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.