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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...

Ahwazi response to Sunday Telegraph allegations

Ahwazi response to Sunday Telegraph allegations

Below is a letter from UK-based Ahwazi organisations to the editor of the Sunday Telegraph in relation to an article that made unsubstantiated allegations that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is funding and organising Ahwazi separatist organisations to carry out bomb attacks in Iran. Click here to read the Sunday Telegraph article.

If the Sunday Telegraph's reports of CIA involvement in bomb attacks in Ahwaz are correct, then it is clear the US government is not listening to the Ahwazi Arab movement. If it had, then the first demand it would have heard would not be arms but the deployment of UN human rights observers to report on the Iranian regime's ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs from their homeland in Khuzestan, the denial of their cultural rights and the African levels of poverty they are forced to endure.

Iranian opposition groups representing Arabs, Azeris, Balochis and Kurds have repeatedly stated that they do not receive and do not seek to receive financial or military support from Western governments. They want to retain their political independence and do not want to be pawns in geopolitical power games.

Ahwazi Arabs know more than anyone the price of war, following eight years of the Iran-Iraq war which was fought over their homeland. They no longer want to be a cause that foreign powers pick up and discard when it suits them. They want a permanent political settlement of their long-standing grievances against the chauvinist regime in Tehran. War will only give Iran more excuses to persecute its minorities.

Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO)
Ahwaz Community Association of the UK (ACA-UK)
British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS)
Iran: Ethnic minorities facing new wave of human rights violations

Iran: Ethnic minorities facing new wave of human rights violations

Below is a report by Amnesty International. Click here to download the original.

Amnesty International is greatly concerned by continuing violations of the rights of members of Iran's ethnic minorities, including Iranian Azerbaijanis, Kurds, Baluchis, and Arabs. Within the past two weeks, hundreds of Iranian Azerbaijani linguistic and cultural rights activists have been arrested in connection with demands that they should be allowed to be educated in their own language; Kurdish rights activists have been detained, and demonstrators killed or injured; and a Baluchi accused of responsibility for a bomb explosion on 14 February 2007 was executed just five days later.

As Iran's ethnic minorities face growing restrictions, Amnesty International is calling on the government to ensure that all Iranian citizens are accorded, both in law and practice, the linguistic and cultural rights set out in Iran's constitution as well as in international law, and are able peacefully to demonstrate in support of such rights. The Iranian authorities must also ensure that the police and other law enforcement agencies do not use excessive force, that all detainees are protected from torture or other ill-treatment, and that all reports of torture or other ill treatment, excessive use of force or killings by the security forces are investigated promptly, thoroughly and independently, with the methods and findings made public. Anyone suspected to be responsible for abuses should be brought to justice promptly in a trial that complies with international standards of fairness, and without recourse to the death penalty.

Iranian Azerbaijanis
The arrests of Iranian Azerbaijanis occurred in the run up to, and during, peaceful demonstrations on International Mother Language Day, an annual commemoration initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on 21 February.

The demonstrations were held to support demands that their own language should be used as the medium of instruction in schools and places of education in those areas of north-west Iran where most Iranian Azerbaijanis reside. The protest organizers are reported to have sought official authorisation in advance, though it is not known whether it was granted. Most of those detained in advance of the demonstrations, which were held in Tabriz, Orumiye and other towns in the north-west, were soon released as of 26 February between 10-20 people may still be held.

Ebrahim Kazemi, Ja'afar 'Abedini and Mehdi Mola'i, were among a group of up to 12 people detained in Qom on or around 11 February 2007, at least two of whom were reportedly arrested for having painted slogans on walls, including 'Türk dilinde medrese' (Schooling in [Azerbaijani] Turkic). They were reportedly held for several days before being released on bail. Ja'afar 'Abedini and Mehdi Mola'i were reportedly ill treated while in detention by being forced by Ministry of Intelligence officials to drink liquids which caused them to vomit.

In Orumiye, up to 60 Iranian Azerbaijanis have reportedly been arrested, including Esmail Javadi, a journalist and Iranian Azerbaijani cultural rights activist. He was arrested on 18 February 2007 and may continue to be held in a Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in the Doqquz Pilleh district of the city.

At least 15 arrests are said to have been made in Zenjan, where a reportedly peaceful demonstration was held in the city's Sabze Square. Those detained include journalist Sa'id Metinpour, well-known locally for his human rights activities; he is said to have had blood on his lips when he was taken away raising concern that he may have been assaulted by police.

Ramin Sadeghi, who was detained in Ardabil on 19 February 2007, is one of approximately 20 who were detained in the city in connection with International Mother Language Day events. Only he remains in detention at the time of writing and his family are reportedly concerned about his medical condition.

Kurds
On 20 February 2007, Kurdish students held an event at Tehran University's Department of Literature. They called for the teaching of Kurdish in Iran's education system and at the University of Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province. The students reportedly signed a public statement which stated, in part, that 'In today's multicultural climate in the world, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other humanitarian principles, every nation should have a right to develop and advance its language.'

In recent months, several Kurdish journalists and human rights defenders have been detained and some are facing trial. In addition, on 16 February 2007, three Kurds, including one woman, were reportedly killed in the course of a demonstration in Mahabad. An unconfirmed report states that a dispute between demonstrators and security forces resulted in the death of Bahman Moradi, aged 18, a woman called Malihe, whose surname is not known to Amnesty International, and one other. Dozens were reportedly injured in the course of the demonstration.

Iranian security forces have a history of the violent suppression of demonstrations by Kurds. For example, in February 2006 similar clashes between Kurdish demonstrators and the security forces in Maku and other towns reportedly led to at least nine deaths and scores, possibly hundreds, of arrests. In March 2006, Kurdish members of parliament (Majles) wrote to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanding an investigation into the killings and calling for those alleged to be responsible to be brought to justice. An investigation was reportedly set up, but its findings are not known. Some of those detained later reportedly received prison terms of between three and eight months.

Baluchis
In the province of Sistan-Baluchistan, the circumstances surrounding the extremely summary trial and execution of an Iranian Baluchi man, Nasrollah Shanbeh-Zehi, who was executed on 19 February 2007, calls into question the standards of administration of justice enjoyed by minorities without discrimination. Among five people reportedly arrested following the 14 February bombing of a bus carrying Revolutionary Guard security officials, which to date has killed a total 14 and injured around 30, Nasrollah Shanbeh-Zehi was shown “confessing” to the bombing on Iranian television on behalf of an Iranian Baluchi armed opposition group, Jondallah, and was executed in public at the site of the bombing.

Jondallah, which has carried out a number of armed attacks on Iranian officials and has on occasion killed hostages, reportedly seeks to defend the rights of the Baluchi people, though government officials have claimed that it is involved in drug smuggling and has ties to terrorist groups and to foreign governments. In March 2006, Jondallah killed 22 Iranian officials and took at least seven hostage in Sistan-Baluchistan province. Following the incident, scores, possibly hundreds, of people were arrested; many were reportedly taken to unknown locations. In the months following the attacks, the number of executions announced in Baluchi areas increased dramatically. Dozens were reported to have been executed by the end of the year

Amnesty International condemns unequivocally the killing of hostages and urges Jondallah to desist from such and similar practices immediately. However, Amnesty International is concerned that Nasrollah Shanbeh-Zehi's "confession" may have been forced, and that the rapidity of his execution indicates that he did not receive a fair trial and was not permitted an adequate opportunity to appeal against his death sentence, if that was imposed by a court.

Arabs
In January and February 2007, Amnesty International deplored the execution of eight Iranian Arabs convicted after unfair trials of bombings in Khuzestan province in 2005. Other Iranian Arab prisoners are also at risk of execution after unfair trials.
Ahwazis at London's Anti-War Demonstration

Ahwazis at London's Anti-War Demonstration

Around 20 Ahwazi Arabs attended Saturday's anti-war march in London, calling for solidarity with those campaigning for revolutionary change in Iran while opposing foreign imposition of regime change.

Ahwazi activists handed out more than 1,500 leaflets informing protestors that Ahwazis needed solidarity not war. The leaflet also highlighted the Iranian regime's ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs and backs their right for self-determination and human rights.

One activist said: "Many people had not heard of the Ahwazis, so we were able to inform them. We found many new friends and we hope we will have even more in the future."

Following the demonstration, a group of Ahwazis attended the launch of Hands Off the People of Iran (HOPI), a campaign group that opposes both military action on Iran and the Iranian regime. Speakers at the meeting - including Ben Lewis of Communist Students, Mark Fischer of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), Peter Tatchell of the Green Party and Torab Saleth of the Workers Left Unity Iran party - called for solidarity with students, workers, women and oppressed ethnic groups opposed to the regime.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "We want to send out a clear message that opposition to war should not be interpreted as support for the chauvinist regime in Tehran.

"Most anti-war activists agree that the Tehran regime is oppressive and undemocratic, but they say it is up to the people to decide its replacement not foreign governments. Many fear that a military attack on Iran would give the Iranian establishment more excuses to repress minority rights activists, trade unionists, feminists and students.

"Senior members of the British anti-war movement have backed the Ahwazis' rights and have called for an end to Iran's anti-Arab execution campaign in Ahwaz. We hope that by publicising the oppression of Ahwazi Arabs at this demonstration, more progressive-minded people will support the Ahwazi movement."
Mobilise the dispossessed

Mobilise the dispossessed

The following is an article by Mehdi Kia, an editor of Iran Bulletin, which was published this week in the Weekly Worker, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Click here to download the original.

Shanty town dwellers make up an ever increasing proportion of the population in the cities of the so-called third world. They have been used as the battering ram of counterrevolution, but this is not inevitable. They can be won by the left. Mehdi Kia looks at the situation in Iran.

In my opinion the left has largely ignored what is in essence a major section of the working class, without whom progressive change is impossible in a country like Iran. I am referring to the millions who live in shanty towns. If we claim to be the advanced representatives of the working class, then we must certainly relate to these people. If we do not do so, others will step in - indeed they are already doing so - in order to mobilise them for reactionary purposes.

I want to look in particular at the situation in Khuzestan, the Arab province of Iran. Khuzestan has a population of 4.35 million, of which about a million are shanty town-dwellers - one third of the urban population. Khuzestan is the richest province in Iran, where all the oil is located, yet one third of its urban population lives illegally in appalling conditions.

The official unemployment rate for the whole of Iran is said to be around 12% and increasing, but the actual figure is way above that. In Khuzestan over the last 10 years official unemployment has risen from 16% to 18%. So in this, the richest province, already high unemployment is rising. It is here that the largest movement of the workforce from the official to the unofficial economy takes place.

The essence of my thesis is that this marginalisation into shanty towns is the geographic expression, if you like, of a deep, structural change within capitalism in Iran and more generally. It is a new phenomenon that has occurred over the last quarter of the 20th century. It did not happen in Marx's time, which is why he had nothing to say about it. The left must learn to understand what this structural change means.

It combines class inequality with ethnic inequality, so that they intermingle and feed on one another. Why is this happening?

Two interlinked processes are involved. One is the dispossession of people from the land and their proletarianisation. After the Iran-Iraq war ended in 1997, the entire reconstruction process speeded up this development.

There was a large-scale movement out of the war zones and a major shift of refugees. Those forced out of their home territories by the Iraqis were not allowed to go back. They were indeed dispossessed of their land. This was a conscious policy decision made by the government after the war. "Security" was the excuse given to justify it.

This move was designed to take the labourers off the land and drive them into the towns. The combination of ethnic repression, the language barrier and the unskilled nature of their work meant they had to compete unequally in the labour market. So within the proletariat minorities ended up at the bottom of the pile. The role of the state was and remains central in this - not only because it used the security argument to bring about their dispossession, but because it is also the biggest single employer.

Part of working class

How should we define shanty-dwellers? They live outside the official demarcation of the city and consequently are excluded from all the services that any urban conglomeration provides: welfare, roads, water, electricity, sewage, etc. They are not just defined by their poverty - they are not the same as the poor who live officially within the cities, since their geographical separation and removal from access to all conventional services puts them in a special and quite different situation.

The Iranian government has recognised the situation of the shanty-dwellers as a real issue, because these were the very people who were, if you like, the battering ram of the islamic revolution during its early period, and the government needed to mobilise them. They provided the main fodder for the war and for all the most repressive aspects of the regime - but now they have become a thorn in the side of the government, representing as they do the most rebellious forces.

The regime has come up with various policies to deal with this, but none has had any real impact. Improving village facilities, in an attempt both to prevent further migration into the cities and to rid the shanty areas of their existing populations by pushing them out back into the villages. The money that has been allocated to this task in the latest budget amounts to about $200 per person, but it has not worked.

So what significance does this population have for socialists? What potential does it have for its own self-liberation? Is there any objective criterion one can use to say that it can actually act in its own liberation and that of others? Have they got any incentive to change and are the conditions right?

Unequivocally, let me make clear that in my understanding shanty-dwellers - whether they live in Iran, Calcutta, Port au Prince or wherever - are members of the working class, of the proletariat, of that very class which we strive to represent. However, their struggle is different from the struggle of the employed working class. Essentially it occurs in the realm of consumption rather than production - although a section does have a role in production, even if it is often intermittent.

Housing

This structural change that has led to the growth and development of such marginalised conditions over the last 25 years needs to be linked to the commodification of housing. In the old village the house was not a commodity, but a use-value. There was no housing shortage. You just built a house with bricks wherever you wanted.

That is no longer the case and these people have no place at all in the commodified housing market. In a way the existence of shanty towns is a phenomenon at the core of which is the extension of capitalism into housing, which is what makes it predominantly an issue in the so-called developing world.

When housing is removed from the "basket of consumption", that actually makes it easier to survive in the competitive capitalist labour market, since many other commodities are also removed at the same time. It is, in a sense, a way of easing the crisis of reproduction in the labour force by going outside commodity relations and reducing the cost of living.

If we accept this, then logically we have to accept that shanty-dwellers, through the removal of their housing from the control of the state, have been removed from its political control to some degree. Already within the shanties a form of self-government operates in these areas of Iran, just as it does in a parallel situation in Brazil, for example.

What are the elements that can provoke rebellion in this group? Shanty towns are often situated around rivers, canals, railways, major road arteries, oil pipelines, places where the shanty-dwellers can "decommodify": ie, steal resources. So, importantly, shanties are not just defined by their poverty, but by their geography. They totally lack basic amenities and are threatened both by the natural elements and by the effects of the social infrastructure - road accidents, flooding, collapsing power lines and so forth.

But they also have some specific freedoms: in particular, freedom from the state's control, which in one sense makes it possible to survive. So shanty-dwellers are in a continuous state of war with the authorities - it is part of their daily life.

However, they need to consolidate their position by retaining what they have gained through struggle. For example, once the attempt to bulldoze them out of existence has been defeated, their next struggle is to extend and improve upon those gains: getting electricity and water supplied; creating shops and schools; winning official recognition for the dwellings they have built and establishing their right of ownership over them.

Resistance

Their resistance often takes the form of riots, taking to the streets. Because they are only on the margins in terms of production, they are hampered from fighting for an increase in their earnings, so what they need to do is fight in order to reduce the cost of consumption. Hence such phenomena as protests against price increases, which manifest themselves in things like bread riots. This means that in Iran the price of bread is in effect fixed - raise the price of bread and you get rioting in the streets.

We should not, however, forget that there is a struggle in the sphere of production as well as in other areas. For example in Ahvaz, one of the main cities in Khuzestan, and in a whole series of other cities in the south of Iran, this took the form of the street vendors' battle to resist efforts by the government to close them down.

In the Arab zone, obviously the issue of language is also important because the combination of shanty dwelling and ethnic discrimination makes language a critical issue. Arab boys who do go to school are at a great disadvantage, because schooling is carried out in Farsi. Language is not just an emotional issue, but a material one in terms of conditions and access to the labour market. In a multilingual society like Iran, where ethnic discrimination is so prevalent, the right to be educated in your own language becomes one of the fundamental democratic demands - not only for the various national movements, but also for the left.

Acts of rebellion are the main weapon is all such struggles. For example, road closures. This is actually an economic act, because it clearly blocks economic activity and is the equivalent of strike action in a factory and can have a similar impact. Revolts tend to take the form of protesting against something rather than demanding concrete improvements. For the shanty-dweller, rebellion is a continuous process, a way of life.

What is perhaps not understood is that rebellion is virtually always successful - perhaps not immediately or in full, but almost always the rebels will get something of what they ask for. Although the street vendors' protests were initially broken up and repressed, the government subsequently agreed to allow them space to trade. Remember that the Iranian revolution was itself triggered by rebellions in many areas over a number of years.

In addition shanty-dwellers do have a degree of bargaining power, in that, although they are outside the official structures, they are legally entitled to vote. This can create pressure for concessions. Of course, this has a downside we are all familiar with - the islamic movement is sometimes able to mobilise the shanty-dwellers for its own purposes - into military or paramilitary organisations, for example.

The neoliberals have also used them as a means of reducing the cost of production - indeed their lack of access to normal provision of services means a reduction in costs to the state. But the left as a whole has ignored the slums and shanty towns, despite the fact that in Iran there are around 10 million people (one sixth of the population) who occupy them and that figure is likely to double in the next decade.
Role of the left

We need to understand the forms of struggle that this section of the working class is engaged in and intervene within them in an effort to deepen and expand them. Initially we need to be aware that their needs are particularly in the sphere of welfare. The islamists have seen this and responded to it, but the left has not. Why don't left doctors, lawyers and teachers go in there and get involved?

We need to help them maintain their relative freedom from central control. The more we can expand those aspects that are outside the sphere of commodity production, the more we can weaken capitalism. Instead we should aid the process of creating use-value - in other words, the establishment of cooperatives and so forth, thereby reducing the private ownership of the means of production.

We need to be able to create equal relations in terms of tackling ethnic and gender inequalities - especially the latter, because it is women who are very often the prime movers in these forms of struggle. They are the ones at the forefront of demonstrations and blocking streets.

Given that these struggles are currently geographically isolated, we need to try to unite them across the country. This also means linking up the struggle of the shanty town-dwellers with those of other sections of the working class. It was sad to see the oil workers not intervening when the street vendors throughout Khuzestan were fighting for their rights. Unity between those working in the industrial sector and the people in the shanty towns becomes a critical factor and it is our job to help link these struggles together. This population is very vulnerable and fragile in terms of the attraction of populism - something which has been exploited by the islamists.

So addressing these people's welfare interests is primary at this stage. And we need to link their struggles for such things as work and housing with the democratic demands for freedom and equality. The left really needs to understand that these people are in a struggle for survival and they need help to achieve self-organisation. We should have done what the damned mullahs have done, but done it better.

The shanty-dwellers are not just part of the reserve army of the proletariat. In some areas they are the proletariat. For instance, in one industrial region near Tehran some 90% work in factories.

Their struggle is also intrinsically connected to the national question. Being the underdogs of the proletariat is a reflection of their status as members of minority ethnic groups. There has been increasing class polarisation within the national movements between the bourgeoisie and the working class. Undoubtedly the slogan of self-determination is important, but we do not want to simply transfer power from one bourgeoisie to another, allowing them to remain exploited in the same way.

As the lowest level of labour, these people require a different kind of organisation from what we have traditionally had. The way to do this is to focus on their struggles - organisation will develop through the struggle itself, rather than on the basis of an organisation set up to create struggle.

If the leadership of the struggle is not in the hands of the left - and so far we have largely ignored it - then reactionary forces will be there to exploit the shanty dwellers as part of their aim to crush the urban working class.
Ahwazi opposition activists support London anti-war demonstration

Ahwazi opposition activists support London anti-war demonstration

Members of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) will be joining the Stop the War demonstration in London on Saturday.

The march will protest against military intervention in the Middle East, among other issues. BAFS activists will be distributing a leaflet calling for solidarity with those campaigning for grass-roots revolutionary change in Iran and opposing foreign imposition of regime change.

The leaflet also highlights the Iranian regime's ethnic cleansing of Ahwazi Arabs and backs their right for self-determination and human rights.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "We want to send out a clear message that opposition to war should not be interpreted as support for the chauvinist regime in Tehran.

"The regime cannot assume that opposition to war means support for its foreign policy objectives. Most anti-war activists agree that the Tehran regime is oppressive and undemocratic, but they say it is up to the people to decide its replacement not foreign governments. Many fear that a military attack on Iran would give the Iranian establishment more excuses to repress minority rights activists, trade unionists, feminists and students.

"Senior members of the British anti-war movement have backed the Ahwazis' rights and have called for an end to Iran's anti-Arab execution campaign in Ahwaz. We hope that by publicising the oppression of Ahwazi Arabs at this demonstration, more progressive-minded people will support the Ahwazi movement."

Among those who have voiced their support for Ahwazi Arab rights are Green MEP Dr Caroline Lucas and left-wing Labour leadership contender John McDonnell.

Following the demonstration, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell will be speaking against war and against the Iranian regime at a Hands Off the People of Iran campaign meeting. He will also speak out against the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs. The meeting will be held at 5pm on Saturday at the Essex Serpent, 6 King Street, Covent Garden, London.

Click here to download the leaflet
Misappropriation and theft of ethnic Arab lands in South Iran

Misappropriation and theft of ethnic Arab lands in South Iran

By Mrs Pooran Saki

Major General Mohsen Rezai, ex-Commander of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps has declared that the government is going to take over land in Dashte Azadagan (Bani Torof) in order to use it as a War Museum.

Dashte Azadagan is in the South of Iran and is populated by ethnic Arabs, who lived here before Iran was formed as a state. During the Iran-Iraq war, this area suffered very heavily - the warfare caused massive damage which destroyed most of the city's buildings, and contaminating the air and water with chemical pollution. The region is still shockingly deficient in educational levels and facilities, in health provision and farming resources, but the Iranian government deliberately ignores the problems.

Now a new deception is to be perpetrated on this region - the government state that they want to seize the land in order to control the area, thereby forcing the ethnic Arab citizens to move from their local region to other parts of Iran.

The government carried out this fraud in 1990, when they demanded that all Arab farmers sell their land, compulsorily and at an unjustly low price. The government stated that they were going to grow sucrose in this area. Of course what they really want is to have a monopoly on oil production, which is also known to be there.

Eventually all the farmers left, without their jobs or livelihoods, and without sufficient funds to purchase new lands. Later, the government changed the traditional system of irrigation and polluted the water. This had a catastrophic effect, for many diseases spread around the region, and this led to many ethnic Arabs moving away from their local area.

I, as an Arab from Ahwaz, protest against this underhand exploitation and misappropriation of ethnic Arab, which is impoverishing and driving out the people, and amounts to no less than theft. Why is Mr Razaiye considering a new War Museum? The local population, who have been victims of the war have a greater need to have the region cleared of mines and chemical pollution, and they need to be safe and secure.

Why do we continue to hear about children being killed by mines or dying slowly from mysterious diseases? This is unacceptable. Are these people being made to suffer because of their minority ethnic Arab status?
Iran claims US - Al-Qaeda alliance behind Balochistan attack

Iran claims US - Al-Qaeda alliance behind Balochistan attack

The Iranian regime has accused the US of backing a group it says is linked to Al-Qaeda for a bomb attack on a bus in Balochistan in the east of Iran, which killed 12 members of the Revolutionary Guards.

Jundullah (Army of Allah), an Islamist group operating in the Balochi homeland, claimed responsibility for the attack in Zahedan. Police say they have arrested 65 suspects with links to British and US intelligence and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. They also claim that the bombs were manufactured by US forces.

The regime's far-fetched conspiracy theory has parallels with its claim of British and US involvement in bomb attacks in the Ahwazi Arab homeland in Khuzestan, bordering Iraq, during 2005 and 2006. It has made various unproven claims relating to the perpetrators of the Ahwaz attacks, including British soldiers, British-sponsored Arab separatists, Arab reformist groups, the Iraq-based Mujahideen-e-Khalq, Iraqi Ba'athists and Saudi Wahhabists. The regime does not appear to make any distinction between the ideological differences between the groups it says are backed by Western forces.

Balochistan straddles the Iran-Pakistan border and is predominantly Sunni. Balochis have long-standing grievances relating to religious persecution by the Shia-dominated regime in Tehran, high rates of poverty and state terrorism. The situation in the Balochi and Ahwazi Arab homelands is similar, although the Ahwazis are mostly Shia. The regime's treatment of Balochis and Arabs is identical: ethnic repression, mass arrests of dissidents, arbitrary and illegal killings, land confiscations and forced displacement. The regime tends to blame any reaction among these ethnic groups to its brutal oppression on foreign governments.
UNPO in appeal to UNHRC over Iran's execution of Ahwazis

UNPO in appeal to UNHRC over Iran's execution of Ahwazis

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) has appealed to Luis Alfonso de Alba, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, to call on the Iranian regime "to cease in the use of the death penalty as a weapon of fear and oppression" following this week's killing of four Ahwazi Arab opposition activists.

The organisation, which lobbies on behalf of groups representing Iran's Ahwazi, Azeri and Kurdish minorities, also urged de Alba to call on Iran to "uphold its obligations with regard to civil and political rights, including the provision of equal rights to ethnic, religious and minority groups in Iran."

UNPO has suggested the establishment of an investigation team, mandated by the UNHRC, to "consider the series of arrests, trials, and executions, with findings reported to the UN General Assembly."

In his letter to de Alba, UNPO General Secretary Mario Busdachin wrote that "In the wake of this series of executions, UNPO is particularly alarmed at the systematic targeting of ethnic Ahwazi Arabs and the fact that the Iranian Judiciary in many of the cases conducts secret trials, effectively denying the defendants the most fundamental of legal rights ...

"UNPO remains deeply concerned by the routine arrest and execution of Iran's dissidents and has repeatedly called for international action to address the deteriorating human rights situation faced by the Ahwazi Arab population of Iran."

The UNPO is among a number of organisations calling for an end to the execution of Ahwazi Arab activists. Since Wednesday's executions, appeals have been issued by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation.
Iran: Amnesty International condemns executions after unfair trials

Iran: Amnesty International condemns executions after unfair trials

Below is a public statement by Amnesty International on the recent executions of four Ahwazis this week:

Amnesty International greatly deplores the execution of four Iranian Arabs on 14 February 2007 and is concerned that other prisoners are at risk of execution after unfair trials.

The organization is calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately halt executions and to ensure that all persons in detention are protected from torture or other ill-treatment. To date in 2007, Amnesty International has recorded no less than 28 executions in Iran, including the four on 14 February 2007.

One of the four men, Risan Sawari, a 32-year-old teacher, was reportedly executed yesterday in an unknown location in Khuzestan. His family was reportedly informed of his execution but his body is yet to be released for burial. Risan Sawari had reportedly been arrested in April 2005, released and arrested again in September 2005.

Although seven men were said to have been convicted of involvement in bomb attacks in October 2005 - which caused the deaths of at least six people and wounded more than a hundred others, in Ahvaz city, Khuzestan province - nine men, including Risan Sawari, were shown "confessing" on Khuzestan TV, a local government-controlled television station in Iran, on 1 March 2006. Among them were Mehdi Nawaseri and Ali Awdeh Afrawi, who were hanged in public the following morning.

On 10 June 2006 Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court in Ahvaz had reportedly confirmed the death sentences against Risan Sawari along with nine other men. According to reports, the 10 men were accused of being mohareb (at enmity with God) which can carry the death penalty. Evidence against them reportedly included "destabilising the country", "attempting to overthrow the government", "possession of home made bombs", "sabotage of oil installations" and carrying out bombings in Ahvaz, which took place between June and October 2005. It is not known if the death sentence against Risan Sawari was upheld by the Supreme Court.

In a separate case, the other three men executed together - believed to be Abdulreza Sanawati Zergani, Qasem Salamat and Majed Alboghubaish - were reportedly convicted, together with seven others, of being mohareb (at enmity with God) on account of their alleged involvement in bomb attacks in 2005 in Ahvaz city, Khuzestan province. They are reported to have been held in solitary confinement for months during, and possibly after, their pre-trial detention and to have been convicted and sentenced after grossly unfair trials, which included denial of access to lawyers.

In an interview at the end of January 2006 with the Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh, Iranian human rights defender, Emaddedin Baghi, who has been closely following the cases, stated that "they did not have access to lawyers and were kept in solitary confinement for months. They did not receive a fair trial."

On 13 November 2006, Khuzestan TV, broadcast a documentary film in which the three men executed yesterday and six of the seven others convicted in the same case, were shown "confessing" to involvement in causing bomb explosions. They were said to be members of Al-e, an Iranian Arab militant group that is not known to have been active since the time of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

On 10 January 2007, three leading UN human rights experts - Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Leandro Despouy, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; and Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture - jointly called on the government of Iran to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing." The UN experts stated: "We are fully aware that these men are accused of serious crimes ... However, this cannot justify their conviction and execution after trials that made a mockery of due process requirements."

The seven individuals to whom the UN experts referred were Mohammad Jaab Pour, Abdulamir Farjallah Jaab, Alireza Asakreh and Khalaf Derhab Khudayrawi, all of whom were executed on 24 January 2007 and the three men who were executed earlier today.

Three other Iranian Arabs - named as Abdullah Suleymani, Malek Banitamim and Ali Matouri Zadeh - are reported to have been executed on 19 December 2006 in a prison in Khuzestan province.

At least 17 other Iranian Arabs are believed to be facing execution after unfair trials in which they were convicted of involvement in bombings in Khuzestan in 2005.

For further information please see: Iran: Four Iranian Arabs executed after unfair trials, MDE 13/005/2007, 24 January 2007
Iran: End Executions After Unfair Trials

Iran: End Executions After Unfair Trials

The following is a press release by Human Rights Watch. Click here to download the original.

The Iranian Judiciary should immediately halt all executions of people who have been sentenced to death in secret following unfair trials that do not meet minimal international standards of justice, Human Rights Watch said today. In the past year, at least a dozen Iranians of Arab origin have been condemned in this way.

On February 14, 2007 the Iranian authorities executed three men in the southern province of Khuzistan: Majed Albughbish, 30, Abdolreza Sanawati, 34, and Ghassem Salamat, 41. On February 13, prison officials informed the families, who were visiting the prisoners, that the three men, all Iranians of Arab origin, would be executed the next day.

Since March 2006, the Judiciary has executed a total of 12 men in Khuzistan, also ethnic Arabs, accusing them of carrying out bombings in Ahwaz, capital of Khuzistan, in October 2005 and January 2006. At least another 13 ethnic Iranian-Arabs have been sentenced to death in Khuzistan.

"Iran has accused these men of capital crimes, and it must ensure they receive fair trials and full due process protections," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "Instead, the Iranian Judiciary has conducted secret trials that deny the defendants the most basic legal rights."

According to Emad Baghi, an Iranian human rights defender who has vigorously campaigned to stop the executions, the authorities arrested 19 men who belonged to a group named Kataib in March 2006, accusing them of involvement in bombings. The authorities held the men in solitary confinement and denied them access to their lawyers until the day before their trials. The Judiciary did not allow the lawyers access to the accused men's files until one day before their trial.

On July 17, 2006, the revolutionary court in Ahwaz sentenced 10 of the men to death following a one-day secret trial held on July 16. Judge Sha'bani sentenced the men to execution by hanging under Iran's penal code, charging them as Mohareb, meaning "enemies of God." The court sentenced the other nine men to imprisonment.

Iran has now executed all 10 men sentenced on July 17, despite strong international condemnations, including an appeal by three senior United Nations human rights officials: Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions; Leonardo Despouy, UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

On January 10, the three UN officials issued a public appeal to the Iranian government to stop the executions, stating that the trials "made a mockery of due process requirements." The Iranian authorities ignored this and other international appeals, executing four of the men on January 24, and three more on February 14. Another three men were executed on December 19, 2006.

The judiciary has sentenced to death another 13 Iranians of Arab origin for armed activity against the state. They are: Zamel Bawi; Awdeh Afrawi; Nazem Bureihi; Alireza Salman Delfi; Ali Helfi; Jaafar Sawari; Risan Sawari; Mohammad Ali Sawari; Moslem al-Ha'I; Abdulreza Nawaseri; Yahia Nasseri; Abdulzahra Helichi; and Abdul-Imam Za'eri.

Human Rights Watch calls on the Judiciary to rescind their death sentences, and to grant new trials that meet international fair trial standards and are open to the public.

Iran executes more people annually than any other nation but China. In an alarming development, the number of publicly known executions rose 70 percent in 2006 as compared to 2005. Human Rights Watch believes the true number of executions is higher, but remains unknown due to the Judiciary's lack of transparency and public accountability. Iran also executes more juveniles annually than any other nation.

"Today Iran stands out for handing down the death penalty on a grand scale without giving defendants a fair trial," Whitson said.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment under any circumstances due to its inherent cruelty and irreversibility.
IRAN DEFIES WORLD OPINION, EXECUTES THREE INNOCENT AHWAZI ARABS

IRAN DEFIES WORLD OPINION, EXECUTES THREE INNOCENT AHWAZI ARABS

ایران برخلاف نظر جهانی در مورد توقف اعدام عرب های اهوازی، سه عرب اهوازی را اعدام کرد.



The Iranian regime executed three Ahwazi Arabs this morning at a prison in Ahwaz.

The killing of Ghasem Salami (Salamat), 41 years old from Ahwaz City and married with 6 children, Majad Albughbish, 30 years old from Maashur (Mahshahr) and Abdolreza Sanawati (Zergani), 34 years old and married from Ahwaz City, will bring the number of executions of Ahwazi Arabs in the past two months to 10.

The Iranian regime has ignored international outcry over the executions. According to Iranian and international human rights activists, all 10 men were tried in secret courts with no access to lawyers on dubious charges and little evidence. This has prompted governments and politicians in Europe and UN officials to condemn the trials and executions.

Two weeks ago, the Presidency of the European Council - currently held by the German government - called on the Iranian regime to halt the executions of the three men to allow them a fair trial. It also condemned the execution of four Ahwazi men on 24 January. The statement was backed by all the governments of the European Union as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine and Moldova (click here to download the statement).

In the UK, 49 Members of Parliament signed an Early Day Motion condemning the execution of 10 men. The EDM - backed by a broad spectrum of MPs - noted the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs and backed complaints by human rights organisations over the nature of the trials and the use of torture to extract false confessions (click here to download the EDM).

UN condemnation

European condemnation of the Iranian regime follows serious allegations by three UN independent human rights experts that the trials of 10 Ahwazi men - including seven who have been executed since early December - were seriously flawed. Philip Alston (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions), Leandro Despouy (Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers) and Manfred Nowak (Special Rapporteur on torture) urged the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing".

The experts state that the 10 men were not allowed to see the defendants prior to their trial, and were given access to the prosecution case only hours before the start of the trial. The lawyers were also intimidated by charges of "threatening national security" being brought against them. The convictions were reportedly based on confessions extorted under torture. "The only element of the cases of these men not shrouded in secrecy was the broadcast on public television of their so-called confessions", Mr. Nowak said.

The Iranian regime has ignored letters sent by the three special rapporteurs. The executions of three of the men were staged in December, with no regard for the strong concerns expressed on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council.

Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a legal obligation to respect its provisions, which include the right to a fair and public hearing, the right not to be compelled to confess guilt, and the right to "adequate time and facilities for the preparation of ones defence" with the assistance of a lawyer of ones own choosing.

Condemnation inside Iran

Ahwazi Arab activists point out that the executions broke Islamic laws which forbid killing during the month of Moharam.

Iranian human rights activists, led by prisoners rights activist Emad Baghi, have also voiced their criticism of the conduct of the trials and the executions. In an interview this week with the Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh, Baghi said the Iranian regime should admit that the executions were a mistake. He claimed the men "did nothing and did not take part in any explosion" and therefore the executions were against the law.

"They did not have access to lawyer," Baghi added. "They were kept in solitary confinement for months. They did not receive a fair trial. Only four [out of 40 alleged terrorists] were connected directly to the bombings and the rest are not connected."

Baghi said the root causes of unrest among Ahwazi Arabs are poverty and unequal distribution of wealth. He told Radio Zamaneh: "Government policies are wrong. The Arabs do not have good housing, healthy drinking water, electricity and live in poverty, although they live on top of oil reserves. They are also barred from working for the government."
AHRO issues urgent action condemning Iran's executions

AHRO issues urgent action condemning Iran's executions

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has issued the following urgent action in relation to executions of Ahwazi Arabs that were due to be carried out today, as well as Reisan Sawari, an Ahwazi teacher who was tortured to death on Tuesday while on hunger strike.

Once again, in a blatant defiance to the United Nations, the European
Commission
and international human rights organizations, Iran has began preparation to execute another 3 Iranian (Ahwazi) Arab opposition activists. Their relatives were told that they are due to be executed tomorrow, Wednesday 14 February 2007. Their names are as follows:
1. Ghasem Salami, 41, married with 6 children
2. Majad Albughbish, 30, single from Maashur (Mahshahr)
3 Abdolreza Sanawati, 34, married from Ahwaz City
This will bring the number of executions of Ahwazi Arabs in the past two months to 10.

Also today Mr. Risan Sawari, a 32 years old Ahwazi-Arab teacher, married from Kut-Abdullah in Ahwaz, was killed under torture in Mali-Rah IRGC prison in Ahwaz-City. Mr. Sawari has been on hunger strike for the past 20 days protesting his prison conditions- including over a year detention in solitary confinement, no family visitation rights or the rights to see a lawyer. Mr. Sawari was a civil rights activist, and member of al-Wafagh Party, a reformist political party under former president Khatami.

On 10 January 2007, independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Mr. Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Mr. Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture, issued a statement urging the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing." (click here for details)

On 24 January four out of the seven, Mohammad Chaabpour, Abdolamir Farjolah Chaab, Alireza Asakereh, and Khalaf Khanafereh (Khazirawi) were executed in defiance of the UN plea and the international Community and contrary to Islamic faith which prohibits execution in the month of Moharam. The remaining three are to be executed tomorrow.

On Tuesday December 19, 2006, the Khuzestan branch of the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported that Malek Banitamim, Abdullah Solaimani, and Ali Matorizadeh were executed for "waging war on God" in Ahwaz City. This was done one day after the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning Iran's human rights violations.

On March of this year, two other ethnic Ahwazi Arabs, Ali Afrawi (age 17) and Mehdi Nawaseri (20 years old), were publicly hang in Ahwaz City for similar charges, after a TV broadcast of their "confession" was shown a day earlier on Khuzestan TV.

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 were delayed.

On November 9, 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 has confirmed the execution sentence of at least 19 of the 35 Iranian Arabs sentenced to death by Ahwaz Revolutionary Court.

On 8 June, 2006, Khuzestan Revolutionary Court announced that 35 indigenous Ahwazi Arabs (including 3 brothers) were sentenced to death following a one-day trial in absence of lawyers or witnesses. Two of these 35 men sentenced to death, Nazem Bureihi and Abdolreza Nawaseri, were already serving prison sentences for insurgency at the time of the bomb attacks for which the regime claims they were responsible for. "One of the wonders of the Iranian Judiciary is that it can accuse a person of carrying out bombings while he's in prison," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "That lays bare the arbitrariness of his conviction."

These men have been found guilty of allegedly bombing oil installations at Southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan (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... The convictions are evidently arbitrary and are intended to collectively punish Ahwazi Arabs for opposing the regime.

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 ( Khalil Saeedi, Mansur Atashneh, Dr Abdulhasan Haidari, Jawad Tariri, Faisal Saeedi and Taheri Nasab), all Ahwazi-Arabs but one, 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.

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.
Iran: Three Ahwazis to hang on Wednesday morning

Iran: Three Ahwazis to hang on Wednesday morning

Three Ahwazi Arabs are due to be executed during the early hours of Wednesday morning, according the men's relatives.

The killing of Ghasem Salami (Salamat), 41 years old from Ahwaz City and married with 6 children, Majad Albughbish, 30 years old from Maashur (Mahshahr) and Abdolreza Sanawati (Zergani), 34 years old and married from Ahwaz City, will bring the number of executions of Ahwazi Arabs in the past two months to 10.

European outcry

The Iranian regime has ignored international outcry over the executions. According to Iranian and international human rights activists, all 10 men were tried in secret courts with no access to lawyers on dubious charges and little evidence. This has prompted governments and politicians in Europe and UN officials to condemn the trials and executions.

Two weeks ago, the Presidency of the European Council - currently held by the German government - called on the Iranian regime to halt the executions of the three men to allow them a fair trial. It also condemned the execution of four Ahwazi men on 24 January. The statement was backed by all the governments of the European Union as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Ukraine and Moldova (click here to download the statement).

In the UK, 49 Members of Parliament signed an Early Day Motion condemning the execution of 10 men. The EDM - backed by a broad spectrum of MPs - noted the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs and backed complaints by human rights organisations over the nature of the trials and the use of torture to extract false confessions (click here to download the EDM).

UN condemnation

European condemnation of the Iranian regime follows serious allegations by three UN independent human rights experts that the trials of 10 Ahwazi men - including seven who have been executed since early December - were seriously flawed. Philip Alston (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions), Leandro Despouy (Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers) and Manfred Nowak (Special Rapporteur on torture) urged the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing".

The experts state that the 10 men were not allowed to see the defendants prior to their trial, and were given access to the prosecution case only hours before the start of the trial. The lawyers were also intimidated by charges of "threatening national security" being brought against them. The convictions were reportedly based on confessions extorted under torture. "The only element of the cases of these men not shrouded in secrecy was the broadcast on public television of their so-called confessions", Mr. Nowak said.

The Iranian regime has ignored letters sent by the three special rapporteurs. The executions of three of the men were staged in December, with no regard for the strong concerns expressed on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council.

Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a legal obligation to respect its provisions, which include the right to a fair and public hearing, the right not to be compelled to confess guilt, and the right to "adequate time and facilities for the preparation of ones defence" with the assistance of a lawyer of ones own choosing.

Condemnation inside Iran

Ahwazi Arab activists point out that the executions broke Islamic laws which forbid killing during the month of Moharam.

Iranian human rights activists, led by prisoners rights activist Emad Baghi, have also voiced their criticism of the conduct of the trials and the executions. In an interview this week with the Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh, Baghi said the Iranian regime should admit that the executions were a mistake. He claimed the men "did nothing and did not take part in any explosion" and therefore the executions were against the law.

"They did not have access to lawyer," Baghi added. "They were kept in solitary confinement for months. They did not receive a fair trial. Only four [out of 40 alleged terrorists] were connected directly to the bombings and the rest are not connected."

Baghi said the root causes of unrest among Ahwazi Arabs are poverty and unequal distribution of wealth. He told Radio Zamaneh: "Government policies are wrong. The Arabs do not have good housing, healthy drinking water, electricity and live in poverty, although they live on top of oil reserves. They are also barred from working for the government."
Iran faces heavy criticism from leading human rights campaigner

Iran faces heavy criticism from leading human rights campaigner

One of Iran's most famous human rights activists, Emad Baghi, has issued his strongest condemnation yet of the Iranian regime's treatment of Ahwazi Arabs.

In an article published in French on his website, Baghi states that the regime itself is responsible for creating the conditions for ethnic Arab unrest, including bomb attacks in Ahwaz.

He reiterated his call for understanding of Arabs' plight, rather than executions, would help quell unrest and also restated his opposition to the death penalty. He said: "They are individuals who live on the black gold of the oil-bearing province of Khuzestan, but have only known poverty and misery. There are among them individuals who believed in the reform, who fought by peaceful means to assert their rights while trying to elect representatives to the municipal councils of their cities and to Parliament. These efforts were in vain, leading to despair.

"There came a feeling of political and social obstruction. Misery, scarcity, humiliation and despair can only generate one of two reactions: depression and passivity or aggressiveness. And what did we who owe our wellbeing with the oil revenue do? Would these attacks have taken place if we had not remained silent over these inequalities and denounced discrimination?"

Baghi's assessment of the situation in Ahwaz was welcomed by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS). BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "The Iranian regime's attempts to crush Ahwazi Arabs legitimate demands for human rights, social equality and political representation on the basis of the Iranian Constitution has fuelled anger. The recent round of executions has only inflamed the situation, alienating many Ahwazi Arabs, particularly the young who are suffering high levels of unemployment. The poverty and discrimination that Ahwazi Arabs endure in Iran is creating the basis of ethnic unrest and serious social problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, smuggling and criminality.

"Ahwazi Arabs are being vilified by hardliners within the Iranian intelligensia, who are portraying them as morally corrupt. But their social situation is merely a symptom of the moral corruption at the heart of the Iranian establishment.

"Emad Baghi has given many Ahwazi Arabs hope that they can win their rights without recourse to violence. We call on civil society to join with Baghi in condemning racial discrimination against Ahwazi Arabs and other minority groups in Iran."
IRAN: EUROPE UNITES IN CONDEMNATION OF EXECUTIONS OF AHWAZI ARABS

IRAN: EUROPE UNITES IN CONDEMNATION OF EXECUTIONS OF AHWAZI ARABS

The Presidency of the European Council has today issued a strong condemnation of Iran's execution campaign against Ahwazi Arabs (click here to download statement).

The Presidency, which is currently held by the German government, stated that "the European Union deplores the execution of four Ahwazi Arab men on 24 January sentenced to death in Iran for alleged involvement in terrorist activities in the Ahwaz region.

"The EU has raised with the Iranian authorities its concerns about the conduct of the trial that led to these sentences and the defendants' lack of access to lawyers.

"The EU calls on Iran to halt the executions of the remaining three men, to allow these men a fair and public hearing, and to ensure full openness and transparency in all court proceedings. The EU reiterates its longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances."

The declaration was supported by the governments of EU and EFTA member states and EU candidate countries, including Turkey. Ukraine and Moldova also backed the European Presidency's condemnation.

UN condemnation

European condemnation of the Iranian regime follows serious allegations by three UN independent human rights experts that the trials of 10 Ahwazi men - including seven who have been executed since early December - were seriously flawed. Philip Alston (Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions), Leandro Despouy (Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers) and Manfred Nowak (Special Rapporteur on torture) urged the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing".

The experts state that the 10 men were not allowed to see the defendants prior to their trial, and were given access to the prosecution case only hours before the start of the trial. The lawyers were also intimidated by charges of "threatening national security" being brought against them. The convictions were reportedly based on confessions extorted under torture. "The only element of the cases of these men not shrouded in secrecy was the broadcast on public television of their so-called confessions", Mr. Nowak said.

The Iranian regime has ignored letters sent by the three special rapporteurs. The executions of three of the men were staged in December, with no regard for the strong concerns expressed on behalf of the UN Human Rights Council.

Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has a legal obligation to respect its provisions, which include the right to a fair and public hearing, the right not to be compelled to confess guilt, and the right to "adequate time and facilities for the preparation of ones defence" with the assistance of a lawyer of ones own choosing.

Condemnation inside Iran

Ahwazi Arab activists point out that the executions broke Islamic laws which forbid killing during the month of Moharam.

Iranian human rights activists, led by prisoners rights activist Emad Baghi, have also voiced their criticism of the conduct of the trials and the executions. In an interview this week with the Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh, Baghi said the Iranian regime should admit that the executions were a mistake. He claimed the men "did nothing and did not take part in any explosion" and therefore the executions were against the law.

"They did not have access to lawyer," Baghi added. "They were kept in solitary confinement for months. They did not receive a fair trial. Only four [out of 40 alleged terrorists] were connected directly to the bombings and the rest are not connected."

Baghi said the root causes of unrest among Ahwazi Arabs are poverty and unequal distribution of wealth. He told Radio Zamaneh: "Government policies are wrong. The Arabs do not have good housing, healthy drinking water, electricity and live in poverty, although they live on top of oil reserves. They are also barred from working for the government."