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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.