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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.