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Ahwazi journalist appeals for information on son

Ahwazi journalist Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf has issued an appeal to human rights organisations to help him discover the fate of his son, Afnan Azizi, who was one of the five refugees arrested in Syria (report in Al-Qabas newspaper).

Afnan was arrested after submitting a request for asylum with the UNHCR in Damascus, although he has not been politically active in Syria. The Syrian regime has so far deported five UNHCR-registered Ahwazi refugees back to Iran, in contravention of international law. These refugees are arrested as soon as they land in Tehran. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has received reports that the refugees have been severely tortured by members of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. Meanwhile, Syrian agents have put the UNHCR building in Damascus under surveillance and are relaying information on Ahwazi refugees' asylum claims to Iran.

The treatment of Ahwazi refugees has prompted Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf to issue his appeal for more information on his son. Youssef is a respected writer in Iran and has published 24 books in Persian and Arabic, including research on Ahwazi Arabs and modern Arab thought, translations and novels. Twelve years ago, Youssef visited Damascus at the invitation of the Syrian Ministry of Culture in acknowledgement of his contributions to Arabic literature. However, his call for an end to state violence against persecuted Ahwazi Arabs at the height of the Ahwazi intifada of April 2005 led to his brief incarceration for "threatening national security", although no charges were brought against him. Since then, Youssef has been threatened with arrest and prosecution in relation to hardline claims that he supports separatism, although he has stated that the "Arabs of Khuzestan, as a nation or an ethnic group or whatever you like to call it, are inseparable parts of the Iranian nation."

Afnan's claim for asylum is possibly in relation to his father's treatment by the authorities and fears that he could be targetted by the regime. In the past year, the wives and children of Ahwazi human rights activists have been imprisoned in order to force them into giving false confessions to terrorist acts that they have not committed.