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Ahwazi Issue Raised at the United Nations

The abuse of Ahwazi Arabs' human rights has been raised at the United Nations Human Rights Council amid mounting concerns over Iran's treatment of political prisoners, including minors and babies, who belong to the persecuted Ahwazi Arab ethnic group.

In a written statement, the Transnational Radical Party, which has general consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), followed up on a report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari published in August last year. He accused the Iranian regime of serious discrimination and the forced displacement of Arabs for the construction of industrial projects and ethnically exclusive settlements in Khuzestan (click here for TRP statement). TRP followed up the statement outlining the regime's "ten year project of ethnic restructuring and confiscation of Arab land" and its "forced resettlement policy to displace the Ahwazis out of Khuzestan to settle 'loyal' ethnic Persians on the expropriated Arab farmlands. Ahwazis are being perceived as disloyal, suspicious and a security risk, who some day may reclaim the oil rich land of Khuzestan." (click here to download the statement)

TRP adds that in the past 15 years, "over 250,000 hectares of Ahwazi farmers land in regions of Jufir, Shosh, Hoizeh, Hamidieh have been forcefully confiscated and given to Persian settlers in violation of the article 4.5 of the United Nations Declaration on Minorities."

Referring to a letter written by Vice-President Ali Abtahi in 1999 which was leaked to the international media last year (click here to download the Abtahi letter), TRP states that it is the regime's intention to reduce the Ahwazi Arab population from a 70% majority to a 1/3 minority by the end of the decade. More than one million non-indigenous Persians have been moved into settlements such as Ramin-2 and Shirin-Shahr.

TRP adds that "ethnic Ahwazi children are being deprived from the use and study of their mother language and people are being denied participation in public life and in decisions affecting them. The illiteracy rate is 4 to 5 times higher than non-Arabs and unemployment is 4 times the national average."

Another international NGO with ECOSOC consultative status, the International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic & Other Minorities (IFPRERLOM), also highlighted Mr Kothari's findings in a written statement submitted to the UNHRC (click here to download statement). It urged the Council "to follow up on the recommendation made by the UN Special Rapporteur on HousingRights; and to provide adequate compensation, support and consultancy with indigenous populations affected by development projects, whilst promoting and protecting the rights of minorities in Iran." In a separate statement (click here to download), IFPRERLOM drew attention to further human rights abuses, including the imprisonment of children and pregnant women, summary executions carried out after the April 2005 uprising, the use of torture against Ahwazis held in detention and a number of death sentences carried out by the regime. It urged the UNHCR:
- to urgently alert UN Secretary General, HE Kofi Annan, to the current situation in Iran regarding the human rights situation in Khuzestan;
- to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of the remaining Ahwazi women and children being held in prison;
- to call, as a matter of urgency, for a follow-up to the initial request by UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to the government of Iran toarrange a visit; and
- to put renewed pressure on Iran to end practices of unlawful arbitrary detention, execution and acts of repression against the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, Balochis and other minority groups in Iran, especially with regard to minors.