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Iran security forces fire on pro-Palestinian demonstators in Ahwaz City

Iran security forces fire on pro-Palestinian demonstators in Ahwaz City

A demonstration by Ahwazi Arabs in solidarity with Gazan Arabs was violently put down by Iranian security forces on Thursday 8 January with the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) reporting that 37 Arab demonstrators were still being held today.

Ahwazi Arabs were responding to a call from a coalition of Ahwazi Arab democratic non-governmental organisations and staged a solidarity march. The demonstration coincided with 9th of Ashura, an important Shi'ite religious holiday in Iran and took place in Ahwaz City, where Arabs are the largest ethnic group.

Thousands gathered at an assembly point at the beginning of the march at Hay-al-Thora (Revolution Square) and proceeded towards Hay al-Azizieh (Bani-Hashem) square. Halfway into the march, Iranian security forces attacked the peaceful demonstrators, firing high calibre weapons into the air to disperse them. The security forces blocked some of the escape routes and arrested a large number of the participants.

According to AHRO, most of the demonstrators had been released by Saturday, but 37 of the organizers and participants remained in jail in Ahwazi city. Their names are:
1. Reza Ahmadi
2. Tehran Ahmadi
3. Hamid Bawi
4. Ahmad Bai-Toruf
5. Naseem Bani-Toruf
6. Muhammad Janadeleh
7. Amin Cheldawi
8. Zalan Cheldawi
9. Yousef Cehledwai
10. Gahier Hamudi
11. Rashid Haidari
12. Fouad Haidari
13. Faisal Haidari
14. Mahmoud Haidari
15. Hamzah Khasraji
16. Mansour Daghagheleh
17. Jaber Sa'duni
18. Ya'ghub Sa'idawi
19. Mansour Sawari
20. Nasrallah Sawari
21. Yasser Sawari
22. Mahdi Taruf
23. Raheem E'badi
24. Dawoood Abiat
25. Ali-Pour-Abiat
26. Muhamamdali Abiat
27. Abulamir-Fazeli
28. Bashir Krushat
29. Amar Kuroshat
30. Hammed Kan'ani
31. Aziz Kan'ani
32. Rasoul Muhammadi
33. Baber Mansouri
34. Ali Musawi
35. Nasse Mahawi
36. Ghazi Naisi
37. Musatafa Naisi

In a statement, AHRO said that the "arrests of peaceful solidarity demonstrators reveals the nature of Iranian 'support' for the Palestinian movement. Iran uses the Palestinians to implement its expansionist policy in the Middle East and the east Mediterranean. Iran's aim is to divide Arab unity and to use Gaza to retaliate against Egypt and other moderate states of the region. We request the immediate and unconditional release of the peaceful demonstrators."

The Iranian regime has quashed all non-sanctioned displays of Arabic culture by the indigenous Arabs in the southwest region, which Persians once called "Arabistan". Tehran fears a resurgence of Arab identity politics following a series of uprisings in the region, particularly following Israeli operations in Gaza which have mobilised and unified people across the Arab world. Meanwhile, the regime has conducted its own tightly controlled official demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza.
Concern mounts over Ahwazi Arab refugees in Syria and Iraq

Concern mounts over Ahwazi Arab refugees in Syria and Iraq

Amnesty International and Arab human rights groups have voiced concern about plans to illegally deport Ahwazi Arab refugees from Iraq and Syria to Iran, where they face imprisonment, torture and possible execution.

This week Amnesty issued an appeal urging the Iraqi authorities not to forcibly return three Ahwazi Arab refugees, Shaheed Abdulhussain Abbas Amouri, Mohammed Ali Abdulzahra Hamad Amouri and Naji Aboud Obidawi to Iran where it says they would be "at risk of torture and possibly the death penalty." It reminded the Iraqi government of its "obligations under international law that they must not forcibly return individuals to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations, including torture."

The three men fled to Iraq in December 2007 and were arrested in the southern city of Basra. They had been involved in the non-violent Ahwazi Arab intifada against the Iranian regime of April 2005. Shaheed Amouri and Mohammed Ali Amouri were charged with entering Iraqi territory illegally, sentenced to one year's imprisonment and transferred to al-Amara prison to serve their sentences. Having completed their sentences, they are at risk of forcible return. Naji Obidawi fled Iran in June 2008 and went to Iraq where he was arrested and transferred to al-Amara prison. Amnesty International says it does not know the exact reasons for his arrest and what charges, if any, have been brought against him. He had been serving a 10-year prison sentence in Iran in connection with the intifada and fled Iran after he was given leave to visit his family.

The Dansk Ahwazi Venskabsforening (DAVF, Danish Ahwazi Friendship Society) has issued an appeal for the release of four Ahwazi UNHCR-registered refugees who have been detained by the Syrian authorities. They are Naser Mazrae, Mosa Mazrae, Esa Khaiyami and Masood Hassan Mohseni. The men were accepted for asylum in Australia in 2006, but the Syrian authorities have denied them an exit visa and the UNHCR has not transferred them to a safe third country. They were detained on the instructions of a representative of the Iranian embassy in Damascus, Mr Mohseni, who has demanded they be returned to Iran.

The international law principle of non-refoulement, a principle binding on all states, prohibits the forcible return of anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights abuses, including torture. However, Syria has illegally returned a number of Ahwazi Arab refugees to Iran, contrary to both international law and its own laws. In September 2008, Masoumeh Ka'abi and her five children were illegally deported from Syria to Iran where they were incarcerated. She had been previously imprisoned with one of her sons after her husband, a known Ahwazi Arab rights activist, fled Iran and was given asylum in Denmark.

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society has called for the resignation of the chief of the UNHCR office in Damascus, alleging negligence in dealing with forced deportations of Ahwazi Arab refugees in Syria and calling for an investigation into possible Iranian infiltration in the UNHCR staff.