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...

Women's rights in Iran

Women's rights in Iran

Ahwazi Arab women's rights activist Pooran Saki has called for an end to the Iran regime's treatment of women as second class citizens and called for the repeal of "unacceptable" Islamic laws.

Women in Iran are "severely oppressed", according to Mrs Saki. "As a result of backwardness and discrimination against woman in the area of education and jobs, women do not have the power to ask for freedom."

In a report for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), she condemned the Islamic laws introduced after the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

"Some of the laws relating to woman are unacceptable, like being forced to wear the hijab (veil), blood money, consent for divorce, and arranged marriages," she said. "Wearing the hijab is part of Islamic beliefs and some woman it because they believe it protects them. But now wearing the hijab has become law and the government forces women to wear this type of veil, but many women do not want to be forced to wear it."

She also criticised the Iranian regime's ban on women filing for divorce without the consent of their husbands: "This causes many problems and many women suffer harm in abusive marriages because of this law. Additionally, if a woman gets divorced, she is not allowed to keep her children. Both children and women suffer under this law."

Women in Iran are also forced into marriages by their parents, even when they are children. Many of these marriages are not successful and some women are subjected to domestic violence, but they are not protected by the law.

At an Ahwazi event in London to mark International Women's Day, speakers drew attention to the persecution suffered by Ahwazi women who are oppressed on the basis of both gender and ethnicity.

One Ahwazi woman told the meeting: "The international community should shoulder its responsibility towards Ahwazi and non-Persian women rights in Iran and should not remain indifferent, silent and ignorant about their oppression. They are subjected to racial and sexual discrimination under the Iranian regime due to its belief that women are second-class and that Ahwazi Arabs are second degree citizens."
Iran: Ahwazis comprise 1% of global state executions

Iran: Ahwazis comprise 1% of global state executions

Amnesty International's latest statistics on the death penalty indicate that last year Iran's execution rate nearly doubled compared to 2005, with at least 177 people killed. Across the world, at least 1,591 prisoners were executed by their own governments in 25 countries last year.

According to reports received by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), around 17 Ahwazi Arabs were executed by the Iranian regime. At least 10 of these were political prisoners. The executions of Ahwazi Arabs were carried out after secret one-day trials which were condemned as flawed by UN experts, the European Parliament, members of the British Parliament, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and various Arab and Iranian human rights organisations and activists. Click here for BAFS's reports on the execution of Ahwazis.

With the number of Ahwazis estimated at up to 4.5 million, an Ahwazi Arab is around 13 times more likely to be executed than the global average and 30 per cent more likely than the average Iranian. While Ahwazi Arabs account for just 0.08 per cent of the global population, Ahwazi Arabs comprised around one per cent of global executions.
Iran's anti-Arab separation wall

Iran's anti-Arab separation wall

The US and Israel have faced international condemnation for the construction of separation walls in the West Bank and Baghdad, but the world continues to turn a blind eye to Iran's construction of walls around Arab ghettoes in Ahwaz.

Separation walls in Ahwaz such as the one pictured above are designed to segregate the indigenous Arab population from wealthier non-Arab districts built on land confiscated from Arabs. In 2003, the regime bombed hundreds of homes in the Arab populated Sepidar district of Ahwaz City, displacing thousands of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs to make way for homes for ethnic Persians. Ethnically exclusive residential developments such as Shirinshahr and Ramin have been built in recent years to house Persians from Yazd and Fars provinces who have been brought into the area to take up jobs denied to Arabs (click here for details).

Following a visit to the traditionally Arab province of Khuzestan in July 2005, UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari said that Arab districts endured "very adverse conditions" with "thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections. I think that the kind of question that arises is, why is that? Why have certain groups not benefited?" (click here for an interview with Kothari)

He criticised the "attempt being made by the government to build new towns and bring in new people from other provinces", singling out Shirinshah for criticism (click here to view a documentary on Shirinshahr).

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Ahwazi Arabs are constantly demonstrating against the separation walls in their homeland and the creation of ethnically exclusive settlements. [click here to download a video of a demonstration near a separation wall]

"Iran is enforcing its system of ethnic apartheid by constructing physical barriers. But no-one is listening and there is no media coverage, even when the UN's own experts condemn Iran's actions.

"When the Americans create such barriers in Baghdad for security purposes, there is outrage. When the Iranians create barriers to keep Arabs in their deprived neighbourhoods and prevent social mobility, there is absolute silence from the UN Human Rights Council.

"The Iranian regime's separation walls are no different from the walls the Nazis created around Jewish ghettoes in Warsaw. Time and time again, the Iranian regime is shown to be essentially fascist in nature, yet some still call it a democracy and place their faith in 'reformists'. Fascism cannot be reformed, it can only be overthrown."

Ahwazi Arab Appeal to Prime Minister Tony Blair

Ahwazi Arab Appeal to Prime Minister Tony Blair

On Friday (20 April) Ahwazi Arabs demonstrated outside the British Prime Minister's residence in Downing Street, Westminster, to mark the second anniversary of the Ahwazi intifada. A delegation representing a cross-section of Ahwazi political parties and civic groups handed in an appeal to 10 Downing Street. Below is the text of the letter:

Dear Prime Minister,

We write to you as representatives of a number of UK-based Ahwazi Arab organisations to appeal for greater international recognition and action on the plight of the Ahwazi Arabs.

This week marks the second anniversary of the Ahwazi Arab intifada or uprising against the Iranian regime and also the 83rd anniversary of ending the Arabian rule in Al-Ahwaz. The uprising was peaceful, but at least 130 Ahwazi demonstrators were killed by security forces, including pregnant women and children. Thousands participated in the uprising, which occurred throughout Al-Ahwaz or Arabistan – the local names for the Arab-populated region Iran calls "Khuzestan". They were demonstrating against the Iranian regime’s current ethnic cleansing and Persianisation campaign, which was initiated by President Khatami and intensified under President Ahmadinejad.

According to the letter leaked from the presidential office that sparked the April 2005 uprising, the regime's goal is to reduce Arabs from a majority in their own homeland to less than a third of the population. While the Iranian regime has denied it is conducting ethnic cleansing, UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari has spoken of how land is confiscated from indigenous Ahwazi Arabs and given over to developments to house non-Arab Iranians brought into the area. Following a visit to the regime in July 2005, "Land confiscation and 'confiscation style' purchase of lands by the government seem to disproportionately impact on the land and property of some religious and ethnic minorities."

Ahwazis suffer a disproportionate level of unemployment, poverty, health problems and educational underachievement due to ethnic persecution and discrimination. Added to this is the campaign of executions of those who dare to challenge the regime's persecution of Ahwazi Arabs.

Britain has a responsibility to take up and address the Ahwazi issue in all international fora and in its bilateral relations with Iran. The British had promised to protect the autonomy of Arabistan in their deals with the local ruler Sheikh Khazal. They reneged on their promises and allowed Tehran to depose Sheikh Khazal and impose direct control over Arabistan in 1925, ending centuries of Arabian rule. Britain's decision to abandon the Ahwazi Arabs ultimately led to the suffering they are enduring today.

Iran has accused Britain of fomenting unrest in Al-Ahwaz and of arming Ahwazis. Although the British government has denied involvement, it has yet to make a clear statement condemning Iran's persecution and oppression of Ahwazi Arabs.

We call on the British government to state its condemnation of the persecution of Ahwazi Arabs and actively support Ahwazis' right to freedom of speech and self-determination. We also appeal to the government to prioritise Ahwazi Arab rights in its relations with Iran and take every opportunity to condemn their persecution at a UN level and multilateral institutions.

Yours sincerely,

Ahwazi Community in the UK
Ahwazi Arab People's Democratic Popular Front
Ahwazi Women's Centre
British Ahwazi Friendship Society
Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation
Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz
National United Movement of Al-Ahwaz (Arabistan)
A progressive perspective: Sheikh al-Khaqani

A progressive perspective: Sheikh al-Khaqani

An article by Peter Tatchell, which appeared on The Guardian's website. Click here for the original article.

Throughout much of the world, Shia Islam is synonymous with the terrorist violence of the Badr and Sadr death squads in Iraq, and with the murderous tyranny of the Iranian ayatollahs.

Since 1979, tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims, journalists, women, students, gay people, leftwingers, trade unionists and ethnic minorities have been murdered in the name of Shia Islam by the despots in Tehran.

We remember the barbaric fate of Iran's esteemed Sunni Muslim leader, Dr Ali Mozafarian. He was executed in 1992, on charges of espionage, adultery and sodomy. Widely assumed to have been framed, his real crime appears to have been that he preached the wrong kind of Islam - Sunni, not Shia.

Given that Iran and Shi'ism have such negative connotations for so many people, it is encouraging to hear the brave, confident voice of a liberal Shia cleric from Iran, Sheikh Mohammed Kazem al-Khaqani.

In a far-sighted but unreported speech at the House of Commons last month, Sheikh al-Khaqani spoke out in defence of democracy, human rights and secularism; advocating a secular state as the best way to safeguard freedom of belief and expression. Denouncing insurgent jihadism, suicide bombing and Iranian theocracy, he argued that Islam has to be rescued from fundamentalist misinterpretations and that oppressive Muslim regimes need to be challenged.

There are, no doubt, aspects of Sheikh al-Khaqani's teachings that I disagree with. But on several key issues he offers a progressive perspective; confounding those who want to portray Islam as a wholly negative, reactionary religion.

Wouldn't it be great if Sheikh al-Khaqani's voice of compassion, wisdom and humanity could be given a wider platform by the Muslim Council of Britain, the London Central Mosque and the mayor of London?

Sheikh al-Khaqani is the son of Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Taher al-Khaqani, a leading Iranian Ahwazi Arab Shia cleric who was imprisoned after the 1979 Islamic revolution for opposing the theocratic dictatorship and for advocating the separation of religion and the state. The Grand Ayatollah died in suspicious circumstances while under house arrest in Qom.

Sheikh al-Khaqani has dedicated his life to continuing his father's advocacy of a humane understanding of Shia doctrine, with tolerance, human rights and secularism central to his teachings. Such views are heresy in Tehran. Fearful of imprisonment and execution, Sheikh al-Khaqani fled into exile and now lives in Kuwait.

Invited by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, and supported by the Henry Jackson Society, Sheikh al-Khaqani told his House of Commons audience that Islam was based on the love of God and the right to justice, with the right to life as the first and most important human right of all.

Terrorism, whether against individuals or states, is therefore contrary to Islamic teaching: "Justice and faith necessarily dictate that no one should snatch any right from others ... Terrorists who don explosive belts that kill innocents ... have no connection with the three celestial faiths [Judaism, Christianity and Islam] ... It is one of the particular doctrines of the Shia that jihad in the sense of conquering a country is not permitted - that it is not the right of Muslims, but on the contrary is utterly forbidden," he said.

Sheikh al-Khaqani added that Shia Muslims should not use the flag of religion to topple states or political systems, suggesting that Iran's Islamic revolution violated this Shia tradition. The use of religion to overthrow governments - as was the case in Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamist coup in Iran - is "is an erroneous banner, allied with a tyranny worshipping principals inferior to God Almighty."

Instead, he asserted: "The choice of political systems follows the peoples' choice. Indeed God Almighty has given an indication of how Islamic society should be when He said in the Qur'an: 'He ordered them to take counsel among themselves'; namely that Muslims should act by mutual consultation, in all matters relating to their social lives and their system of governance."

Absolute theocracy, as seen in Iran, cannot therefore be considered as Islamic. If the prophet Muhammad was required to consult with the people at every point, so too must all systems of government, including in the Muslim world.

Sheikh al-Khaqani added "the man of faith must be only a guide and a spiritual father, who refrains from intervening in affairs of governance. So it is also incumbent on the state not to intervene in matters of the faith and its institutions."

The rule of Imam Ali, who is considered the first Islamic caliph among Shia Muslims and the fourth among Sunni Muslims, offers a lesson on the values of mercy, tolerance and justice to Muslims in the modern world. Sheikh al-Khaqani pointed to Ali's forgiveness of his political adversaries. Even when he was victorious over them in war he did not confiscate their wealth.

Emphasising the Qur'an's assertion that "there is no compulsion in religion", Sheikh al-Khaqani said that people were free to choose whatever belief they wanted and had the right to abandon Islam if they wish. This contradicts the Iranian regime's policy of executing anyone considered heretical or an apostate.

Contradicting militant Islamist teaching, he also stressed that justice should be applied equally to all, regardless of whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim.

Sheikh al-Khaqani concluded his speech by stating that social inequality and human rights violations in Muslim countries were "inconsistent with the humanitarian message of Islam or other faiths".

He also reminded the House of Commons audience that "some of the despotism with which we live in eastern countries and a generation tolerating the violence and terrorism that it brings forth" may have its roots in the "past and present errors by western states". He called on westerners to take responsibility for these errors and help put them right in order to combat Islamist despotism and terrorism.

The key points of Sheikh al-Khaqani's House of Commons speech were:

* The right to life is the first right of all human beings. This principle applies to everyone - Muslim and non-Muslim. Justice and faith dictate that this right may not be abrogated. Terrorists and suicide bombers are therefore anti-Islam and apostates.

* There is no compulsion in religion. Religious belief is a choice. The call to Islam is not a religious obligation. Attempts to achieve conversions by threats or force are unIslamic.

* Jihad as a way of conquering a country and subduing people is forbidden. Muslims should lead by example. Consultation among the people is the most appropriate way to determine how society should be run.

* People should be free to choose the political system that they live under. Exhortations to topple secular governments and replace them with a religious state are erroneous interpretations of Islam.

* Absolute theocracy, as practised under the Iranian model of Shi'ism, is unacceptable. Separation of religion and state, with neither interfering in the other's domain, is the ideal.

* Religious tolerance and the promulgation of justice among all people, without consideration for whether the citizen is Muslim or non-Muslim, is an essential tenet of true Islamic thought.

* Violations of human rights in Muslim countries are unacceptable and incompatible with Islam.

* The west must pursue justice in the world. It should seek to acknowledge and correct its errors in the east, which have helped create despotic Islamic states.


The Iranian regime has arrested at least 100 Ahwazi Arabs ahead of protests marking the second anniversary of the Ahwazi intifada.

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has published the names some of those arrested in the past few days - see the bottom of this article. (click here for report) Security forces conducted the arrests in an attempt to prevent a traditional Arabic cultural event in Hamidiya town. Poets were among those detained. Some reports put the number of arrests at over 200.

Today (15 April) marks the second anniversary of the Ahwazi intifada, in which the Iranian regime lost control over large parts of Khuzestan - a region known locally as Al-Ahwaz or Arabistan - during massive anti-government protests. The protests were sparked by revelations on Al-Jazeera TV that the Khatami administration was conducting an "ethnic restructuring" project to reduce the proportion of Arabs in the province from around 60 per cent to under a third. A letter written by Ali Abtahi while he was Vice-President detailed the plans, which involved moving non-Arabs into the province. (click here to download the Abtahi letter and translation) Over 160 Ahwazi Arab demonstrators were killed by security forces in the uprising.

Abtahi denied he wrote the letter, but the Iranian regime has continued its ethnic cleansing programme with the confiscation of 155 sq km of land on the left bank of the Shatt al-Arab waterway for the military-industrial Arvand Free Zone. Thousands of farmers are being displaced as entire villages are taken over.

Meanwhile, demonstrations have continued in Arab-populated urban slums, where many of the displaced end up. The regime has moved to clear the slums of Arabs and has bombed the Sepidar district of Ahwaz City, destroying hundreds of homes.

The government has responded to unrest by arresting and executing human rights activists and members of the Lejnat al-Wefaq (Reconciliation Committee), which had sought to challenge ethnic persecution of Arabs through constitutional means including contesting elections.

Voice of Ahwaz article on intifada

Click here for BAFS's archive of articles on the Ahwazi intifada

Recent arrests:

1. Ghaleb Manabi (artist)
2. Najem Cheldawi
3. Ali Manabi
4. Chamel Sawari
5. Ali Haidari
6. Razagh Haidari
7. Ali Ayed Badawi (poet)
8. Karim Hazbawi
9. Ali Khanfari (poet)
10. Abdul ali Mazraee
11. Hashem Mazraee
12. Hamzah Zergani
13. Mohammad Zergani
14. Salem Zergani
15. Mossa Thamer Zergani
16. Mustafa Sawari
17. Kazem Helichi
18. Ahmad Huwaizah
19. Abbas Hamadi
20. Yasser Sayahi
21. Yusof Sawari
22. Fahad Silawi
23. Mustafa Silawi
24. Hamed Cheldawi
25. Najem Cheldawi
26. Ahmad sawari
27. hamid sawari
28. Hasan Sawari (son of Chamel Sawari)
29. Ali Sawari (son of Chamel Sawari)
30. Abdulrahman Cheldawi
31. Haidar Haidari
32. Ammar Mahawi
33. Maher Mahawi
34. Aref Abbasi
35. Abbas Torfi

Mossa Dahimi and Ahmad Salemi have gone missing and their whereabouts are unknown.
Ahwazi Arab refugees freed in Syria

Ahwazi Arab refugees freed in Syria

An international campaign by Ahwazi and international human rights organisations has succeeded in freeing five Ahwazi Arab refugees who had been arrested in Damascus in March.

Human rights activists had been alarmed at the arrests, fearing the men would share the fate of four Ahwazi refugees and a Dutch citizen of Ahwazi descent who were deported from Syria to Iran last year. The men are now believed to be in prison and undergoing severe torture. The illegal deportations of Ahwazi refugees prompted protests from the UNHCR, while the Ahwazi population in Damascus is living in fear.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) led lobbying efforts at the European Parliament, the UN Human Rights Commission and Syrian embassies in London and Brussels. Meanwhile, the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation issued a number of appeals to High Commissioner António Guterres and the Arabic media.

Last week, Human Rights Watch called for the immediate release of Ahwazi Arab refugees or "disclose a credible legal basis for detaining them." (click here for report) The Tehran-based Ahwazi journalist Youssef Azizi Bani Torouf, the father of detained refugees Afnan Azizi (20), had also written public appeals to the Syrian government. (click here for report)

The Arabic language Elaph news website today reported that Afnan Azizi along with Ahmad Asadi (28), Jaber Ebayat (19), Kamal Naseri (27) and Salahuddin Helali Majd (26) were released without charge. (click here for report) However, the fate of 24-year-old Ali Bouazar, who had fled Iran after being sentenced to death by a Revolutionary Court, is still unknown. BAFS has received information that he was deported back to Iran soon after his arrest. Unlike the other five men, Bouazar had not been registered as a refugee with the UNHCR and was technically an illegal immigrant. BAFS is concerned that Bouazar's life is in danger and is continuing to research his whereabouts.

There are at least 90 Ahwazi Arabs in Syria who have applied for asylum or have been registered with the UNHCR. BAFS is campaigning for all Ahwazi asylum seekers and refugees to be evacuated from Syria to other countries in the region and temporarily resettled while their claims are processed or while they wait for permanent resettlement.
Pelosi insulting Ahwazi refugees in Syria

Pelosi insulting Ahwazi refugees in Syria

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Syria has been denounced by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) as an insult to Ahwazi Arab refugees currently living in fear for their lives in Damascus.

Pelosi met with Syrian Baathist dictator Bashar al-Assad in an effort to showcase her Democrat party's agenda on foreign policy. This came at a time when al-Assad is ordering the arrest and deportation of Ahwazi Arab UNHCR-registered refugees, in violation of international law (click here for report). According to media reports, Pelosi did not address the Baathist regime's human rights record in her meeting with the Syrian dictator.

Ahwazi refugees are being hunted down in Damascus and a number have been detained and deported to Iran. On their arrival in Tehran, the refugees are arrested, held in solitary confinement in Section 209 of Evin Prison and tortured to the extent that they cannot walk and suffer injuries to internal organs (click here for report). The Syrian security forces have placed the UNHCR's office in Damascus under surveillance, forcing refugees into hiding.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "Pelosi is a disgrace. She did not confront President Bashar al-Assad on human rights violations and Syria's breach of international law by deporting refugees under the UNHCR's protection. Her cosy meetings with this hated dictator brought legitimacy to a corrupt and despotic regime at a time when it should be confronted on state terrorism and its human rights atrocities.

"Pelosi and the Democrats have no interest in human rights and don't care about the people suffering under the Baathist regime, who include Ahwazi Arab refugees who have fled from persecution, torture and execution in Iran. Pelosi doesn't impress anyone."
HRW calls for release of Ahwazi refugees in Syria

HRW calls for release of Ahwazi refugees in Syria

Human Rights Watch has called for the immediate release of six Ahwazi Arab refugees or "disclose a credible legal basis for detaining them" in a statement released today.

Click here for report

The human rights organisation has expressed concern that the men will be forcibly returned to Iran, where they are at risk of persecution. One of the men has already been sentenced to death in absentia.

The subjects of the appeal are:
- Afnan Azizi, 20, a civil engineering student in Damascus
- Ahmad Asadi, 28, a student of Arabic literature at the University of Damascus
- Ali Bouazar, 24, who fled to Syria after he was sentenced to death by a branch of Iran's Revolutionary court; he has been living in Syria since the end of December
- Jaber Ebayat, 19, a sociology student at the University of Damascus
- Kamal Naseri, 27, who had been living in Syria for eight months at the time of his arrest
- Salahuddin Helali Majd, 23, a science student at the University of Damascus

The six men were all arrested on 5 March (click here for details). Five of the six were all living in Syria legally and were all registered as refugees with the UNHCR. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) understands that two of the men - Bouazar and Naseri - have already been forcibly returned to Iran. BAFS has also received reports that many UNHCR-registered refugees are now in hiding, with the UN agency failing to meet its obligation to ensure their safety.

"Last year Syria forcibly sent four refugees of Arab ethnicity back to Iran, where they are in prison and at risk of execution," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Syria must not return refugees to the risk of persecution or detain them without legal cause."

In December 2006, the UNHCR condemned the return of Ahwazi refugees forcibly returned to Iran (click here for report). BAFS has received reports that one of the refugees has been tortured so badly that he can no longer walk, he has lost all his teeth and his kidney and liver are damaged. (click here for report)

According to their friends and family, the six men left Iran out of fear that they would be persecuted as part of the Iranian government's crackdowns following a series of bombings in 2005 and 2006 in Ahwaz City, which caused the death of a number of civilians. Iran has executed at least 12 Ahwazi Arabs in connection with these bombings, and at least 13 others have received a death sentence. The trials have been condemned by human rights organisations, UN human rights experts and lawyers as deeply flawed.

Syrian human rights organizations that have been following the case and advocating for the release of the detainees told Human Rights Watch that they too have been unable to obtain information about the reasons for the arrests, the conditions of the detainees, or what the authorities plan to do with the six men.