President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is planning to visit Ahwaz on Tuesday, the day after three Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death for opposing his regime.
According to the President's press department Ahmadinejad is scheduled to tour a number of Arab towns, including Ahwaz, Mohammara (Khorramshahr) and Abadan. He will be accompanied by members of his cabinet, supposedly to meet with the people and discuss their problems.
However, Arabs who have attempted to demonstrate peacefully against Iran's land confiscation and Persianisation programmes have faced arrest, summary execution and torture.
On Monday, three Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death by Mashahr Revolutionary Court on charges of "waging war against God" and acting against national security, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA). The Iranian media has referred to the three men only by their initials: H A, A M and H H. They were tortured into giving confessions, but are contesting the verdicts and the cases will be referred to Iran's Supreme Court.
Three Ahwazis were executed in Karoun Prison on 19 December, despite a worldwide campaign backed by the European Parliament which called for a halt to the execution of Arab rights activists (click here for more information). Iranian prisoners' rights activist Emadeddin Baghi has also called for a stop to the hangings, claiming that the charges against the men are dubious, the trial process is flawed and the executions are fuelling instability in the Ahwaz region (click here for his appeal to the Chief of the Judiciary).
According to the Tehran-based Ahwazi journalist Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf, 20 Ahwazi Arabs have been sentenced to death in the past year with many more waiting trial for political crimes that carry the death penalty (click here to read his article in Arabic).
Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Ahmadinejad claim that he is listening to the poor and dispossessed is belied by the brutal methods meted out to any Ahwazi Arab campaigning for minority rights. Arab groups seeking constitutional means of advancing the rights agenda have been banned and their leaders imprisoned or executed.
"Ahmadinejad has no interest in the poor of Ahwaz and the Ahwazi Arabs despise his government, as shown in the recent muncipal elections. Pro-Ahmadinejad candidates failed to achieve any significant support despite a successful boycott campaign by his opponents which saw turn-out fall to around 40 per cent. His visit to Ahwaz is not welcomed by the local population."