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Ahwazi rally for Eid ul-Fitr

Ahwazi rally for Eid ul-Fitr

London's Ahwaz Arab community celebrated Eid ul-Fitr on Saturday, with food, traditional music and speeches on the Ahwazi movement.

The Eid celebration was organised by the Ahwaz Community Association (ACA) and was attended by people of all faiths - an indication of the community's inclusive and tolerant nature.

ACA committee members spoke of the organisation's achievements over the past year, which has seen a greater emphasis on Ahwazi women.

Up to five million Ahwazi Arabs live in and around Al-Ahwaz, which was renamed Khuzestan after it was overrun by troops belonging to the Iranian dictator Reza Pahlavi in 1925 and its Arab ruler deposed. Since then, Ahwazi Arabs have faced racial discrimination and rising levels of poverty despite their homeland's position as one of the world's most oil-rich regions.

Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, has become a day when Ahwazi Arabs demonstrate their opposition to the Iranian regime. This year Ahwazi Arab youths defied the Iranian security forces and used Eid to call for Arab minority rights in protests across Ahwaz. Peaceful demonstrations were reportedly larger than last year's Eid demonstrations, when two Ahwazi Arab youths died when 3,000 Arabs attempted to march peacefully to the centre of Ahwaz City (click here for further details). Youths gathered in the Hay Al-Thurah (Dairah) district of Ahwaz City after Eid prayers, where the Ahwazi Intifada began in April 2005. The demonstrators chanted anti-regime slogans and called for the release of political prisoners and an end to state violence. Some carried Ahwazi flags or painted their hands with the colours of the Ahwazi flag (click here for further details).

The UK has a 3,000 strong Ahwazi Arab population, which is the largest expatriate community outside the Middle East. Many Ahwazi Arabs have come to the UK seeking political asylum having faced violent persecution under the Iranian regime. The ACA is the main contact point for the community, providing social activities and support.
Ahwazis support protest against Khatami's London visit

Ahwazis support protest against Khatami's London visit

Ahwazi organisations have given their full support to a demonstration against Khatami's visit to London on Wednesday 1 November.

The demonstration, which will be held outside Chatham House where Khatami is due to speak, is being organised by a number of Iranian left-wing and human rights organisations.

The protestors will call for Khatami's arrest for crimes against humanity, particularly in relation to his administration's murderous treatment of student activists, women, minorities, trade unionists and homosexuals.

Ahwazi groups hope to bring attention to the treatment of ethnic minorities in Iran, including the ethnic cleansing they suffered under Khatami's orders.

Click here to download a leaflet protesting against Khatami's visit, published by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society


Protest details:


Wednesday 1 November 2006, 4:30 – 6:30pm
Chatham House
10 St James's Square
London SW1Y 4LE
Nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus /Green Park

Speakers:
- Sofie Buckl, National Executive of the National Union of Students
-Azar Majedi, Director of the Organisation for Women's Liberation
-Maryam Namazie, 2005 Secularist of the Year, Director of the Worker-communist Party of Iran's International Relations Committee
- Keyvan Javid, Worker-communist Party of Iran
Anger over Khatami's honorary degree

Anger over Khatami's honorary degree

Ahwazi activists have joined the growing chorus of anger over a decision by Scotland's elite St Andrews University to award former Iranian president Muhammed Khatami an honorary doctorate.

Khatami will today be handed the doctorate by the university, whose chancellor is Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell. Khatami will also open the university's Institute for Iranian Studies, which is supported by regime officials. While the university has lauded Khatami as a 'reformer', opposition activists have testified to the state terrorism faced by students, ethnic and religious minorities, trade unionists, homosexuals and women under his presidency.

The National Union of Students (NUS) has demanded that the invitation to Khatami should be withdrawn unless Ahmad Batebi, a student jailed in 1999 during a pro-democracy protest, is freed. However, the university's student association which is not a member of the NUS has voiced its support for the human rights abuser. It claims Khatami has helped reconcile Islam with Christianity and Judaism - a claim that is belied by the fact that Khatami's administration waged a war of terror against minorities in Iran.

Khatami also ordered the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Ahwazi Arabs in a programme of "demographic restructuring". Since an Ahwazi Arab uprising against Khatami's government in April 2005, 25,000 Ahwazi Arabs have been arrested and hundreds more have been executed, unlawfully killed or disappeared.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Despite the facts, St Andrews University and the university's Students Association continue to rally behind the former president, playing down his crimes against humanity and repeating the regime's propaganda verbatim. They appear to approve of Khatami's role as the smiling diplomatic facade of a brutal government.

"The Iranian opposition may be ideologically divided, but it is united in its condemnation and revulsion of the decision by St Andrews University to reward human rights abuse.

"This appeasement of a regime guilty of terrorist acts against its own civilians as well as foreign country is approved by the leader of the Liberal Democrats. If he ever lived in Iran, I wonder how long the authorities would allow him to preach liberal democracy before sending him to the torture chambers in Tehran's Evin Prison, which is now home to many liberal democrats - including Ahwazi UN-registered refugees recently kidnapped from Syria and sent to Iran, despite protests from the UNHCR.

"It is sickening that members of the British political establishment, British academia and even some Scottish students are shaking hands with a man who has thwarted democracy and crushed human rights in Iran."

Click here to download a letter sent from the presidential office during Khatami's administration on the procedure to change the ethnic composition of Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz) and eradicate Arab language and culture in the province.

Click here for the NUS's statement opposing Khatami's visit to the UK.



Click here for BAFS's leaflet protesting against Khatami's visit to the UK.


Sign the petition condemning Khatami's honorary degree
Ahwazi youths defy Iran regime with Eid protests

Ahwazi youths defy Iran regime with Eid protests

Iranian security forces block a road in Ahwaz CityAhwazi Arab youths defied the Iranian security forces and used Eid ul-Fitr - an Islamic festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan - to call for Arab minority rights in protests across Ahwaz.

Peaceful demonstrations were reportedly larger than last year's Eid demonstrations, when two Ahwazi Arab youths died when 3,000 Arabs attempted to march peacefully to the centre of Ahwaz City (click here for further details). Youths gathered in the Hay Al-Thurah (Dairah) district of Ahwaz City after Eid prayers, where the Ahwazi Intifada began in April 2005. The demonstrators chanted anti-regime slogans and called for the release of political prisoners and an end to state violence. Some carried Ahwazi flags or painted their hands with the colours of the Ahwazi flag.

An Ahwazi youthA large police contingent was deployed to the district along with other members of the security services in plain clothes. Camcorders, mobile phones and cameras were confiscated and there were an unknown number of arrests. The protestors were banned from demonstrating in a bazaar area allocated to Eid celebrations as well as Farhani Street, which was closed off by a police cordon. Instead they gathered outside Sayed Hamdan Mosque where they were confronted by the police and security forces, but staged a peaceful demonstration.

The Ahwazi demonstrators had defied the regime's attempts to intimidate them. In the month prior to Ramadan over 1,400 Ahwazi Arabs had been arrested in a massive police crack-down on dissent (click here for further information). The mass arrests were ostensibly carried out to seize illegal satellite dishes and tackle organised crime, but their timing, the extent of the arrests and the people arrested in the operations indicated that the government intended to crush dissent and prevent broadcasts by exiled Ahwazi parties to the region.
Poverty leads to massive rise in female Ahwazi pavement sellers

Poverty leads to massive rise in female Ahwazi pavement sellers

The number of female pavement sellers in the Arab majority cities of Khorramshahr (Mohamareh) and Abadan is soaring, according to a report published by Iran's Fars News Agency (download original report).

According to the news agency's report, the female roadside hawkers are the sole income earnings due to non-payment of wages by state corporations and endemic unemployment and under-employment among Ahwazi Arab men.

The age of female Ahwazi Arab hawkers, who sell food and handicrafts from the villages as well as smuggled goods such as cigarettes and chewing gum, is also falling.

Unemployment among Ahwazi Arabs is running at 50 per cent. Meanwhile, those employed by the state-owned ship-building and port companies are owed months of back-pay, leading to mass demonstrations and strikes (click here for more information). Women are now feeling the effects of the employment crisis, but most are illiterate and are only able to work in the informal sector. Yet, the Ahwazi Arab homeland is one of the most oil-rich in the world, with more oil reserves than Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates combined.

High poverty rates are the result of racial discrimination in employment. Ahwazi Arabs are denied jobs, while the government confiscates their land for residential developments to house non-Arabs brought enticed from outside the province with incentives such as zero-interest loans.
Iran: Judges refuse to serve in Ahwaz

Iran: Judges refuse to serve in Ahwaz

Judges are refusing to service in Khuzestan, according to the recently appointed chief of the province's branch of Iran's Ministry of Justice, Dr Abbas Jaafari Dowlat-abadi.

Speaking to the Iranian Student News Agency, Dowlat-abadi claimed that the bad security situation was to blame for the lack of qualified judges in the province (click here for ISNA article).

Controversry has surrounded judgements made by Ahwaz's courts, with one of Iran's leading human rights campaigners, Emad Baghi, claiming that the trials of Ahwazi Arabs accused of terrorism and "enmity with God" were flawed, the charges were baseless, the defendants were subjected to torture, the sentencing was based on a spurious interpretation of the law and the outcome of the trials would inflame Ahwazi anger, causing further unrest and instability in Khuzestan (click here for his letter to the chief of the judiciary). Recently, three Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death for stealing livestock - a crime that does not normally carry the death penalty (click for further details).
Iran/Netherlands: Dutch Ahwazi activist in Evin prison torture chamber

Iran/Netherlands: Dutch Ahwazi activist in Evin prison torture chamber

Faleh Abdullah Al-Mansuri, a Dutch citizen and the leader of the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation (ALO) (pictured with the mayor of his home town Maastricht), has been transferred to Evin prison after being extradited to Iran by the Syrian authorities.

Al-Mansuri is being held in Section 209 of the notorious Evin prison, according to Iranian human rights activists. Section 209, where high-profile political prisoners are held, is under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence, which conducts continuous interrogations involving torture. In the prison's torture chambers, inmates are forced to confess to crimes and repent. Prisoners are shackled and kept in solitary confinement with many dying from poor sanitary conditions. Summary executions are often carried out by firing squad.

The ALO advocates Ahwazi Arab independence from Iran and views itself as a government-in-exile. However, no proof has been provided that it has been involved in any terrorist activities, nor is it among the number of different organisations that have claimed responsibility for bomb attacks in Ahwaz over the past 18 months.

Links
Ahwazi refugees remain in Syrian custody - AHRO - 18 August
UNPO: "Iran Must End Repression against Minority Groups" - 15 August
"Syria has violated international law" - Amnesty International - 11 August
Ahwazi Arabs unite against Syrian "treachery" - 11 August
Netherlands abandons Dutch Ahwazi activist - 11 August
Syria deports Ahwazis to Iran, including Dutch national - 9 August
Statement by Amnesty Maastricht on the detention of Faleh Abdullah Al-Mansouri (in Dutch)
U.N. tells Syria not to extradite Ahwazi refugees - 7 June 2006, Ya Libnan
Amnesty International report on fear of forcible return and torture of Ahwazi refugees - 2 June 2006, Amnesty International
Syria releases three Ahwazis, but four remain in custody - 19 May 2006, BAFS
Syrian human rights activists arrested amid Ahwazi deportation scandal - 17 May 2006, BAFS
Syria's deportation scandal - 16 May 2006, BAFS
Syria arresting Ahwazi Arabs to please Iran - 16 May 2006, Ya Libnan
Iran: 1,442 Ahwazis arrested in one month

Iran: 1,442 Ahwazis arrested in one month

Colonel Matin-Rad, commander of Iran's State Security Forces in the border city of Abadan, has announced that 1,442 people were arrested in the Arab-majority province of Khuzestan in the space of just one month, according to the local Persian language Asr Karoun newspaper.

During the Iranian month of Shahrivar (23 August-23 September), which precedes the holy month of Ramadan, hundreds of mostly Ahwazi Arab people were rounded up and detained. During raids, the security forces seized 200 satellite dishes, 120 low-noise block (LNB) converters used to convert satellite signals, 167 relays, 100 receivers and 250 antennas. Meanwhile, three Ahwazi Arabs have been sentenced to death for allegedly stealing livestock and will face public execution after the end of Ramadan (click here for more information). Ahwazi activists believe the executions for crimes that do not normally carry the death penalty are an attempt to intimidate and punish the Arab population.

The regime claimed it was running a crack-down on drug trafficking and the smuggling of satellite equipment. However, the real reason for the arrests was the government's attempt to pre-empt Ahwazi Arab demonstrations that have marked Ramadan in the past. The confiscation of satellite television equipment is related to the government's attempts to stop the transmission of Ahwazi television programmes into Iran from abroad.

During last year's Ramadan, in November 2005, 81 Ahwazi Arabs were arrested while conducting a cultural play called Mahibis, a popular event performed during iftaar, following fasting in the month of Ramadan. The arrested included Zahra Nasser-Torfi, a feminist leader and director of the Ahwaz Al-Amjad cultural center, Arab-Iranian poet Hamid Haydari and the entire Mojadam family - Mohammad Mojadam, Hamid Mojadam, Mehdi Mojadam, Rasoul Mojadam, Khaled Bani-Saleh and Hassan Naisi.

These arrests were a contributing factor to protests held in Eid ul-Fitr, when more than 3,000 Ahwazis staged a peaceful march towards the centre of Ahwaz City. When it reached Ahwaz City's 5th Bridge, the demonstration was fired on by security forces armed with tear gas grenades. Two Arab youths were overcome by tear gas and drowned after they fell into the Karoon river. More than 200 demonstrators were arrested. The security forces were ordered to attack by General Amir Hayat Moghadam, appointed the Governor of Khuzestan by President Ahmadinejad.

The following day, the families of those arrested during the protests marched to the Governor's provincial headquarers wearing traditional Arabic clothing, dishdasha (ankle-length robe) and kafieh (scarf). The families demonstrated to demand the release of those arrested during Friday's demonstration and requested a meeting with the Governor. Using a loudhailer, Governor General Heyat Mojadam began calling them terrorists and Arab nomads, using foul language to insult the families' dignity, culture and identity. He warned the demonstrators that any Ahwazi Arab wearing traditional Arabic clothing would be arrested and ordered the security forces to disperse the crowd violently.

A youth arrested by the security forces gave an account to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) after his release. He said that those detained in prison included children and elderly men, adding that "we were kept in a room for two days without any food or water." Five days after his arrest, the young man was put on trial without legal representation. The judge acted as an interrogator, accusing the man of being a separatist and Wahabi extremist. He was then handcuffed and severely beaten by guards in order to force him to confess to the judge's allegations. He insisted that he had no contact with any organisation and was not an extremist, but had simply wanted to express his cultural identity. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment, but was soon released due to prison over-crowding.

The mass pre-Ramadan arrests are widely seen as collective punishment in an attempt to put down any peaceful resistance to the regime by Ahwazi Arabs.
Iran: Psychologist sentenced to 20 years imprisonment

Iran: Psychologist sentenced to 20 years imprisonment

A 52 year old respected psychologist at Ahwaz's Shahid Chamran hospital, whose son was executed and daughter was murdered, has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in Ardabil prison, hundreds of miles away from his home.

Dr Awdeh Afrawi is an Ahwazi Arab human rights activist. In October 2005, he and his 17 year old son Ali were arrested following bomb attacks on oil facilities. Ali was executed in March (pictured) after giving a forced confession on Khuzestan TV while drugged by his torturers (click here for more information). Dr Afrawi's daughter was killed by security forces during demonstrations. He has remained in solitary confinement since his arrest and has been denied contact with his lawyers. He and his son, a highly intelligent and promising high school student, were both accused of carrying out the bomb attacks on oil facilities. No-one was injured or killed in the attacks which shut down five oil wells (click here for more information). Dr Afrawi and his son were charged with "waging war on God", a vaguely defined crime covering any opposition to the regime's policies which carries the death penalty.

According to family members, Dr Afrawi repeated his claim during his closed trial and throughout his detention that he has done nothing wrong and has not broken any law. He simply advocated the legitimate basic human rights of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, including the right to study in their own native Arabic language and participation in the socio-political and economic process of their homeland, al-Ahwaz or Khuzestan.

The Iranian regime has destroyed Dr Afrawi's family, who were entirely innocent. Dr Afrawi is now a broken man who is likely to die a miserable death in prison. He has been punished for calling for the government to act in accordance with Article 19 of the Iranian Constitution, which states that "All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege." Ahwazi rights activists are calling on the international community to press for Dr Afrawi's release from prison and compensation for the regime's illegal killing of his children.
Iran: Ahwazi family die in search of clean water

Iran: Ahwazi family die in search of clean water

Although mighty rivers such as the Karun and Karkhe flow through the Ahwazi Arab homeland in Khuzestan, many are struggling to find fresh water to survive in the dryer areas of the province.

The Fars News Agency has reported that members of the Sharifat family living in Chah Salem in Omidieh (Al-Amedeya) died due to a lack of clean water. While desperately digging for water, family members inhaled poisonous gas escaping from the ground. Four family members died and three others were hospitalised. A member of the emergency crew sent to rescue the family was also overcome by the fumes.

The news agency's reporter claimed that there was a lack of rescue facilities in the area and that the rural population was suffering drought and severe under-development.

The region is one of the most oil-rich areas in the world, producing around 80 per cent of Iran's oil output. However, absolute poverty rates are around 50 per cent among the indigenous Ahwazi Arab community, which represents the majority of people in Khuzestan (Al-Ahwaz).

Click here for original article
Regime moves to prevent Arab representation on Assembly of Experts

Regime moves to prevent Arab representation on Assembly of Experts

The Governor of Khuzestan (Ahwaz) has appointed only non-Arabs to the committee overseeing the elections of the Arab-majority province's representatives on Iran's Assembly of Experts (Khobregan).

Twelve people were appointed to the committee by the controversial hardline Governor, Amir Hayat Moqaddam, who is an ally of President Mahmoud and a former Revolutionary Guards commander. The appointments included representatives of the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance and the intelligence and security agencies as well as the provincial attorney general and the head of the electoral registration office.

The Assembly of Experts is a congressional body of 86 Ayatollahs which selects the Supreme Leader (Valiye-Faqih) and supervises his activities. It is elected every eight years with the next election due in December. Khuzestan province, called Al-Ahwaz by its Arab population, elects six representatives to the Assembly of Experts.

Khuzestan's representatives on the Assembly of Experts have been involved in missionary activities in the UK through the Islamic Centre of England, which promotes Iran's brand of religious extremism among Muslims in the West. The current ICE director is Abdolhossein Moezi, a Khuzestan representative on the Assembly of Experts, who is also a trustee of the controversial Irshad Trust (click here for more information). He took over from Mohsen Araki, another Khuzestan representative on the Assembly of Experts, as Khamenei's personal representative in London. The religious extremism of Khuzestan's members on the Assembly of Experts is not representative of the Ahwazi Arab culture, which does not share the regime's hostility to the West.

The regime is keen to prevent Ahwazi Arabs from standing for election to the Assembly of Experts due to the growth of. In February 2003, the Wefagh party, an Arab ultra-reformist group, won all but one of the seats on the Ahwaz City Council in elections that were relatively fair. The Wefagh (Harmony) party has since been banned, its secretary general was barred from seeking re-election to parliament in 2004 and a number of party activists were imprisoned. The crushing of Wefagh ended Ahwazi Arab hopes of securing their rights through constitutional means, leading to an upsurge in anti-regime activism in Ahwaz.

The appointments to the election committee, which vets candidates and controls election procedures, appear to be an attempt by the regime to ensure that the outcome of the election to the Assembly of Experts is favourable to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his ally President Ahmadinejad. The composition of the election committee also highlights the discrimination against Ahwazi Arabs, preventing them from seeking public office.

Campaign news

The only Arab member of the Assembly of Experts, Abbas Kaabi, is seeking re-election by campaigning to reduce sentences for Ahwazi political prisoners and greater press freedom. However, over the past year, he has been unable or unwilling to use his position to stop the imprisonment of Ahwazi children, land confiscations and the closure of local newspapers by the regime.
Iran forces arrest Arab gunmen

Iran forces arrest Arab gunmen

Iranian security forces arrested four Arab gunmen in Susangerd (Khafajieh), near the Iraq border, after an exchange of fire, according to Iran's Fars News Agency. According to a border battalion commander, the gunmen injured two soldiers during a gun battle. Iranian forces seized a small arms cache including two Kalashnikov assault rifles, a pistol, a magazine with 22 bullets and five pistol bullters. The Iranian security forces claim the men are outlaws rather than insurgents.
Link to Fars News Agency report
Three Ahwazis face execution after Eid

Three Ahwazis face execution after Eid


Three Ahwazis have been sentenced to death on trumped up charges of theft in order to intimidate Iran's restive Ahwazi Arab population.

Twelve people were convicted of armed robbery in Ahwaz, Ramez, Tostar and Amedeya, involving the theft of 22 cows, 104 sheep, a television set and one million toman (US$1,100) in cash, according to the government-owned Rozan newspaper.

A local Persian language newspaper reported the following sentences for theft:

- Abbas (aka Zeabel), 33 years old - public execution, 300 lashes and five million rials (US$550) fine

- Hamad, 45 years old - 10 years imprisonment, public execution

- Al C (aka Ka'abi), 37 years old - 10 years imprisonment, public execution

- Rahim A (aka Askarawi and Bejawi) - amputation of right hand and left foot, 10 years imprisonment

- Sabbah M - amputation of right hand and left foot, 10 years imprisonment

- Hanash A (aka Kasraji) - 10 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

- Salah Sh - 10 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

- Karim Sh (aka Bader Na'ami) - 10 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

- Marzogh A, 45 years old - 10 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

- Mohammed Sh, 43 years old - 10 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

- Jalil Kh (aka Jenadeleh), 27 years old - 10 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

- Sadegh L - 10 years imprisonment, 74 lashes

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "The nature and timing of the convictions and the harshness of the punishments meted out by the courts is alarming. We do not pretend that Ahwazis do not commit crime or that the region does not suffer its share of criminality. But we are aware that the regime wants to use executions, amputations, beatings and long prison sentences against Ahwazis as a show of force. Yet, they are accused of nothing more than theft and could well be entirely innocent, given Iran's poor standards of justice.

"Last year's Eid al-Fitr was marked by peaceful protests by Ahwazis who used the Islamic festival to display their cultural identity. The protests were violently put down by the government and hundreds were subsequently arrested. This year, the regime wants to remind Ahwazis of its cruelty and that it is prepared to kill to silence dissent.

"These sentences are also intended to smear the Ahwazi people, sending out a message to the rest of Iran that Arabs are uncivilised and criminal. Such racism against non-Persian minorities is endemic in Iran - Arabs are criminals, Azeris are stupid, Balochis are drug smugglers, etc - and is intended to justify poor treatment of these groups.

"Like fascism in Europe, the Iranian regime is resorting to state terrorism and racism to divide and rule the Iranian population."
Ahwazis back African Union action on Darfur

Ahwazis back African Union action on Darfur

Ahwazi Arab groups have joined British politicians, academics and human rights campaigners in calling for greater international action to prevent genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

Director of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation Karim Abdian, senior Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz official Mansour Silawi Ahwazi and Nasser Bani Assad of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) are among the 55 signatories of a petition by the Henry Jackson Society for greater support for African Union peace enforcement troops in Sudan. Other signatories include Nobel Peace Prize winner Lord Trimble, academics such as Prof Vernon Bogdanor and Prof Roger Scruton and think tank members such as John Lehman and Bruce Jackson.

The petition, which was sent to the EU, US, British, German, French, Indian and South African governments, called the Sudanese government's treatment of black Darfurians a "calculated strategy of intimidation and ethnic cleansing ... designed to kill, remove or enslave black people in Darfur", killing 200,000 and forced two million people from their homes. It warned that "should the situation deteriorate further, it will spill over and damage an already unstable region, creating a breeding ground for extremism and terror" and accused China of supporting repressive African regimes in return for oil concessions.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "Ahwazi Arabs stand in solidarity with all oppressed minorities, even when the oppressor is an Arab-led government like Sudan. We believe that the international community must act forcefully to prevent ethnic cleansing wherever it occurs.

"The Ahwazis have a common cause with the Darfurians. Both are being oppressed in the name of religion and both are being cleansed from their homelands for the sake of Chinese exploitation of oil resources. The Chinese have large oil concessions in Southern Darfur and Sinopec has a 51 per cent stake in the massive Yadavaran oilfield which lies in the Ahwazi Arab homeland. Both Ahwazis and Darfurians are impoverished and forced from their lands because greedy foreign oil companies want to drain their homelands' resources."

Click here for full HJS letter
"Tehran's secret war against its own people" - Peter Tatchell

"Tehran's secret war against its own people" - Peter Tatchell

The following article is written by British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and appears in today's edition of The Times

"NEVER AGAIN" is, I fear, a phrase that we may hear again all too soon - but too late to warn people, let alone save lives. Under the cover of secrecy the fundamentalist regime in Tehran is waging a sustained, bloody campaign of intimidation and persecution against its Arab minority. These Arabs believe that they are victims of "ethnic cleansing" by Iran's Persian majority.

Sixteen Arab rights activists have been sentenced to death, according to reports in the Iranian media. They were found guilty of insurgency in secret trials before revolutionary courts. But most of the defendants were convicted solely on the basis of confessions extracted under torture. Ten are expected to be hanged in a couple of weeks, after the end of Ramadan. Amnesty International says that two of those sentenced to die, Abdolreza Nawaseri and Nazem Bureihi, were in prison when they were alleged to have been involved in bomb attacks. Three others - Hamza Sawari, Jafar Sawari and Reisan Sawari - say that they were nowhere near the Zergan oilfield the day it was bombed.

The death sentences seem designed to silence protests by Iran's persecuted ethnic Arabs. They comprise 70 per cent of the population of the south-west province of Khuzestan, known locally as Ahwaz. Many Ahwazis believe that the 16 were framed and that their real "crime" was campaigning against Tehran's repression and exploitation of their oil-rich homeland.

Further show trials are planned - 50 Ahwazi Arab activists have been charged with insurgency since last year. They are accused of being mohareb or enemies of God, which is a capital crime. Other allegations include sabotage and possession of home-made bombs. No material evidence has been offered to support the charges. All face possible execution.

Securing information about the impending hangings has been difficult. The authorities are notoriously secretive, often withholding information about charges, evidence and sentences. Foreign journalists are severely restricted and local reporters are intimidated with threats of imprisonment. Despite this official obfuscation, human rights groups confirm a new wave of repression against Ahwazi Arabs who accuse Tehran of "ethnic cleansing" and racism. Ali Afrawi, 17, and Mehdi Nawaseri, 20, were publicly hanged in March for allegedly participating in insurgency. Amnesty International condemned their trial as "unfair". They were denied access to lawyers. The Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) says that seven other Arab political prisoners were secretly executed at around the same time.

Tehran's latest tactic is to hold Ahwazi children as hostages. According to Amnesty International, children as young as 2 have been jailed with their mothers to force their fugitive, political-activist fathers to surrender to the police. Protests against these abuses are brutally suppressed. Ahwazi political parties, trade unions and student groups are illegal. In the past year, 25,000 Ahwazis have been arrested, 131 executed and 150 have disappeared, reports AHRO. The bodies of many of those executed have been dumped in a place that the Government calls lanat abad, the place of the damned. They are buried in shallow graves; dogs dig up and eat the bodies.

Nearly 250,000 Arabs have been displaced from their villages after the Iranian Government's confiscation of more than 200,000 hectares of farmland for a huge sugar-cane project. Dozens more towns and villages will be erased, making a possible further 400,000 Ahwazis homeless, by the creation of a military-industrial security zone, covering more than 3,000 sq km, along the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which borders Iraq.

Ironically, the Hezbollah in Lebanon - the supposed embodiment of Arab resistance in the Middle East - is complicit in the displacement of Ahwazi Arabs. On confiscated Arab land Tehran has set up training camps for Hezbollah and for the Badr Brigades, the Iraqi fundamentalist militia. Badr death squads in Iraq are murdering Sunnis, unveiled women, gay people, men wearing shorts, barbers, sellers of alcohol and people listening to Western music.

Tehran has a grand plan to make the Ahwazi a minority in their own land through "ethnic restructuring". Financial incentives, such as zero- interest loans, are given to ethnic Persians to settle in Ahwaz. New townships are planned, which will house 500,000 non-Arabs. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of displaced Ahwazis eke out a subsistence existence in shanty towns on the outskirts of Ahwaz city. Others have been forcibly relocated to poverty-stricken, far-flung northern regions of Iran.

Ahwaz produces 90 per cent of Iran's oil and Tehran expropriates all the revenues. An attempt by Ahwaz MPs to secure the repatriation of 1.5 per cent of these earnings back to the region for welfare projects was rejected this year. Yet it is the third poorest region of Iran: 80 per cent of the children suffer from malnutrition, and the unemployment rate of Arabs is more than five times that of Persians.

Arab language newspapers and textbooks have been banned to crush Arab identity further. In Ahwaz schools, all instruction is in Farsi (Persian), resulting in a 30 per cent drop-out rate at primary level and 50 per cent at secondary level. Illiteracy rates among Arabs are at least four times those of non-Arabs.

Contrary to Tehran's nationalist propaganda most Ahwazi Arabs just want a measure of self-government; they are not hellbent on independence or in league with the CIA or plotting for an American invasion. Quite the contrary, they fear that Western sabre-rattling will be used as a pretext by Tehran's hardliners to crack down savagely on dissent. Which makes it all the more disturbing that one of the few bodies with diplomatic muscle - the Arab League, which professes pan-Arab solidarity - is so silent in the face of Iran's persecution of Arabs.

Click here to go to Peter Tatchell's article in The Times

Links
Tehran is a Racist State, as well as a Homophobic one - Peter Tatchell, 3 August 2006
The threat of Tehran - Peter Tatchell, The Guardian, 24 April 2006
Rights Activist Peter Tatchell Joins Ahwazi Protest in London - BAFS, 22 April
Solidarity with the Ahwazi Arab freedom struggle - Peter Tatchell, 15 April 2006
Messages of Solidarity for Ahwazis for Intifada Anniversary - BAFS, 14 April 2006
Iran: Ahwazi port workers protest at non-payment of wages

Iran: Ahwazi port workers protest at non-payment of wages

Ahwazi port workers have clashed with police in recent days during protests at the non-payment of wages.

Hundreds of workers employed at port facilities and ship building industries in Mohamareh (Khorammshahr) and Abadan, situated on the left bank of the Shatt Al-Arab waterway, are complaining that their wages are months in arrears. In the past week, they have protested outside the offices of the provincial governor demanding action and have staged three-day strikes. Instead of respecting their right to lawful protest, trade union membership and labour rights, port owners have sacked those who have protested against non-payment.

The Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) has reported hundreds of job losses of protesting workers at Mohamereh port facilities (click for further details). This includes 20 workers employed by Armin Gostar in Abadan who were sacked for protesting against non-payment of wages and lack of labour rights, according to ILNA.

Employees of Jangineh Brick Baking Factory have also staged protests outside the governor's office in Ahwaz, the provincial capital, claiming they had not been paid for 12 months and had not received annual bonuses for two years.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power proclaiming that he would tackle corruption and poverty. Under his administration, the situation facing Ahwazi workers is worsening. Instead of backing the workers, he is calling out the troops to repress them. If they refuse to work, they lose their jobs. This is not an option in a region like Ahwaz (Khuzestan), where unemployment is high, particularly among ethnic Arabs.

"After months of wage arrears many feel they have nothing to lose by going on strike and taking to the streets in protest. Workers are struggling to feed their families and pay for housing. Yet, the Ahwaz region is one of the most oil rich in the world. The oil revenue is going straight into the pockets of the mullahs while workers are forced into virtual slavery. Iran is breaking international labour codes and should be chastised by the international community for its poor treatment of workers."