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: Flawed trials and injustice

The following is an article by Peter Tatchell, which appeared on the Guardian's website today - click here to download the original and participate in the on-line debate.

The planned hanging of 11 activists in Iran look like a deliberate attempt by Tehran to intimidate and silence Ahwazi Arab protests.

This week, 11 Ahwazi Arab rights activists are scheduled to be hanged in Iran. They will by strung up by cranes in public squares, using the slow strangulation method, which is deliberately designed to maximise and prolong their suffering. This is "justice" in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Instead of pressing President Ahmadinejad to commute these death sentences, Tony Blair seems more interested in enlisting Iran's help to get him and George Bush out of the mess in Iraq. Mr Blair's speech at the Guildhall on Monday night implored Tehran to stop supporting terrorism in Iraq and abide by its international obligations on nuclear non-proliferation. Not a word about Iran's duty to uphold international human rights laws.

Mr Blair may not care about human rights in Iran, but the international campaign against the execution of the 11 Arab activists is backed by Labour MP Chris Bryant, Conservative MP Michael Gove and Green MEPs Caroline Lucas and Jean Lambert.

The condemned men were found guilty of bombing oil installations in 2005. But no material evidence of their guilt was offered at their trial. In fact, all the evidence points to their innocence. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have repeatedly expressed serious concern about the fairness of trials involving Ahwazi Arabs and the safety of their convictions.

The men's lawyers were not allowed to see them prior to their trial and they were given the prosecution case only hours before the start of the court proceedings. The trials were held in secret. Witnesses for the defence were refused permission to testify. The lawyers for the condemned men were recently arrested for complaining about the illegal and unjust nature of the trials. They face charges of threatening national security.

Family members say the men sentenced to death were tortured into making false confessions, which were broadcast on Iranian television on Monday night. In a recent letter to the chief of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, one of Iran's leading human rights advocates, Emadeddin Baghi, said that the trials of Ahwazi Arabs were flawed, the charges baseless, and that the sentencing was based on a spurious interpretation of the law.

According to the Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation and the British-Ahwazi Friendship Society, these men have been framed as part of Tehran's on-going persecution of its Ahwazi Arab ethnic minority population in the south-west Iranian province of Khuzestan.

Ahwazi Arabs accuse Tehran of Persian chauvinism, racism and ethnic cleansing, as I recently exposed in Tribune. The response from Islamists and their far left apologists was to accuse me of being racist and anti-Muslim. How can it be Islamophobic or racist to defend Arab Muslims against Tehran's persecution?

Anyway, don't take my word for it. Amnesty International has also expressed concern about the victimisation of the Arab minority in Iran. The planned hangings look like a deliberate attempt by Tehran to intimidate and silence Ahwazi Arab protests against ethnic subjugation and mass impoverishment.

The Ahwazi Arab homeland produces 90% of Iran's oil output and 10% of Opec's global production. Tehran expropriates all the oil revenues, leaving the region as the third poorest in the country, with near-African levels of poverty.

Tehran treats Arabs similarly, in some respects, to the way the South African apartheid regime treated black people. Under apartheid, black pupils were compelled to take school lessons in the oppressor language of Afrikaans. Likewise, Tehran has banned Arabic in Ahwazi schools and made instruction in Farsi (Persian) compulsory. The result is a 30% Arab drop-out rate at primary level and a 50% drop-out rate at secondary level. Illiteracy rates among Arabs are at least four times those of non-Arabs.

This ethnic persecution is one aspect of Tehran's systemic human rights abuses. Iran also executes Muslims who turn away from their faith, unchaste women and gay people. According to Amnesty International, its prisons are full of political prisoners: Sunni Muslims, Bahais, Kurds, trade unionists, students, journalists, lawyers, communists and human rights advocates.

On land confiscated from Ahwazi Arabs, Iran is training, financing and arming Islamist death squads in Iraq. With Tehran's approval, these killers are murdering Sunni Muslims, men wearing jeans and shorts, unveiled women, barbers, sellers of alcohol and videos, and people who listen to western music or who have a stylish haircut.

Contrary to Tehran's misinformation campaign, the vast majority of Ahwazi Arabs reject separatism. They want regional self-government, not independence. Nor do they support a US invasion. This would, they argue, strengthen the position of the hardliners in Tehran, allowing President Ahmadinejad to use the pretext of defence and security to play the nationalist card and to further crack down on dissent. Many Ahwazis believe the route to reform - for the benefit of all the people of Iran - is an internal alliance of Iranian democrats, leftists, trade unionists, minority nationalities and local civic organisations.


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