The following is an urgent appeal from the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation concerning the torturing to death of ethnic Arabs
To: Ms. Louise Arbour , High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office of the United Nations
UNOG-OHCHR, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Dear Madam Commissioner:
After this year's Muslim Eid ul-Fitr prayer on Friday 12 October 2007, residents of the city of Hamidieh, an Arab city in the predominately Arab-populated Khuzestan (al-Ahwaz) province in Southwest Iran, staged a peaceful march against poverty, unemployment and excessive repression and persecution of Arabs. Iranian security forces attacked the demonstrators and arrested hundreds. According to the relatives of those held in custody, the Ministry of Information and Security has refused to divulge any information on their whereabouts, condition and the charges against them. Recently some of the families were told to collect the dead bodies of their family members from morgues in the barrack of Army 92nd Division. We have received reliable reports that they have died under torture. Their names are as follows:
1. Ghaiban Obidawi, a laborer, 38, married with four children. He was killed under torture. His fingers on both hands were cut off and his eyes were partially gouged out, according to his family. His body was found in Karoon River on December 12, 2007.
2. Ali Chaldawi, 23, food vendor. He was killed under torture in Ahwaz on 9 December 2007. His body was retrieved in an alleyway in Ahwaz City on 11 December 2007. His body has many visible torture marks, including severed fingers and the removal of toe nails.
3. Ali Obidawi (Sawari), 37, son of Ghanem Obidawi, a former member of Hamidieh City Council. Taxi Driver, married with two children. There has been no trace of him since his arrest in October. The government has not provided any information despite his family's repeated requests. His family and other local sources believe he died under torture.
4. Yousef Lefteh-pour, 24, single, a resident of Hamidieh. There has been no trace of him since his arrest in October. The government has not provided any information despite his family's repeated requests. His family and other local sources believe he died under torture in Sepidar prison in Ahwaz.
5. Ahmad Saedi (Marmazi), truck driver, 23 , married. The Ministry of Information and Security has not provided any information to his family despite his family's repeated requests. His family and other local sources believe he died under torture.
6. Saleh Ameri (aka Ahmad Jazeyeri), former secretary general of Ahwaz Liberation Front, which was dissolved after 1979 Iranian revolution, is reportedly still undergoing severe torture in Ahwaz. He is 76 years old and has not been politically active for over 28 years. However, he is a widely respected symbol and hero of resistance against the oppression of Tehran government against indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.
7. Walid Naisi, 50, married with five children, a manager of the Eshragh Bookstore and Cultural Center in Ahwaz City. He was arrested along with some 50 employees of Eshragh in October 2007 on suspicion of selling Arabic literature considered seditious by the Iranian government. The Ministry of Information and Security has not provided any information to his family despite his family's repeated requests. His family and other local sources believe he died under torture.
Families who have recovered the dead bodies of those detained by the Iranian government have been ordered not to have a public burial or any other burial ceremony. Instead, they were ordered to bury the bodies in unmarked burial grounds specified by the government in a remote area called Lanat-Abad (the damned Cemetery), where animals are also buried.
Madam Commissioner: As you know, in addition to the above, in the past 12 months, at least 19 Ahwazi-Arab activists have been publicly hanged (three were executed just days after your visit to Tehran in September). Seven others, including Zamal Bawi, Faleh al-Mansouri, Said Saki, Rasoul Mazrea, Ahmad Marmazi, Hissein Asakereh and Abdolhossein Haribi, are in danger of imminent execution .
The killing and the executions are in the context of a brutal clamp-down on Ahwazi Arabs protesting against ethnic discrimination and persecution - designed to intimidate them into submission.
Most charges against most Arab activists include requesting autonomy for Khuzestan (al-Ahwaz), converting from Shi'ism to Sunnism and being "Mohareb" or enemies of God, which carries a death sentence. Other unsubstantiated charges allege "destabilizing the country", "attempting to overthrow the government", "possession of improvised explosives", "sabotage of oil installations" and being a "threat to national security."
Although the homeland of the Ahwazi Arabs, who number five million, 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 high levels of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. Ahwazis are subjected to repression, racial discrimination and are faced with land confiscation, forced displacement and forced assimilation.
We appeal to you to condemn the latest torture and wave of execution and call upon Iranian authorities to halt the imminent execution of the others. We also request that you 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 – as outlined in the Iranian constitution and various international conventions to which Iran is a signatory.
Karim Abdian, PhD
Ahwaz Human Rights Organization