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Netherlands abandons Dutch Ahwazi activist

The Netherlands Foreign Ministry appears to have abandoned its lobbying efforts with the Iranian government to seek the release of 60 year old Dutch national Faleh Abdullah Al-Mansouri, the leader of the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation (ALO) who was deported to Iran by the Syrian government in May while visiting Damascus.

The Dutch government only this week announced that they had received notification from the Syrian foreign ministry that the ALO leader, who has lived in the Dutch city of Maastricht since 1989, had been deported under the terms of a bilateral Syria-Iran co-operation treaty on 16 May. He was deported along with four other Ahwazis, all of whom are registered as refugees with the UNHCR. (click here for more information)

In an interview with the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency, a Dutch government spokesman indicated that since he was travelling to Syria with Iranian travel documents and under another identity, "Iran could tell us it is none of our business", apparently washing its hands of responsibility. The apparent fatalism of the Dutch foreign ministry towards the fate of an Arab citizen with Dutch nationality is in contrast to the Dutch government's high-profile efforts to seek the release of Iranian human rights advocate Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, who was arrested at a women's rights demonstration in June. (click here for more information)

The Dutch foreign ministry has requested that embassy officials in Tehran be allowed access to Al-Mansouri, but the Netherlands does not appear to be making any formal representations to seek his release.

Al-Mansouri is a well-known Groen Links (Green Left) party activist and human rights campaigner in Maastricht and the Belgian and Dutch branches of Amnesty International have been campaigning for his release, unaware that Syria had already transferred him to Iran. (click here for more information)

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The Dutch government appears to be ambivalent towards Al-Mansouri and the four political refugees kidnapped by the Syrian government and sent to Iran, where they will be tortured and executed. One wonders whether this would have been the case if he was not an Arab immigrant and not involved with a Dutch opposition party. We are certain that if Al-Mansouri was white-skinned, Dutch-born and a member of the ruling Christen Democratisch Appel, Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot would be more active and vocal in seeking his release.

"Al-Mansouri's organisation is not proscribed in the EU, he is not a terrorist, he is not an Islamist, he is a law-abiding Dutch citizen and he is entitled to his lawful views.

"The Dutch government's apathy indicates that that his ethnicity and his opposition to the Iranian government make him unworthy of its support. But he is a Dutch citizen and the Dutch government and the European Commission have a moral and legal obligation to do whatever they can to ensure that Al-Mansouri is released from Iranian custody unharmed.

"The failure of the Dutch government to take action in Al-Mansouri's case is an abrogation of its responsibilities and a betrayal of the liberal values of the Dutch people."