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.