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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: "Haft Tapeh workers are starving", Ahwazi workers' slogan

Iran: "Haft Tapeh workers are starving", Ahwazi workers' slogan

Three thousand workers from the Haft Tapeh (Saba atlal) Sugar Cane Company held demonstrations outside the Khuzestan provincial governor's office in Shoush city (Susa) on Saturday demanding their wages.

A protesting Ahwazi Arab worker told Radio Farda that "the Islamic Republic of Iran helps Palestine and Arab countries, how come they have money to help them but they don't to pay us?"

Another worker believes that the currently the company management policy is "exhausting labours and encouraging them to leave the company in order to possess their lands."

The workers intend to continue their peaceful demonstrations outside the governor's office.

On 25 August, workers at Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane Company sent a letter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) informing them that if the authorities did not respond to their demands for payment, they will resume industrial action. They had staged strike action on 11 July. A labour activist said: "We have held 15 strikes since the beginning of the last year, involving thousands of workers and clerks at this company, but each time the authorities failed to abide by their pledge to solve the problems."

Worker demands at the sugar company include:
- the payment of all salaries in arrears
- an end to the sale of foreign sugar on the Iranian market by "mafia" groups
- the right to labour representation
- a rise in salaries to reflect the rising cost of living brought about by poor weather
- right for workers to participate in the election of workers' representatives
- retirement of those workers who have reached retirement age
- provision of adequate safety equipment
- dismissing the company's board of directors
- ending threats to workers.

Labour activists have set a deadline of 27 September for the government to respond to their demands or they will resume industrial action and demonstrations in Ahwaz. A labour activist at Hafttapeh said: "If we had a trade union it would defend our rights, just like the bus workers syndicate in Tehran."

Privately-owned sugar mills in Khuzestan have suffered as a result of trade liberalisation, which has led to unrestricted imports of sugar. This has led to bankruptcy, non-payment of wages, redundancy and civil unrest.

According to labour activists, the Ministry of Intelligence has taken over the management of the sugar cane projects. However, Mesbah Yazdi, the head of an Iranian sugar "mafia" gang responsible for under-cutting locally produced sugar with cheap foreign imports, has called for the privatisation of "failed" sugar mills taken over by the government.

On 12 September, the Human Rights and Democracy Activists of Iran group published a statement in support of the 5,000 striking workers in Hafttapeh. The group also supported demands for
- an elected committee of workers' representatives
- ending the casualisation of labour and making temporary positions permanent
- an increase in salaries
- providing housing to workers

The sugar industry is built on the suffering of Ahwazi Arabs, dating back to 1962 when US businessman David Lillington's investment in the sector led to the confiscation of 68,500 hectares of Arab-owned land for the purpose of sugar cane cultivation (click here for more information).

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power proclaiming that he would tackle corruption and poverty. Under his administration, the situation facing Ahwazi workers is worsening. Instead of backing the workers, he is calling out the troops to repress them. If they refuse to work, they lose their jobs. This is not an option in a region like Ahwaz (Khuzestan), where unemployment is high, particularly among ethnic Arabs.

"After months of wage arrears many feel they have nothing to lose by going on strike and taking to the streets in protest. Workers are struggling to feed their families and pay for housing. Yet, the Ahwaz region is one of the most oil rich in the world. The oil revenue is going straight into the pockets of the mullahs while workers are forced into virtual slavery. Iran is breaking international labour codes and should be chastised by the international community for its poor treatment of workers."
Iran: Failed Assassination of Hardline Cleric in Ahwaz

Iran: Failed Assassination of Hardline Cleric in Ahwaz

A hardline Iranian cleric, Shiekh Samir Dorakwandi, has escaped an assassination attempt in the Arab city of Ahwaz in southwest Iran.

Dorakwandi was shot an wounded by gunmen while he was on his way to the Khatam al-Anbiya mosque in the Alawi (Hay al-Thawra) district. He was shot in the shoulder and the stomach. He is currently being treated in hospital and his condition is reportedly stable. Dorakwandi is believed to be a member of the Bassij, which has been used to suppress ethnic Arab unrest in the region.

The assassination attempt follows successful high profile assassinations of a leading hardline the imam of Zahraa mosque in the Hay al-Thawra district, Sheikh Hesham Saimari, in June and a Revolutionary Guards commander, Mehdi Bayat, this month. Iranian security forces have reportedly set up road blocks throughout the region in an effort to capture those responsible.

The Iranian government claimed it had arrested the assassins of Sheikh Saimari in June, but this has not stopped militants from targetting other senior members of the paramilitary Bassij and the Revolutionary Guards. The authorities have described those responsible as Wahhabis (Sunni fundamentalists) and Monafeqin (hypocrites), a term used to refer to the Iraq-based Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK). The government has also tried to associate the killings with the Israeli, US and British governments, although it has presented no evidence to substantiate its claims.

The Iranian regime portrays Ahwazi Arab unrest as foreign-instigated religious sectarianism, although human rights groups and UN experts have criticised institutional discrimination against Ahwazi Arabs, who endure the highest levels of poverty in Iran.

The impoverished Hay al-Thawra district of Ahwaz has witnessed significant ethnic unrest in recent years and is the focus of violent repression by the Bassij forces.
STRIKE ACTION FUELS ANTI-GOVERNMENT UNREST IN IRAN'S SOUTH-WEST

STRIKE ACTION FUELS ANTI-GOVERNMENT UNREST IN IRAN'S SOUTH-WEST

The Arab-majority region in Iran's restive south-west has been swept up in a wave of strikes and protests by workers upset by non-payment of wages by bankrupt industries.

Although the protests have been peaceful, the government has responded with force but has failed to meet any of the demands lodged by workers who are facing increasing hardships. Worker unrest comes a year after similar protests by workers in the port and ship-building industries in Mohammerah (Khorramshahr)

In Ahwaz City, a peaceful protest by 150 workers from a mothballed paper mill in Shoushtar (Tostar) was broken up by Iranian forces using tear gas and baton charges, with five workers reportedly beaten and injured, according to Radio Farda.

Abu Al-Fazel Abidini, a journalist from Ahwaz, told Radio Farda: "Over the past year and a half, these workers have been repeatedly asking the Khuzestan provincial government to reopen the factory and receive their delayed salaries. They have only received one or two months of salaries and haven't been given any official response to their demands."

He added: "They also held three demonstrations in front of President's office, but they were met with ruthless attacks [by the security services]. On Tuesday [25 September], workers gathered to talk to the provincial governor to tell him their problems, including seven months of salary arrears. They also demanded that insurance be paid and the factory reopened following its closure due to financial problems. These workers have suffered many problems during recent months. Most of these workers are tenants and eleven of them have been hospitalised in mental hospitals and have psychological problems. Some of the workers faced family problems which have ended in divorce. The 230 factory workers cannot send their children to the schools and universities due to financial problems."

The clamp-down at the paper mill comes weeks after 600 workers at the "Gama" company and 120 workers at "Pars Hassas" in Asloeyyiah went on strike due to three months of salary arrears. The Gama company sacked 40 workers involved in the strike. The Pars Hassas company, a refinery contractor, has also threatened to dismiss striking workers. (click here for further details)

On 25 August, workers at Hafttapeh (Saba-atlal) Sugar Cane Company sent a letter to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) informing them that if the authorities did not respond to their demands for payment, they will resume industrial action. They had staged strike action on 11 July. A labour activist said: "We have held 15 strikes since the beginning of the last year, involving thousands of workers and clerks at this company, but each time the authorities failed to abide by their pledge to solve the problems."

Worker demands at the sugar company include:
- the payment of all salaries in arrears
- an end to the sale of foreign sugar on the Iranian market by "mafia" groups
- the right to labour representation
- a rise in salaries to reflect the rising cost of living brought about by poor weather
- right for workers to participate in the election of workers' representatives
- retirement of those workers who have reached retirement age
- provision of adequate safety equipment
- dismissing the company's board of directors
- ending threats to workers.

Labour activists have set a deadline of 27 September for the government to respond to their demands or they will resume industrial action and demonstrations in Ahwaz. A labour activist at Hafttapeh said: "If we had a trade union it would defend our rights, just like the bus workers syndicate in Tehran."

Privately-owned sugar mills in Khuzestan have suffered as a result of trade liberalisation, which has led to unrestricted imports of sugar. This has led to bankruptcy, non-payment of wages, redundancy and civil unrest.

According to labour activists, the Ministry of Intelligence has taken over the management of the sugar cane projects. However, Mesbah Yazdi, the head of an Iranian sugar "mafia" gang responsible for under-cutting locally produced sugar with cheap foreign imports, has called for the privatisation of "failed" sugar mills taken over by the government.

On 12 September, the Human Rights and Democracy Activists of Iran group published a statement in support of the 5,000 striking workers in Hafttapeh. The group also supported demands for
- an elected committee of workers' representatives
- ending the casualisation of labour and making temporary positions permanent
- an increase in salaries
- providing housing to workers

The sugar industry is built on the suffering of Ahwazi Arabs, dating back to 1962 when US businessman David Lillington's investment in the sector led to the confiscation of 68,500 hectares of Arab-owned land for the purpose of sugar cane cultivation (click here for more information).

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power proclaiming that he would tackle corruption and poverty. Under his administration, the situation facing Ahwazi workers is worsening. Instead of backing the workers, he is calling out the troops to repress them. If they refuse to work, they lose their jobs. This is not an option in a region like Ahwaz (Khuzestan), where unemployment is high, particularly among ethnic Arabs.

"After months of wage arrears many feel they have nothing to lose by going on strike and taking to the streets in protest. Workers are struggling to feed their families and pay for housing. Yet, the Ahwaz region is one of the most oil rich in the world. The oil revenue is going straight into the pockets of the mullahs while workers are forced into virtual slavery. Iran is breaking international labour codes and should be chastised by the international community for its poor treatment of workers."
Iran: Revolutionary Guards Commander assassinated in Ahwaz

Iran: Revolutionary Guards Commander assassinated in Ahwaz

A Revolutionary Guards commander died after an ambush on 20 September by Ahwazi militants, according to Iran's Fardanews this week and confirmed by Ahwazi groups.

Ambush near Hamidiyah

Mehdi Bayat was killed near the Revolutionary Guards base in Hamidiyah, 25km from Ahwaz City, after returning from military training. According to Fardanews, he and his colleagues had escaped one ambush only to fall into a second ambush. He died of his injuries the following day. There are no reports of injuries or deaths among his colleagues. According to some Ahwazi group, the ambush took place in a village called Al-Shuish, near Hamydia, and was assassination was retribution for recent executions.

The actual rank Bayat held has not been announced, but Ahwazi and official Iranian sources indicate he was a commanding officer responsible for training members of the Bassij militia in Khaffajiyah. The town of Khaffajiyah has witnessed a number of disturbances by Ahwazi Arab groups which have been brutally put down by the Revolutionary Guards' Ashura Brigades, which were formed nearly 15 years ago to crush dissent in Iran.

Responsibility

A number of assassinations and attempted assassinations have been carried out in Ahwaz in recent months with members of the Revolutionary Guards, the police and clerics targetted. In June, militants assassinated Hisham Saimeri, the imam of Zahraa mosque in the Hay al-Thawra district of Ahwaz City, which has experienced the highest levels of Arab unrest. At the time, the provincial governor blamed "saboteurs, evildoers and Wahhabis." (click here for further details)

At the time, the Canada-based Hizb al-Nahda al-Ahwaziya (Ahwazi Renaissance Party (ARP)) welcomed the assassination and warned Hijazi of "the consequences of continuing the criminal policies committed against Ahwazis." The ARP has also welcomed the assassination of Bayat, stating that "Ahwazis have proved through this heroic act to the Persian invader authorities that their repressive practices and executions would not stop their struggle to regain their usurped rights." (click here for their report) It is unclear what, if any, links the ARP has with the assassins. It is a separate group from the Harkat al-Nedhal Alarabi (Arabic Struggle Movement for Liberation of Al-Ahwaz (ASMLA)) which claimed responsibility for a number of bomb attacks in Ahwaz City.

Iranian officials claim that a group called Jebheyia Khalghi Al-Ahwazyeh (Ahwazi Nation or People Front) was responsible. It is unclear which Ahwazi group they are referring to and no group has claimed responsibility for the killing.
Ahwazi Appeal to UN over Iran's Human Rights Abuses

Ahwazi Appeal to UN over Iran's Human Rights Abuses

An appeal by the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

We are writing to inform you of the
imminent execution of four more ethnic Arab-Iranians (Ahwazi-Arabs) in Ahwaz, provincial capital of Khuzestan in southwestern Iran - homeland to 5 million Ahwazi-Arabs. The news of their impending executions has come from their families, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Amnesty International, the Human Rights & Democracy Activists and from Mr. Musa Pirbani, Khuzestan’s prosecutor in an interview with the Iranian News Agency on Wednesday, September 13, 2007.

On 10 September, three Ahwazis were executed in defiance of the UN and international law, just days after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, visited Iran. At least six more Ahwazi political prisoners are facing imminent execution. Four of them are being moved to a cell in Karoon prison in Ahwaz reserved for imminent execution of prisoners. Their names are as follows:

1. Hamzah Sawari, 20 years old
2. Zamel Bawi
3. Abdulemam Zaeri
4. Nazem Boryhi

The charges against them include hoisting the Ahwazi flag, naming their children Sunni names, converting from Shi'ism to Sunnism and preaching Wahabbism and being "Mohareb" or enemies of god, which carries death sentence. Other charges are "destabilizing the country", "attempting to overthrow the government", "possession of improvised explosives", "sabotage of oil installations" and being a "threat to national security".

Last year, Mr. Emadeldin Baghi, a leading Iranian human rights activist, in a letter to the chief of the judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, has argued that the trials of Ahwazi Arabs were flawed, the charges baseless, and that the sentencing was based on a spurious interpretation of law and that no evidence has been presented. Mr. Nkbakht, a prominent defense lawyer in Iran, made a similar statement. Others such as Presidency of the European Council, the UN general Assembly, 48 British MPs, the EU Parliament, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned their trials as unjust and unfair and appealed for a halt to further execution.

This new wave of execution is the latest in a series of barbaric hangings, designed to intimidate On 10 January 2007, independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Mr. Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Leandro Despouy, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and Mr. Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on torture, issued a joint statement urging the Iranian Government to "stop the imminent execution of seven men belonging to the Ahwazi Arab minority and grant them a fair and public hearing “. Despite that plea, on 14 February, 2007 Ghasem Salami, 41, married with 6 children, Majad Albughbish, 30, single, were executed in Ahwaz by public hanging and a day later Mr. Risan Sawari, a 32 years old Ahwazi-Arab teacher was killed under torture in Karoon prison.

This is in addition to four executions on 24 January 2007 (Mohammad Chaabpour, Abdolamir Farjolah Chaab, Alireza Asakereh and Khalaf Khanafereh) and three on 19 December 2006 (Malek Banitamim, Abdullah Solaimani and Ali Matorizadeh). This brings the number of executions of Ahwazi Arab political and human rights activists in the past 9 months to at least 13.

The executions are in the context of a brutal clamp-down on Ahwazi Arabs protesting against ethnic discrimination and persecution. Although the Ahwazi Arab homeland in Iran's Khuzestan province is one of the most oil-rich regions in the world and represents up to 90 per cent of Iran's oil production, the community endures extreme levels of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. Ahwazis are subjected to repression, racial discrimination and faced with land confiscation, forced displacement and forced assimilation.

We appeal to you to condemn the latest wave of execution and call upon Iranian authorities to halt the imminent execution of the others. We also appeal to you to call upon Iran to ensure due legal process in accordance with internationally recognized standards and to uphold its obligations with regard to civil and political rights, including the provision of equal rights to ethnic, religious and minority groups in Iran- such as the indigenous Ahwazi-Arabs.

For further information, please see a dossier of other human rights violations against indigenous and ethnic Ahwazi-Arabs in Iran.

Iran: Ahwazi journalist's trial delayed

Iran: Ahwazi journalist's trial delayed

The following is a statement released by the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation concerning the trial of Yusuf Azizi Bani Torof, an Ahwazi Arab journalist and writer who has been charged with threatening national security. Click here for further details on his case.

According to the reports which Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO) have received, the hearing of Mr. Yusef Azizi Bani Torof was delayed on Tuesday 28 August in the Revolutionary Court branch 15 of Tehran, because his defence lawyer was not attending.

According to reports the court did not invite Mr. Saleh Nikbakhat who is the excellent lawyer of Mr. Yusef Azizi Bani Torof and has been his lawyer since year 2005.

Also the court did not ask for two other top lawyers, Mr. Abdul Fattah Sultani and Mrs. Mahnaz Parakand, who submitted their defence to the court on behalf of Mr. Yusef Azizi Bani Torof.
UNPO Appeals for Inquiry into Human Rights Infringements of Ahwazi rights

UNPO Appeals for Inquiry into Human Rights Infringements of Ahwazi rights

The following appeal was made by the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO). It follows a similar appeal by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society.

In light of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Louise Arbour's upcoming visit to Iran, UNPO expresses its deep concerns for the continued degrading human rights situation for Ahwazi Arabs in Iran.

Faced with issues of land confiscation and forced migration, UNPO has received numerous reports highlighting the detrimental effects these events are having on the livelihood of the Ahwazi community. In a report issued by UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Mr. Miloon Kothari, following his visit to Iran in July 2005, Mr. Kothari identified the exceptionally adverse housing and living conditions of ethnic and religious minorities, including the Ahwazi Arabs, in Iran as a serious issue. Despite his findings, the Ahwazi continue to be forcibly displaced from their homes due to land development projects hosted by Iranian authorities.

In addition, UNPO has witnessed an alarming number of incidents of extrajudicial executions carried out by Iranian authorities against Ahwazi political dissidents. These executions have been condemned by the international community, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Special Rapporteur (SR) on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston, SR on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Leandro Desouy, and SR on Torture Mandred Nowak. In January 2007 these Special Rapporteurs issued a statement urging the Iranian government to halt the imminent execution of several Ahwazi Arabs. With disregard to their request and in a blatant violation of the individuals' right to a fair and public trial, authorities in Iran carried out the executions, resulting in a clear breach of human rights obligations as set out by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a legal obligation to which Iran is party to.

UNPO remains deeply concerned about the human rights conditions of the Ahwazi community in Iran and therefore appeals to Ms. Louise Arbour to:

- Inquire about the circumstances surrounding recent land confiscation programmes and extrajudicial executions;

- Investigate the situation regarding landmines on Ahwazi land and the severe effects inflicted upon the Ahwazi community;

- Urge Iran to end immediately its use of land displacement and executions as a weapon of fear and oppression; and

- Urge Iran to immediately halt its ongoing persecution of minority communities, including the Ahwazi Arab community, and to afford all its citizens their full catalogue of political and human rights.
Iran deploys scientists to environmental "crisis zone" in Ahwazi Arab homeland

Iran deploys scientists to environmental "crisis zone" in Ahwazi Arab homeland

Iran's Department of the Environment is examining the environmental crisis that has hit the Ahwazi Arab homeland, following years of campaigning by Ahwazi activists.

Scientists are to assess the impact of pollutants from both the oil and non-oil industries on the marine environment in the Arab-majority province of Khuzestan as well as Hormozgan and Bushehr on the Gulf coast, said the deputy head of marine environment at the Department of the Environment, Mohammad Baqer Nabavi, in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).

"Pollution from oil, gas and petrochemical industries and other factories located in the south will be assessed," he said, adding the plan will start next month. Nabavi said Mahshahr, Asalouyeh and Bandar Abbas are the three main environmental crisis areas. Special environmental teams and experts will measure the level of pollution of oil and non-oil wastes such as chemical agents.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) has placed the environment at the centre of its campaign against the economic marginalisation of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs. Many Ahwazis traditionally depend on fishing for their livelihoods and have complained that pollution from oil and petrochemicals industries is poisoning the fish and reducing fish stocks.

In March, two of Iran's leading ecologists claimed that the Bandar Imam petrochemical complex is causing environmental devastation. Research by Dr Abbas Ismail Sari and Dr Bahram Kiaee found that a large area of Khuzestan is seriously affected by pollution from mercury and other dangerous chemicals used in petrochemicals manufacturing (click here for article).

In December, a conference Azad University in Ahwaz City heard that the Iranian regime's industrial policies are causing environmental chaos in Khuzestan. At the conference, Dr Hormoz Mahmmodi Rad, the head of Khuzestan's environmental organisation, described situation affecting the province's natural environment as "worrying" and "chaotic" with serious consequences for human health. He emphasised the need for planned industrial development with action to stop the industrial pollutants from pouring into the Karoun River. The Karoun is an essential water source for agriculture as well as fishing, which together provide the largest source of income for indigenous Ahwazi Arabs. Dr Mahmmodi Rad warned that the province's natural environment was in a perillous state, with biodiversity in the marshlands severely threatened and some animal species could face extinction as a result of industrial pollution (click here for more details on the conference).

Earlier in 2006, controversy erupted over pollution from the Bandar Imam Petrochemical Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned National Petrochemical Company, following the death of thousands of fish off the Mahshahr (Mashour) coast. Some Gulf states banned seafood imports from Iran due to radioactive contamination, indicating that marine pollution is a long-term industrial disaster (click for further information).

BAFS film on river pollution in Ahwaz

BAFS spokesman: Iran will go to extremes to expand its influence

BAFS spokesman: Iran will go to extremes to expand its influence

Iran is destabilising Iraq to expand its influence in the Middle East, said BAFS spokesman and treasurer Mansour Silawi al-Ahwaz in a live interview on Baghdad's Al-Sharqiyah Television on Friday.

In a programme that examined the role of Iranian militias in Iraq, Al-Ahwazi said: "It goes without saying that Iran will not seek the security and stability of Iraq as long as it has not achieved any understanding with the United States on all outstanding issues. Iran has a huge intelligence and military clout in Iraq."

He added that Iran exploited several factors to "go to extremes in its plans with a view to implementing its ambitious project of expanding at the expense of Iraqis in particular and the Arabs of the region in general."

A resident of Al-Saydiyah, Abu Yusuf, claimed that militias in Iraqi uniforms were attacking civilians. In a telephone interview with Al-Sharqiyah Television, he said: "Individuals donning Interior Ministry commandos' uniform have stormed the Uqbah Bin-Nafi Secondary School in the Al-Saydiyah neighbourhood of southern Baghdad and beaten and humiliated its teaching staff. They also opened fire on four women who were martyred instantly." He claimed that some 20 school pupiles were arrested.

Meanwhile, "Open Doors", an international nongovernmental organization, claimed that more than 1,000 Christian families were threatened by militias in Baghdad for their refusal to convert to Islam, pay jizyah (Islamic tax), and marry off their girls to Muslim men. In a statement, the organization added that a real campaign has been unleashed with the aim of evicting the Christian residents of the Al-Dawrah area in southern Baghdad and nearby neighbourhoods.