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."