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Sick Ahwazi Arab baby kidnapped from hospital in Lebanon

The Iranian regime kidnapped a family refugees from a hospital in a Sunni area of Beirut in Lebanon and forcibly deporting them and their sick three month-old daughter to Syria, according reliable reports received by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) from the Danish Ahwazi Friendship Society and the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation.

The Iranian Embassy in Beirut raided the hospital on 23 April in search of Ali Helali Majd and his family, who are supposedly under the protection of the UNHCR. The family had been accepted for asylum in Australia and were waiting to be transferred when the youngest child, Rahab (pictured), fell ill. Little Rahab was cruelly abducted by force by Hezbollah terrorists along with her three year-old brother Hossein and six year-old sister Hoda and their parents, Ali (40) and Fatemeh (26).

Ali Helali Majd has been sent to Iran, while his wife, son and two daughters have been left behind in the Syrian capital Damascus. BAFS believes that Ali is at risk of torture and execution in Iran and calls on the UNHCR and the international community to secure his release and political asylum outside Iran.

The brazen way in which the family were abducted by the Iranian Embassy in conjunction with the Lebanese Hezbollah in a Sunni area of Beirut demonstrates the control Iran has over the Mediterranean state. It also shows that Ahwazi Arab refugees are not safe anywhere in the Middle East and their removal to safe countries needs to be expedited as a matter of urgency. Furthermore, UNHCR protection has become meaningless, with the UN agency unable or unwilling to act on behalf of Ahwazi Arab refugees.

BAFS welcomes the removal of Laurens Jolles as head of the UNHCR mission in Damascus. BAFS had lobbied for his dismissal after he hired known members and sympathisers of Hezbollah and the Iranian regime as staff in his office. Under Jolles, the Damascus office refused to intervene when UNHCR-mandate Ahwazi Arab refugees were illegally deported from Syria to Iran. Laurens Jolles refused to speak to Ahwazi Arabs in their mother tongue, instead speaking to them in Farsi, and threatened to remove the UNHCR mandate of any Ahwazi Arab refugee that contacted pro-Ahwazi NGOs. As such, Jolles was regarded with deep distrust.

BAFS hopes that the UNHCR finds a more suitable replacement for Jolles who will be impartial and trustworthy that will resist the corrupting influence of the regime in Tehran. BAFS calls on Philippe Leclerc, Jolles' former deputy and the current acting head of UNHCR in Syria, to rescue the agency's reputation by dismissing compromised staff and ensuring that no more Ahwazi Arab refugees are illegally deported. We also insist that the wife, son and daughters of Ali Helali Majd are protected by all means possible and ignoring any orders from the Syrian dictatorship. BAFS will continue to monitor the situation at the UNHCR office in Damascus.