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Iran continues mass executions of Ahwazis: seven more to hang

The Iranian government is continuing to defy a UN General Assembly resolution passed in Novemeber that condemned "increasing discrimination and other human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities" by announcing that a further seven Ahwazi Arab opposition activists will be executed in coming days.

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).

A further three Ahwazis were sentenced to death on 1 January. 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).

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has published the names of seven Ahwazis facing imminent execution:

1. Ghasem Salami, 41, married with 6 children
2. Mohammad Lazem Kaabpour, 28, married with one child, student at Shushtar University
3. Abdolamir Farjolah Kaab, 26, married, student at Shushtar University
4. Alireza Asakereh, 24, single from Maashur (Mahshahr)
5. Majad Albughbish, 30, single from Maashur (Mahshahr)
6. Abdolreza Sanawati, 34, married from Ahwaz City
7. Khalaf Dohrab Khanafereh, 34, married with one child from Falahieh
The families of these men were informed yesterday by Iranian authorities in Ahwaz that they will be executed within the next few days.

On November 13, 2006, the Iranian regime broadcast videos of forced confessions of 11 Ahwazi Arabs on Khuzestan TV but due to international outrage including unanimous condemnation by the European Parliament in a resolution on November 16, 2006, as well as a resolution by 48 British MPs and similar actions by other EU parliaments, the execution of the these men was delayed.

There is a great deal of confusion over the number of Ahwazis who are facing execution

On 9 November, Abbas Jaafari Dowlatabadi, head of Iran's Judiciary in the southern province of Khuzistan, told the Islamic Republic News Agency that Iran's Supreme Court had confirmed the execution sentence of at least 19 of the 35 Iranian Arabs sentenced to death by Ahwaz Revolutionary Court.

These men have been found guilty of allegedly bombing oil installations at Southwestern Iranian province of Khuzesatn (al-Ahwaz), homeland to 5 million Ahwazi-Arabs. All men are members of the persecuted Ahwazi community. The trials were deeply flawed, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international and Iranian human rights organizations. All the evidence points to their innocence.

All these men were tortured into making false confessions. Their 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 trial, which was held in secret. The lawyers for the condemned men - all but one of whom are Ahwazi Arabs - have been arrested for complaining about the illegal and unjust nature of the men's trials. They have been charged with threatening national security.

Although Ahwazi-Arab homeland in Iran's Khuzestan province is one of the most oil-rich regions in the world and represents up to 90 per cent of Iran's oil production. Yet this community endures extreme levels of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. Ahwazis are subjected to repression, racial discrimination and faced with land confiscation, forced displacement and forced assimilation.

The convictions are evidently arbitrary and are intended to collectively punish Ahwazi Arabs for opposing the system of apartheid that they are subjected to.

Peaceful opposition among Ahwazi Arabs to the Iranian regime's racist policies of ethnic cleansing has been brutally suppressed. Since April 15, 2005 the beginning of the Ahwazi Intifada (Uprising), over 25,000 Ahwazis were arrested, at least 131 were killed and over 150 were disappeared (believed to have been tortured and killed by Iranian security forces). Iranian authorities level accusations against the USA, Great Britain and Israel as the cause of Ahwazi demands for democracy, social and economic justice. Ethnic cleansing against Iranian-Arabs in Khuzestan has intensified since the mid-1990s, particularly following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.