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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...

Iran: human rights activists call for international intervention

Iran: human rights activists call for international intervention

Leading Iranian human rights activists Shirin Ebadi and Akbar Ganji are increasing pressure on the regime to end human rights violations.

Ganji and 200 Iranian intellectuals have submitted an appeal highlighting the country's appalling human rights situation and criticising the way in which the international community is dealing with Iran. The appeal highlighted the abuses against women, children, workers and students in Iran. It also criticised the way in which Western governments deal with the regime, which human rights relegated to second place behind the nuclear programme.

Meanwhile, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi participated in events marking the first anniversary of a one million signature campaign which highlighted Iran's deteriorating human rights situation (click here for details). She told the media that the regime should repeal legislation dating back to the Shah's regime that undermined Iranians' human rights. She specifically referred to the Family Protection Act, introduced in 1925, and called on the Iranian parliament to repeat the legislation as it undermined women's rights and was not in accordance with either the Declaration on Human Rights or Sharia. She also drew attention to the regime's execution of children under the age of 18, which she said was against the country's laws. She added that Iranians had a right to call for the international community to intervene and monitor the situation of women in Iran and that this should not be seen as a call for military invasion.
Appeal to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ahead of her visit to Iran

Appeal to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ahead of her visit to Iran

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), a human rights and lobbying organisation working on behalf of the persecuted Ahwazi Arab population in southwest Iran, calls on Ms Arbour to visit the province of Khuzestan to examine human rights violations in the province and meet with members of the Ahwazi Arab community.

We call on Ms Arbour to examine the following issues closely:

Land rights

Land confiscation and forced migration are in line with the "ethnic restructuring" programme targeted at the Ahwazi Arabs and designed to "Persianise" Khuzestan. This is having a detrimental impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of the Arab population.

The UN Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur (SR) on Adequate Housing, Mr. Miloon Kothari, in his report following the mission to visit Iran from 19 to 31 July 2005, identified as a key concern that there is "disproportionably adverse housing and living conditions of ethnic and religious minorities (Kurds, Bahais, Arabs and Laks) and groups like the Nomads." At the end of his mission, Mr. Kothari spoke to IRIN in Tehran on 9 Aug 2005 about his preliminary findings: "When you visit Ahwaz there are thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections." Mr. Kothari further stated: "[I]n Khuzestan [...] we visited the areas where large development projects are coming up, sugar cane plantations and other projects along the river, and the estimate we received is that between 200,000 - 250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages because of these projects." The SR also noted that in Khuzestan "large development projects, like petrochemical plants, are being built leading to the displacement of entire villages - with thousands of people not consulted on the projects, informed of the impending displacement, nor offered adequate resettlement and compensation," and added "[...] the compensation being offered to the Arab villagers who were being displaced is sometimes one fortieth of the market value - and there is nothing they can do about it. It's a fait accompli."

Despite Mr Kothari's concerns, land confiscation and forced displacement continues, particularly in the Arvand Free Zone surrounding the cities of Abadan and Khorramshahr.

We call on Ms Arbour to investigate the Iranian government's programme of population transfer and its effects on the local Arab population

Executions

We call on Ms Arbour to examine the cases of Ahwazi prisoner of conscience and the trial and execution of political dissidents, which have been condemned as unjust and illegal by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Iranian human rights activists, the Presidency of the European Council, Philip Alston (SR on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions), Leandro Despouy (SR on the independence of judges and lawyers) and Manfred Nowak (SR on torture).

In January 2007, the SRs issued a statement urging the government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing." In the statement, they claimed that lawyers 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. Despite these concerns, the executions went ahead as planned, bringing the total number of executions of Ahwazi political dissidents to at least 16 over the course of a year – the government has not released any official figures.

The Iranian government refused to answer letters from the SRs. The government systematically refuses to provide information and engage in a dialogue on these matters with the independent experts, violating its obligations under the procedures of the 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. While the Covenant allows it to retain the death penalty, it prescribes that capital punishment can only be imposed after a trial satisfying the strictest fair trial guarantees. These 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.

We call on Ms Arbour to investigate the circumstances surrounding the executions, as well as lengthy prison terms handed down to other Ahwazis during 2006 and 2007, notably the psychologist Dr Awdeh Afrawi and the journalist Mohammad Hassan Fallahiya, who have been the subject of a number of appeals by human rights organisations. Both men are said to be suffering ill health inside prison, following torture, abuse and the refusal of medication. We also call on Ms Arbour to visit the Lanat Abad (place of the damned) near Ahwaz City, where dozens of dead Ahwazi activists lie in mass unmarked graves.

For further information, download the Ahwazi Arab Human Rights Dossier
The Revolt of Arab Iranians

The Revolt of Arab Iranians

The following article was written by the Iranian journalist Amir Taheri and appeared in Arab News.

Is the Islamic Republic of Iran facing a growing revolt by its Arab minority?

Until a couple of years ago, the question would have sounded naive or provocative. In the 1980s, Arab-Iranians had fought bravely against Saddam Hussein's forces despite the fact that they were linked to the invading Iraqis by ethnic, tribal, linguistic and religious ties going back 1300 years.

According to data from the Foundation for the Martyrs, an organization supposed to look after war veterans and the families of the war dead, the number of Arab-Iranians who died for the fatherland was proportionally four times higher than Iranians from other ethnic backgrounds. And, yet, in the past two years evidence has mounted that Arab-Iranians, disenchanted by the Islamic republic and angry at Tehran's increasingly repressive policies under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are drawn toward dissidence and revolt.

Last year, rising tension in a number of Khuzestani towns and villages forced Ahamdinejad to cancel his much-publicized visit to the province. (Later, he managed a shortened version of the trip amid tight security.)

In the past few weeks, the authorities have executed 11 men in connection with the nascent Arab revolt. Hundreds more have been arrested and shipped to jails in unknown destinations. Earlier this month, bands of Arab youths ran riot in the streets of Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern province of Khuzestan, attacking government offices and banks and setting official cars on fire. According to eyewitnesses, the authorities had to bring in special Baseej (Mobilization) militia units to regain control. The pro-government militia later raided a number of neighborhoods, including Khazaalyiah and Kut-Abdallah, where ethnic Arabs form a majority, arresting dozens of people. Among them was Thamer Ahvazi, regarded as one of the province's top musical pop stars. His crime? Singing "defiant" rap-style songs in Arabic.

There are no accurate figures regarding the number of ethnic Arabs in Iran. The best estimates, however, put the number at around 2.2 million, or more than three percent of the total population. They are stretched over 600 kilometers of territory, from the borders of Iraq to the Straits of Hormuz on the Gulf of Oman. More than half, however, live in Khuzestan, Iran's oil-rich province that also produces a good part of the nation's food, including almost all of its sugarcane and 80 percent of its date crops.

Until the late 1940s, ethnic Arabs were in majority in Ahvaz, the provincial capital and Khorrmashahr, the nation's biggest port until its destruction by Saddam Hussein in 1981.

Now, however, ethnic Arabs account for less than 25 percent of the population in Ahvaz, and just some 40 percent in Khorramshahr. Nevertheless, ethnic Arabs still form a majority in smaller towns along the border with Iraq, including Shadegan, Howeyzeh, Karkheh, and Dasht-Mishan. The population of the Iranian portion of the Mesopotamian marshlands is also almost entirely Arab.

The province's mainly Arab feature changed for several reasons.

First, the discovery of oil in 1908 led to an economic boom that created new job opportunities that the locals could not fulfill. Hundreds of thousands of peoples from provinces in the Iranian heartland poured into Khuzestan, first as temporary laborers and then as permanent residents.

The second reason was a government policy, formulated in 1928, to "Persianize" Arab majority areas by bringing whole families of farmers from distant provinces, including Khorassan some 1000 miles away. The newcomers revived the province's moribund agriculture, introduced new crops and, as they prospered, multiplied faster than native Arabs who remained largely excluded from the new economy.

The introduction of the military draft also helped the change. Many ethnic Arabs decided to smuggle their male children to the Arab coast of the Gulf to avoid obligatory military service. Most never returned.

Sometimes whole families and clans emigrated to avoid the draft and taxation by an increasingly assertive central government in Tehran. At the same time, the better-educated ethnic Arabs moved north to settle in Tehran, the capital, and other major cities in the Iranian heartland where they gradually lost their Arab identity.

It is hard to identify the exact causes of the current tension in Khuzestan. One source of tension is the emergence in neighboring Iraq of a new government dominated by Arab Shiites. In the Islamic republic, however, not a single ethnic Arab is in any key government position. Many Arab Shiites try to live on both sides of the Iran-Iraq border without having lost their ancient bonds of blood and tradition. The Bani Kaab, the Bani Amer, the Bani Tamim and other smaller tribes have always moved and intermarried regardless of the border fixed in 1921 when the British crated the new Iraqi state out of three Ottoman provinces.

The dream of a unified Arab Shiite state, encompassing central and southern Iraq as well as the Iranian province of Khuzestan, which Arab nationalists call "Arabistan", appeals to many activists on both sides of the border. Not surprisingly, some local tribal chiefs and even Shiite mullahs are trying to use that dream to build a constituency for themselves.

Another source of the tension is the activities of a number of armed groups, some of which set up by Saddam Hussein in the 1970s as a means of exerting pressure on Tehran. These groups, often linked to armed smuggling networks operating in both Iran and Iraq, have been mainly responsible for attacks on border posts and police stations in a number of towns close to the border.

The main source of the tension, however, is the central government's policy of implicit discrimination against the Arab minority. This is especially manifest in state-owned corporations where non-Arabs have an automatic advantage in terms of job opportunities, grades and pay.

Arabs are also at a disadvantage when it comes to places in higher education. Entry into Iranian universities is through a tough set of examinations known as "konkour". Ethnic Arabs disadvantaged at the examination because they usually come from worst rated secondary schools, do not quite master the Persian, the language of the tests, and are unfamiliar with specific questions dealing with Persian culture and literature. As a result, an ethnic Arab's chance of getting into an Iranian university is 12 times lower than his compatriots from Tehran, Shiraz or Isfahan. Demands that at least 10 percent of places at local universities be reserved for ethic Arabs have been turned down by successive Islamic republic administrations in Tehran. Ahmadinejad regards positive discrimination as "un-Islamic".

One outlet for Arab-Iranian grievances is the so-called Khuzestan Welfare Party that calls for greater autonomy for the province within the Iranian state. Created in 1946, the party disappeared in the mid-1950s, to reappear in 2005. No one can gauge its strength. But it provides a moderate alternative to the radical Ahvaz Liberation Front (ALF) that has preached armed struggle since the 1970s.

The revolt of Arab-Iranians is in its early stages. There is, as yet, no evidence that it might degenerate into secessionism. Ahmadinejad's repressive policies, however, could help those who claim that ethnic Arabs would be better off in a secular democratic state with their Iraqi Shiite Arab brethren than remaining within an Islamic republic dominated by chauvinistic mullahs.

The outside world should pay attention to what is happening in Khuzestan if only because it produces almost 70 percent of the oil that Iran exports each day.
Iran's security clamp-down in Ahwaz leads to arrests and shootings

Iran's security clamp-down in Ahwaz leads to arrests and shootings

The Iranian regime has arrested a number of Ahwazis and massively increased the presence of Baseej paramilitaries following the assassination of a senior police commander in the ethnically Arab city of Abadan.

The regime this week announced that it had arrested a group of six Ahwazi "separatists", claiming they are Sunni extremists (click here for Baztab report). It is unclear whether the men are among the Ahwazis arrested earlier this month, who were accused of being British agents (click here for report).

The Baztab website, which is owned by Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards, reports that Baseejis have been sent to guard the Azadegan oilfield from bomb attacks. The Baseej commander in Ahwaz, Colonel Karim Karimi, has deployed around 300 Baseej paramilitaries to protect oil facilities.

Meanwhile, according to Khuzestan TV, an Ahwazi youth, Mohammad Jasem Sawari, was shot dead by Iranian intelligence officers who claimed he was responsible for killing Colonel Amiri in Abadan's Ghosba district. Sawari is from Shilangabad (Hay Al-Thurah) district.

Ahwazi activists state that the Iranian regime is using national security as a pretext to terrorise the Arab population and perform summary executions.
Iran to try leading Ahwazi Arab journalist

Iran to try leading Ahwazi Arab journalist

Ahwazi Arab journalist Yusef Azizi Bani-Torof will be put on trial for "threatening national security" on Monday (27 August) on charges relating to his reports on the indigenous Ahwazi Arab uprising more than two years ago.

Bani Torof is a celebrated writer and journalist who has written 24 books in Farsi and Arabic as well as his media work. He currently writes a column for the Arabic news portal Elaph, which is based in London. The British Ahwazi Friendship Society believes he could face a long period of imprisonment amid a growing clamp-down on Ahwazi Arab journalists, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers and other professionals.

The Ahwaz journalist's lawyer, Abdulfatah Soltani, told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) that he was being denied access to his client's files. Although Bani Torof has been accused of threatening national security, he has in the past stated that despite the Ahwazi Arabs' cultural distinctiveness and periods of autonomy in the past, they are "inseparable parts of the Iranian nation." However, extremists associated with President Ahmadinejad have insisted he is a separatist with links to foreign intelligence services.

Bani Torof was arrested days after the uprising of April 2005 and spent 65 days in prison in Ahwaz City and one day in Section 209, a prison infamous for torturing inmates to death. He was released on 27 June 2005, with a 200 million rial bail, equivalent to 22,000 US dollars. In August 2006, he was arrested after giving a lecture at a journalists' conference and his bail was raised to one billion rials or nearly 90,000 US dollars. The authorities allege that he talked against the regime, a charge he denies.

Bani Torof's struggle has won him admiration throughout Iran and in the Arab world. Recently, a number of Iranian academics and students voiced their support for his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Recently, Bani Torof's son Afnan was arrested in Syria after he was registered as a refugee with the UNHCR in Damascus. Afnan, along with a number of other Ahwazi refugees, was released following a campaign by BAFS and other advocacy groups.
Voice of America: Iran's Fifth Column

Voice of America: Iran's Fifth Column

This article appeared on the Pajamas Media website

Are American taxpayers unwittingly funding the Iranian regime's own propaganda? Ali Ghaderi and Karim Abdian contend that US government-funded Voice of America Persia and Radio Farda are ultimately damaging to American interests. Not only do these broadcasting services have sympathy for the ruling theocracy, but their inherent Persian bias alienates Iranian ethnic and religious minorities.

Last month, Iran launched Press TV, an English-language television station to broadcast propaganda to the West, utilizing a network of loyal and well-paid correspondents across the world. But their task could have been made easier if they had simply translated broadcasts from the Voice of America Persian Service and Radio Farda, which are both funded by US taxpayers.

Millions of Congress-approved dollars are poured into the VOA-Persian Service and Radio Farda ostensibly to promote democracy and break the Iranian regime's overbearing censorship. However, they are facing increased scrutiny following damning reports by Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the General Accountability Office (GAO), and the government's inter-agency Iran Steering Group. These reports condemned both VOA-Persian and Radio Farda for sympathy with sections of the Iranian regime and for often recycling the regime’s own propaganda. The situation is so bad that some Iranians in the US have begun to question whether the journalists employed by VOA-Persian and Radio Farda are agents for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence.

Some have also pointed to the inherent ethnic (Persian) chauvinism and cronyism in these broadcasts, which are alienating the non-Persian nationalities who are at least half, and by some estimates as high as two-thirds, of the total population in Iran. Activists representing a coalition of non-Persian parties campaigning for ethnic minority rights who monitor VOA Persian Service have released a study that shows that of the 132 people interviewed by VOA-Persian in May of 2007, just over two percent were from the ethnic minority groups of Kurds and Balochis. Thus, Ahwazi Arabs, Azeri-Turks, Turkmens, and others were completely excluded from these broadcasts despite the documented ongoing human rights violations against minorities by the Iranian regime.

These Farsi broadcasts (especially of VOA-Persian Service), claim Iranian minorities are controlled and managed by staunch supporters of the deposed Shah's son, Reza Pahlavi II, and share the regime's antipathy towards non-Persian ethnic groups. Reza Pahlavi and his senior advisors such as Shahriar Ahi and Draiush Homayoun are frequently—sometimes daily—featured on VOA-Persian TV.

The "guests" on these broadcasts are usually hand-picked Persian monarchists, ultra-nationalists or individuals with nationalist inclinations, who depict Iran as a Persian nation period, ignoring the claims of non-Persian Iranians who insist that Persians, despite their political dominance, are in a minority, and no more than a third of the total population. Most of the ultra-nationalists featured on VOA-Persian service believe and practice the ideology of Arian or Persian supremacy and don't believe that one can be Iranian and non-Persian at the same time.

In addition to these paid and unpaid guests who are consultants and senior advisers to Reza Pahlavi, former cabinet ministers and former diplomats of the Shah are also frequently featured on VOA-Persian TV. One was interviewed 15 times, and the rest multiple times in the single month of May alone. Aside from one Kurd and one Baloch, no members of the remaining non-Persian minorities were heard. US-funded radio and TV stations are targeting Persian monarchists, who represent an extreme minority in Iran.

Be it imperial or republican, Iran is clearly an ethnically diverse society, and ethnic dynamics have always been present throughout its history. Non-Persian ethnic groups are a major part, and play a dominant role in the current socio-political struggle for democratic transformation. The VOA broadcast should reflect this diversity. Under an ideal situation US government sponsored broadcasts should dare to be a platform for oppressed minorities and not a propaganda tool for the regime that portrays Iran as a Persian nation with no minority discontent.

Incredibly, VOA and Radio Farda refuse to broadcast news of human rights violations against ethnic and linguistic minorities, according to Iranian minority rights activists. Yet, according to Amnesty International, "Minorities are subject to discriminatory laws and practices," including restrictions on housing, the confiscation of land and property, denial of employment, and restrictions on cultural expression. This discrimination, AI adds, often results in "other human rights violations such as the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience, grossly unfair trials of political prisoners before Revolutionary Courts, corporal punishment and use of the death penalty, as well as restrictions on movement and denial of other civil rights." Amnesty International's Iran desk has campaigned intensively for the release of prisoners of conscience campaigning for minority rights as well as an end to policies amounting to discrimination and persecution.

In November 2006, the European Parliament and the UN General Assembly also joined in the chorus of condemnation of the Iranian regime's discriminatory practices. In a rare display of unanimity, all the political groups in the European Parliament - from Conservatives to Communists — backed a resolution that condemned "the current disrespect of minority rights and demands that minorities be allowed to exercise all rights granted by the Iranian Constitution and international law." Further, the UN General Assembly voiced concern over "increasing discrimination and other human rights violations against ethnic and religious minorities," and called on Iran to eliminate ethnic discrimination.

But a listener to VOA-Persian or Radio Farada would not hear a word against the regime's practices against minorities — especially against Arabs and Balochis - who have been subjected to ethnic cleansing, subject to population transfer, land confiscation and occasional aerial bombardment.

The State Department has oversight responsibility over VOA, but in this case they are clearly not exercising any influence to manage the overall message of the broadcasts. Undersecretary Karen Hughes, on behest of Secretary Rice, occupies a seat on the Broadcast Board of Governors (BBG), the main controlling body with oversight responsibility for all US Government non-military broadcasts. It is not clear if this body is aware that the overall message implied by VOA Persian language broadcast is that the US supports a strategy of re-establishing monarchy and favors keeping intact the rule of Persian minority dominance in Iran.

In a letter to VOA Director Dan Austin, representatives of Iranian Kurds, Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baloch, Lors and Turkmen argue that "on the rare occasions when someone from a minority group is invited to express an opinion on VOA-Persian TV, they have been subjected to an inquisition, on-and off-air, in which they are required to state their allegiance to the Iranian or Persian nation over their own ethnic group." Those who dare to describe themselves as Kurdish, Arab, Baloch, or simply refer to themselves as even Arab-Iranian, Balochi-Iranian, Kurdish-Iranian, etc, are not welcomed or deprived of further appearances. The existence of this discriminatory vetting process in a US government sponsored broadcast service is incredibly disturbing. One can only assume that it was allowed to continue because neither the VOA director nor the BBG were aware of what was and is going on.

Representatives of Iranian ethnic and religious minorities living in the US claim that VOA is violating its charter by its practical discrimination against non-Persian groups and has called for the dismissal of the Persian Service Director and key managers who are responsible for executing the current editorial policy. According to these representatives, VOA-Persian Service management argue that only a restored monarchy in Iran, or the current Persian-dominated theocratic regime are necessary to ensure Iran's territorial, cultural, and linguistic integrity.

Unless there is a radical shake-up in these US-funded TV and radio stations, they risk becoming a greater threat to US interests than Iran's Press TV will ever be. The millions of dollars spent on VOA and Radio Farda could be better spent on the dozens of financially poor grassroots radio and television stations run by genuine Iranian opposition groups that enjoy high ratings in their target ethnic audiences and beyond.

Ali Ghaderi is U.S. Representative of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. Karim Abdian, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization, is U.S. Representative of the Ahwazi-Arab Ethnic Minority in Iran.
Ahwazi human rights leader speaks on television

Ahwazi human rights leader speaks on television

Dr Karim Abdian, director of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO), highlighted Iran's ethnic cleansing campaign in an interview with leading British human rights and gay rights activist Peter Tatchell. The interview covered the human rights abuse against Ahwazi intellectuals, notably the journalist Mohammad Hassan Fallahiya and the psychologist Dr Awdeh Afrawi. Dr Abdian spoke of the hundreds of other Ahwazis, including young children, who are imprisoned who campaigned lawfully for Arab rights and autonomy. He also drew attention to the Iranian regime's refusal to allow UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Dr Philip Alston to visit Iran and investigate human rights abuses.

Any Ahwazi who stands up against starvation and ethnic cleansing of Ahwazis is denounced as a Wahabbi radical, a separatist or a Western imperialist, said Dr Abdian. He ended the interview by outlining the Ahwazi demand for self-government within Iran, which was the basis of the Ahwazi Arabs' Mohammerah Declaration of 1979. But he said that international solidarity, not military intervention by foreign governments, was the best means to achieve Ahwazi aspirations.

Dr Abdian is an advisor to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) and has represented the Ahwazi Arabs at an international level.

Below is an excerpt from the interview. Click here to watch the full interview.

Iran arrests Ahwazi "terrorists"

Iran arrests Ahwazi "terrorists"

The Iranian regime has arrested five Ahwazi Arabs while claiming that it had broken up an Ahwazi "terrorist" group it claims is backed by the US, British and Israeli government.

Issa Mahdi Sawari, Mohammad Hatab Sari, Issa Zaeri, Abdulrahman Haidari and Abdolnaser Hamadi were arrested earlier this month and are being held at an undisclosed location. According the British Ahwazi Friendship Society's (BAFS) sources in Ahwaz, none of the men were known to have been involved in serious political activities. Abdulrahman Haidari shares the same name as a well-known Ahwazi activist who was interviewed by Al-Jazeera TV, talking about Arab political demands. However, they are not the same person.

According to the semi-official Fars News Agency, Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie said: "Iranian intelligence agents, in their latest operation, have prevented a terrorist act by an anti-revolutionary group, They were aiming to carry out a terrorist act in the south of the (southwestern) Khuzestan province but they were arrested before carrying out any action." (click here for statement)

Ejeie did not reveal the names of those arrested, but BAFS believes the five arrested Ahwazis have been held in connection with the alleged "terrorist" plot. He claimed the US government was trying "to spread division and splits between forces of revolution and those loyal to the system by utilising some naive and uninformed people."

Further reports from Iran claim that the British government was assisting Ahwazis in smuggling weapons into Iran. The Baztab website claimed that a "British agent" had been arrested. (click here for report)

The regime has yet to publish any evidence to support its claim that foreign governments are using Ahwazis to carry out bomb attacks in Iran, beyond forced confessions shown on the local television network. A number of Ahwazi political prisoners have been executed in recent months, accused of waging war on God. Two executed Ahwazis were accused of carrying out bomb attacks in Ahwaz in 2005 and 2006, although they had been in prison since 2000. UN experts and international human rights organisations have condemned the regime's secret trials of Ahwazi Arabs and their lack of legal representation.

Craig Murray, Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan and a strong critic of British foreign policy, told BAFS of his doubts about Iranian claims of British involvement in any Ahwazi insurgency. He said that the UK "would only consider providing training for insurgent groups if there was a clearly defined military objective and good chance of success. I cannot imagine [the British] are doing anything like this in Iran."

Ejeie also said that in recent months a "number of anti-revolutionaries" had been arrested by Iran's neighboring countries and extradited back to the Islamic republic. Although Ejeie did not reveal the name of the states involved, the Syrian Ba'athist regime is co-operating with Iran in the arrest and deportation of Ahwazi refugees. (click here for more information on Ahwazi refugees)

EU Presidency condemns executions in Iran

The EU Presidency, currently held by Portugal, has condemned the death sentences on two Kurdish journalists, Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolwahed Boutimar, who the Iranian regime has accused of threatening national security.

In a statement released on Friday (3 August), the EU stated that it was "also particularly troubled by the growing repression against all groups which exercise their right to freely express their opinions, in particular in Kurdish and Arab minority regions."

The EU has urged the regime to fully respect its Criminal Procedure Code and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified, to grant the right to a fair trial to all individuals by allowing them to have access to a lawyer from the beginning of the judicial process.

The Presidency reiterated its "longstanding opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances" and expressed its concern about "the series of collective public executions that have been taking place in several regions of Iran during the last month, as well as with the growing number of death sentences both at first level courts and at the Supreme Court."

The EU Presidency's statement was backed by the candidate countries Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia.

In February, the EU Presidency - then headed by Germany - condemned the group execution of Ahwazi Arab opposition activists, who were sentenced to death following secret trials that were dismissed as unfair by UN experts. The activists were accused of threatening national security. The convictions were reportedly based on confessions extorted under torture. Four Ahwazi political prisoners were executed in January during Moharam, a month when executions are forbidden in Islam.