Appeals for the release of Ahwazi Arab UNHCR-registered refugees detained in Damascus have been stepped up as Ahwazi activists have revealed that two refugees have been illegally deported to Iran by the Syrian Baathist regime.
Ali Bouzar, who was waiting for refugee status after fleeing for his life from Iran, was deported just 12 hours after his arrest earlier in March. His mother has reportedly travelled to Damascus and has held a vigil outside the Syrian Foreign Ministry in protest at his deportation. According to reports, she is challenging all officials and ministers entering the ministry building.
Kamal Nawaseri is also believed to have been deported. A UNHCR-registered refugee, Kamal Nawaseri, is also believed to have been returned to Iran, contrary to international law.
A further five are understood to be in custody, although they may also have been returned to Iran. Among them is Afnan Azizi Bani Torouf, the son of Ahwazi Arab writer Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf, who remains in Tehran despite harassment by the authorities.
This week, Youssef sent an appeal to international human rights organisations and the Syrian government for the release of his son (click here for report). He has also issued an appeal to Bashar al-Assad, which said: "I ask you to consider the release of my son Afnan, who wasarrested in Damascus. I am sure he has never opposed the Syrian regime, or his country's regime ... I send this letter to you as a father with a wounded heart and from a mother who is dumbfounded over the arrest of our son, which has yet to be explained. However, I know that my son ... has not been politically active either in Iran or Syria and spent his life in Tehran before leaving Iran for studying at the university. I am sure that he did not commit a crime, because if he did I would oppose him myself." (click here for the text of the letter)
Youssef's appeal has been backed by Syrian human rights groups. He is well-known in Syria for his work in cross-cultural relations between Syria and Iran and has translated the works of Syrian authors into the Persian language.
Ahwazi groups are continuing to mediate through UNHCR with the Syrian authorities for the release of Ahwazi detainees.
In February, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) reported that Abdul Rasoul Mazrae, one of the Ahwazi refugees currently being tortured in an Iranian prison, will soon face trial. Mazrae has spent the past 10 months in solitary confinement in a prison in Ahwaz. He has also undergone physical and psychological torture. As a result of his torture, he is urinating blood and has lost all his teeth. His kidneys and liver are also damaged and injuries to his spine have left him unable to walk. His torturers have ordered him to give a televised confession for crimes he did not commit (click here for more information). If young men arrested in Syria are forcibly returned to Iran, they are likely to meet the same fate.