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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)