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...

Iran judiciary's eleventh hour reprieve for Ahwazis

Iran judiciary's eleventh hour reprieve for Ahwazis

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has received reports that Nazem Boraihi and other Ahwazis sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Courts in Ahwaz have had their sentences over-turned by the Diwan Aali Kol Keshwar (High Bureau for Justice) in Tehran.

Boraihi is one of 16 Ahwazis sentenced to death for allegedly participating in bomb attacks in Ahwaz in 2005. Serious doubts have been raised over the conduct of the trials by human rights campaigners inside Iran, international NGOs and Ahwazi activists in exile. Boraihi has been in prison since 2000 serving a lengthy jail term for peaceful opposition activities. His trial, conviction and death sentence are widely seen as an act of political retribution against Ahwazis. An unknown number of other Ahwazis convicted at the same time as Boraihi are also believed to have had their death sentences over-turned.

Amnesty International, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation and BAFS have campaigned for a retrial for Ahwazis convicted of "waging war on God" based on international standards of justice. The campaign was boosted by one of Iran's leading human rights advocates, Emad Baghi, who appealed to the high bureau of justice to commute the death sentences, raising concerns about the conduct of the trials (click here for more information). The European Commission was also intensively lobbied by Ahwazis and their supporters. In response to a recent letter to Portuguese Socialist MEP Paulo Casaca regarding the Ahwazis on death row, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana expressed concern over the treatment of minorities and the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. Solana pledged to raise the issue of human rights violations against minorities with the Iranian regime.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "Pragmatists within the Iranian establishment have decided that the execution of Ahwazis is more trouble that it is worth. While Boraihi and maybe some others appear to have had their death sentences commuted, they are still victims of a grotesque miscarriage of justice. We will not stop campaigning until the hundreds of Ahwazi political prisoners are released from Iranian custody."
Iran accuses BAFS of terrorism

Iran accuses BAFS of terrorism

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini has accused London police of supporting a rally of Ahwazi Arab "terrorists" in response to a recent demonstration by Ahwazis outside the House of Commons earlier this year, which was called by members of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) - click here for more information.

In one of the Islamic Republic's ritual attacks on Britain, Hosseini told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that the British government was meddling in Iran's affairs for allowing Ahwazi Arabs to demonstrate in London (click here for IRNA's report). Only two demonstrations have been staged in London this year, both of which were organised by BAFS activists. He also claimed that the British authorities had declared a "premature amnesty" for terrorists involved in the 1980 Iranian Embassy Siege, maintaining that the government was guilty of hypocrisy.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "Hosseini's claims are so absurd they are comical. The demonstration held at the House of Commons was strictly peaceful and lawful. Under current anti-terrorism legislation, all demonstrations in Parliament Square require the approval of the Metropolitan Police. Approval is not the same as political support. Ahwazi activists sought and secured the approval of the police to protest, which is a democratic right they enjoy in the UK but are denied in their own country.

"BAFS is committed to non-violent peaceful means of winning rights for the persecuted Ahwazi Arabs. We oppose violence in all its forms. We are not a terrorist organisation nor do we co-operate with any group involved in violence of any kind. Unlike the Iranian regime, we respect international law and the law of the UK and BAFS is not a proscribed organisation - even in Iran!

"Hosseini should also get his facts correct on the embassy siege. The British army killed all but one of the hostage takers that beseiged the embassy. The surviving hostage taker, Fowzi Badawi Nejad, remains in prison, despite being eligible for parole last year. In May, he was moved from an open prison to a high security prison along with 140 other foreign prisoners due to a separate political controversy over foreign prisoners in British prisons.

"Hosseini is a hypocrite and a liar. His claims have no foundation. He is trying to pressure the British government to silence the legitimate demands of the Ahwazi Arab people and to force it to stop accepting political refugees. If the British government has any sense, it will ignore the Iranian regime's demands and support peaceful struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran."
Iranian Azeris protest in London

Iranian Azeris protest in London

Iranian Azeris staged a protest outside the BBC World Service building in London over the Iranian government's ban on the study of the Turkish language in Iranian schools, according to the BBC's Persian Service.

Although Article 15 of the Iranian constitution allows minorities to study their own language alongside the dominant Farsi language, few Azeris are given the opportunity to study in their own language. Iran's Azeri population numbers 25 million, far outnumbering the population of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The BBC reported that 30 protestors from an Iranian Azeri group staged the two-hour London protest, holding banners with slogans reading "Down with Iranian Fascism", "Down with Iranian racism", "Stop killing and cultural genocide in Iran" and "The Turkish language will not die".

Protest organiser Shahrokh Mozahari said: "Millions of Azeri Turkish children are starting a new academic year but few of them have the right to study in their mother tongue."

He claimed the government's failure to allow children to be taught in their native language was a breach of their human rights. He added that Azeri children were at an unfair disadvantage as they are forced to learn in Farsi, a language that is often foreign to them when they start school.

Protestors claimed that the government's refusal to grant Azeris their constitutional right to learn in their native tongue had political motives. The authorities fear that minorities would push for greater autonomy within Iran unless they are forced to unify around a "national" identity dominated by Persian ethnicity. The only time when the Azeri and Kurdish minorities have been taught in their native language was in 1945-46 under the autonomous Azeri and Kurdish governments, which were dissolved when the Shah imposed his authority over the break-away regions.

The Turkish language movement is a major basis for Azeri mobilisation against the Iranian regime. Azeris comprise around a third of the Iranian population, but are often subjected to racist abuse by Persian chauvinists who characterise them as stupid. The recent publication of a cartoon in a hardline newspaper portraying Azeris as cockroaches led to violent protests in Tabriz and other towns and cities where Azeris are the dominant ethnic group.

IRAN: Continuing crackdown against peaceful critics - Amnesty International
Iran's non-payment of ship workers fuels Arab anger

Iran's non-payment of ship workers fuels Arab anger

Ahwazi Arabs working in the ship-building industry along the Shatt Al-Arab waterway are growing increasingly frustrated over non-payment of wages.

According the official Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA), ship workers in the port town of Abadan have not been paid for six months and have held a 72 hour strike in protest. The strike was called off after the management agreed to pay the workers. However, according to ILNA, workers have yet to be paid.

The trade union movement in Ahwaz's ship and oil industries are an important base for Ahwazi Arab political mobilisation and has become more militant since Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005. Many trade unionists have links to banned Ahwazi Arab parties seeking equal rights.
Iran: Hardline MP downplays Bassij mobilisation in Ahwaz

Iran: Hardline MP downplays Bassij mobilisation in Ahwaz

Hardline Majlis member for Ahwaz, Hamid Zanganeh, has downplayed the deployment of Bassij paramilitarist forces on the city's streets.

Local residents of the Ahwaz City, which is experiencing growing unrest from its Ahwazi Arab population, have reported a massive increase in the presence of the mullah regime's vigilante group ahead of the planned execution of 16 political prisoners. Zangeneh claimed there was no security problem, while the Bassij continue to set up check posts in the city's main roads and confiscate satellite dishes. Internet and telecommunications have also been disrupted. The regime appears to be preparing for a complete media blackout, ahead of a clamp-down on protests.

In March, public executions of young Ahwazi Arabs accused of insurgency led to violent rioting. Ahwazi groups expect a new round of executions either this week or after Eid-ul-Fitr (expected around 24 October), which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan (no executions are permitted during Ramadan). Controversy has surrounded the convictions of the 16 men, with one of Iran's leading human rights activists, Emadeddin Baghi, claiming a "grave injustice" had been carried out by the courts (click here for more information). The lawyers for the accused have also protested at the unfair convictions and staged a walk-out during the trials.

Zanganeh has lobbied the government to convict and execute anyone and everyone deemed a "threat to national security", including cultural rights activists. He claimed that failure to take a hard line to quash Ahwazi Arab dissent would be a sign of weakness. The imminent executions are widely believed to have been prompted by Zanganeh's high-profile efforts to persuade the government to kill off all signs of Ahwazi Arab opposition to the regime, including peaceful dissent.
"27 Ahwazi dissidents in custody" - Emadeddin Baghi

"27 Ahwazi dissidents in custody" - Emadeddin Baghi

According to BBC Persian Service, one of Iran's leading human rights activists, Emadeddin Baghi, the head of the the Society for Defending Prisoners' Rights and editor of the banned Jumhuriyat (Republic) newspaper, has identified 27 Ahwazi Arab political prisoners in custody, including 18 alleged members of the Kataeb party. They are among 146 dissidents being held by the regime, which also include 50 members of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and five members of the Kurdish Komala party.

The regime does not recognise dissidents in its custody as political prisoners and therefore does not publish statistics. This makes it difficult to assess the true number of prisoners of conscience held by the regime. Most are accused by the regime of posing a threat to national security. Baghi himself received a three-prison sentence in 2000 for "attacking national security" and "disseminating false news." He was released in February 2003, but his passport has still not been returned to him.

Baghi wrote an appeal in June in relation to death sentences issued to Ahwazis who the regime claims were "waging war on God". He wrote: "Discussions with the families and lawyers of those sentenced have convinced me that the court decision made about the fate of these individuals requires your close attention in order to prevent the possibility of grave injustice."

He called on the authorities to reduce the sentences, allow the accused to meet with their lawyers and added that "the possibility of defendants admitting to uncommitted crimes under duress is not unheard of and in this case of particular national sensitivity all possibilities must be investigated in order to avoid costly mistakes not only in relation to the taking of precious human lives but also because of the real potential for heightening and injuring ethnic sensibilities."

Click here for Mr Baghi's letter to Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, Chief of the Judiciary
UNHCR deeply concerned about Ahwazi refugees in Syria

UNHCR deeply concerned about Ahwazi refugees in Syria

Press release from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees:

UNHCR is deeply concerned about the fate of three Ahwazi refugees (Iranian Arabs) in Syria. The three men were arrested by Syrian authorities last May in Damascus and have been detained since that time. Prior to their detention, they had been recognized as refugees by UNHCR under the 1951 Refugee Convention, and have been accepted for resettlement in Western European countries.

We have been in regular contact with Syrian authorities in Damascus as well as in Geneva to discuss the situation of the three men. Our staff have been promised several times that they be able to meet with the three detainees, but so far we have had no access despite numerous requests.

We are appealing for the immediate release of the three Ahwazi. We are also calling on the Syrian authorities to refrain from extraditing the three refugees to Iran, and instead to allow their departure to their countries of resttlement.

Deportation of recognized refugees represents a violation of the principle of non-refoulement. This principle of customary international law prohibits states from returning a refugee or asylum seeker to territories where there is a risk that his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. It is also embodied in Article 3 of the 1984 Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Syria is a party

We are all the more concerned about these three detained refugees following Syria's previous extradition to Iran of an Arab-Iranian Ahwazi last May. This refugee had been recognized under UNHCR's mandate at the end of 2005 and had been accepted for resettlement to a third country. Nevertheless, he was arrested in March and detained by the Syrian authorities until his extradition to Iran, where he is reportedly detained.

Ahwazi refugees arrived from Iran in Syria and Iraq at various times, most recently in 2005 following a confrontation between members of the Ahwazi community and government forces in the Ahwaz region.

"Syria has violated international law" - Amnesty International - 11 August
Netherlands abandons Dutch Ahwazi activist - 11 August
Syria deports Ahwazis to Iran, including Dutch national - 9 August
UNHCR calls on Syria not to extradite Ahwazi refugees - 6 June
Ahwazis face arrest, deportation and execution - 1 June
Syria releases three Ahwazis, but four remain in custody - 19 May
Kuwaiti newspaper publishes call for an end to Syria's anti-Ahwazi policy - 18 May
Syrian human rights activists arrested amid Ahwazi deportation scandal - 17 May
Syria's deportation scandal - 16 May
Lebanese democrats support Ahwazis - 16 May
More arrests of Ahwazi Arabs in Syria - 15 May
Ahwazi Arabs arrested in Syria on Iran's request - 13 May
Ahwazis arrested in Syria - 1 May
Another 20 Ahwazis face execution in Iran

Another 20 Ahwazis face execution in Iran

Iran's pro-regime media have confirmed that a further 20 Ahwazis blamed for leading unrest in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan) in April 2005 have been referred to tribunal court to confirm death sentences against them.

According to a government spokesman, these death sentences are separate from previous sentences. The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has stated that 16 Ahwazis have already had their death sentences confirmed and are likely to be executed after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. All 36 Ahwazis have been sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court 3 in Ahwaz City.

The pro-regime media claim that all Ahwazis who have been sentenced to death have confessed to participating in bomb attacks in Ahwaz last year and earlier this year. However, their solicitors have stated that their clients have not confessed to any crime and they have lodged strong protests over the trial procedure, which they claim is unfair. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has received the solicitors' letters and is in the process of translating them into English.

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