

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Karoon has faced more than 400 incidents of serious contamination. Last year, the government paid 700 billion rials (US$76.5 million) for a pistachio cultivation programme in Rafsanjan province, but just 100 billion rials (US$10.9 million) for water management in Khuzestan province.

Siltation of the river also means that during heavy rains, large areas of farmland are flooded with the contaminated water, killing livestock and ruining crops which the indigenous Ahwazis rely on for a living.

Added to the problem is the government's river diversion programme, which involves the construction of a series of dams to take water to provinces such as Yazd where water is scarce. The result is that when the floods recede, farmers have to deal with drought conditions. The Ahwazis are in a perpetual cycle of flood and drought, exacting a huge toll on their livelihoods and health.

Anger over water management has fuelled anti-government sentiment among Ahwazi Arabs. In the documentary, one Arab tells the interviewer: "We went to the provincial governor, but the government doesn't care. They are feeding the Palestinians, but forgetting about us." Another says: "If we are Israelis, then kill us. But we are Iranians, so why are we treated like dogs?"

The level of anger has prompted a rare display of opposition to the government from local members of parliament, who are normally loyal to the regime. In December 2005, Khuzestan's Majlis members lodged a petition for the impeachment of Energy Minister Parviz Fattah (click here for report).
Ahwazi mother and son released by the Iranian regime

Ahwazi mother and son released by the Iranian regime

Habib Nabgani has confirmed the release on bail of his wife Masouma Kaabi and their four-year-old son Aimad, who are members of Iran's persecuted Ahwazi Arab minority.

Masouma and Aimad were arrested on 8 March and were imprisoned in Sepidar prison in an effort to force Habib, a leading member of the moderate Wefagh Party, to return to Iran. Habib had been told that his wife and child would be tortured and executed if he did not return to face trial and possible execution on trumped-up charges by the regime. They were released from custody on 28 April.

A number of other wives and children of Ahwazi opposition figures remain in prison, including: Hoda Hawashem and her sons Ahmad (4) and Osameh (2), Soghra Khudayrawi and Zeidan (4) and Fahima Ismail Badawi and her baby daughter Salma, who was born in prison on 25 March. Sakina Naisi is also still in prison where she has had an abortion due to her poor treatment by her captors.

The incarceration of women and children by the regime in an attempt to terrorise opposition activists has largely backfired, leading to widespread international condemnation and helping to unify the Ahwazi anti-government opposition. It has been a public relations disaster for the regime as well as a rallying point for the Ahwazi movement, which is highlighting the abuse and persecution of some 4.5 million Arabs in southwest Iran.

The release of Masouma and Aimad on undisclosed bail conditions is seen as a breakthrough by the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO), which had championed the cause of Ahwazi women and children held in Iranian custody. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) had also brought international attention to their cause, working with Ahwazi groups to stage a series of public demonstrations in the UK and winning over the support of senior European politicians and human rights activists. Amnesty International has also condemned the imprisonment of Ahwazi women and children as a result of AHRO's campaign efforts.

The Wefagh Party, led by former member of parliament Jasem Shadidzadeh, has campaigned for Arab rights but remains opposed to separatism, marking out a moderate and democratic middle-way between the Islamic Republic and Arab separatist groups. Habib had applied to stand for election in the 2004 parliamentary elections, but his candidacy was rejected by the powerful Council of Guardians. The government's refusal to allow the emergence of democratic Arab parties has fuelled unrest in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan).

Habib is widely regarded as a moderate in the Ahwazi community. The arrest of his wife and son has been a major obstacle in efforts by the regime to forge a deal with tribal leaders in the province, with talks facilitated by local member of parliament Dr Nasser Sudani and former defence minister Ali Shamkhani, both of whom are among the few Ahwazi Arabs trusted by the regime. However, progress towards serious negotiations is only possible when all political prisoners are released and a ban on the right to protest and form political parties is lifted. In the mean time, unrest is likely to continue.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "We are delighted with Masouma and Aimad's release from prison. This is a victory for those groups that have taken up the pen and not the gun in the campaign for Ahwazi Arab rights. This is a vindication of the campaign efforts of AHRO and BAFS and shows that achievements can be won without the force of arms.

"Iran should now immediately release all remaining Ahwazi prisoners of conscience, particularly children. The abuse of human rights only serves to isolate Iran further and child abuse simply will not be tolerated either by Ahwazis or by the international community.

"If Iran is serious about dialogue with the Ahwazis, it should first take the necessary steps to respects the rights granted to them by the UN Conventions that Iran itself has ratified and Iran's own constitution. Secondly, it must start taking seriously Ahwazi demands for equality, devolution of power, democracy, human and cultural rights, redistribution of oil wealth and an end to land confiscation.

"We do not believe that the regime will survive in its current form if it goes down this road and we do not believe that President Ahmadinejad or his allies are serious about compromise with Ahwazi Arabs. But in the long-term, Iran's rulers have the option of adapting to the demands of Iran's democratic currents, including the Ahwazi movement, or be toppled by the gathering uprising. The Ahwazi issue is pivotal to the future of Iran."
Sunni Ahwazi Sheikh arrested by Iran

Sunni Ahwazi Sheikh arrested by Iran

Iranian authorities have arrested Sheikh Abdul-Hamid Al-Dowsari, an Ahwazi Arab Sunni imam based in Al-Qesba serving Abadan, Mohammara (Khorammshahr) and Ahwaz City.

The pro-government Baztab website has claimed that the 57 year old is a Wahhabi, a Sunni fundamentalist sect not tolerated in Iran, and that he is responsible for a string of bomb attacks and riots in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan). Four others have been arrested along with the Sheikh, including Said Jamil Sharifi and Khalil Sekheyrawi. However, at least 80 per cent of the Ahwazi population is Shia, the dominant religion of Iran and it is unlikely that the Arab uprising in the province has any sectarian motives.

Numbering a few hundred thousand, the Ahwazi Arab Sunni population is concentrated in the west of the province bordering Iraq. It has not been prominent in the unrest seen elsewhere in Al-Ahwaz, although conversion to Sunni Islam is growing due to the widespread revulsion of state terror tactics by the ruling mullahs.

Meanwhile, a sound bomb has been reported in the Sheikh Baha area of Ahwaz City, but the authorities have closed the area to prevent further coverage of the incident.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The regime has been working hard to divide the Ahwazi Arabs along tribal and religious lines and has in the past accused Wahabbis of organising attacks. The regime is trying to portray the movement as anti-Iranian and as such is blaming what it regards as its worst enemies: Sunnis, Arabs, Jews, British, Americans and Saudis. It is a tactic of divide and rule which will not work in the long-run.

"However, the Ahwazis participating in the uprising are not from any particular tribe, sect or area, although the urban slum-dwellers have been the most vocal in their opposition to the government. The Ahwazi movement is broad-based, including rural and urban poor, the middle-classes and people from both Shia and Sunni communities."