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Iran: Attacks on Revolutionary Guards in Ahwaz as Arabs reject election results

Reports from two separate sources has confirmed that Arab militants have attacked members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards in the Kampolo and Chaharshir districts of Ahwaz City, inflicting 'losses' - it is unclear what those losses are.

The attacks come after the announcement of fradulent presidential election results, which gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a landslide win. The chair of the electoral commission in Khuzestan province, which is home to most of Iran's indigenous Arab population, gave Ahmadinejad a 64% share of the vote with Mir-Hossein Mousavi on 27%, Mohsen Rezaee 7% and Mehdi Karroubi less than 1%. He added that in the Arab city of Khoramshahr (Mohammara), which lies on the Shatt al-Arab near Iraq, Ahmadinejad's support rose to 78% with Mousavi on 18%, Rezaee 2% and Karroubi less than 1%.

Sources in Ahwaz have said that outside the security services, Ahmadinejad is deeply unpopular and his support within the civilian population has diminished. The results are even more miraculous given that the dominant Arab population has displayed some of the greatest defiance against the regime, particularly in Khorramshahr/Mohammara where ethnic unrest has been accompanied by frequent industrial action over non-payment of wages in key industries. Khuzestan has never been considered a base of support for Ahmadinejad. In 2005, he officially came third with 14.4% of the vote, well behind Karroubi on 34.5% and Hashemi Rafsanjani on 20.5%. Karroubi's share of the vote in Khuzestan was twice the national average.

An ethnic Lor from neighbouring Lorestan, Karroubi had made ethnic rights a key plank of his bid for the presidency. This won him support from many Arab figures, including former Majlis member Jasem Shadidzadeh al-Tamimi who was his campaign manager in the province. Ethnic Lors are also indigenous to northern areas of Khuzestan and it is believed he had overwhelming support among them. Yet, in Karroubi's hometown of Aligordaz in Loristan, Ahmadinejad received 39,690 votes, Karoubi 14,512 and Mousavi 9,330 votes.

Meanwhile, Khuzestan is home to Mohsen Rezaee, who belongs to the Bakhtiari ethnic group that is concentrated in the east of the province. Although he is not believed to be widely popular, yet in the village of Lali where Rezaee is from, Ahmadinejad won 830 out of 900 votes, an implausible 92% of the vote. Meanwhile, Mousavi has enjoyed strong and growing popularity in the province as he has sought to consolidate opposition to Ahmadinejad around him.

Most Ahwazi Arabs expected vote-rigging, but few foresaw it on this scale. There is universal agreement that the provincial results were imposed by Ayatollah Khamenei without any count being conducted.

Speaking to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, an Ahwazi activist said: "The results for Rezaee and Karroubi in their home towns demonstrates that electoral fraud is not only carried out to subvert the democratic will of the people but also to deny the voice of ethnic minority groups, such as the Lori, Bakhtiari and Ahwazi Arabs, who are opposed to this chauvinist regime and in particular Ayatollah Khamenei's puppet Ahmadinejad.

"Even hardline Majlis members are now admitting that the Ahmadinejad administration has a poor reputation in the province, particularly in dealing with the growing problem of drug addiction and unemployment among the youth.

"Hardliners have joined calls for a fair and just redistribution of wealth to eliminate poverty among the indigenous Arabs and realise the local population's legitimate demands.

"Ahmadinejad and his supporters say any such talk creates divisions within the Iranian population and try to suppress any debate on the economic and political situation of Ahwazi Arabs.

"Why would an overwhelming majority go and vote for this dictator?

"There are protests everywhere and the situation in Ahwaz is no different from Tehran."

The British Ahwazi Friendship Society, a London-based lobbying and advocacy group working with the Ahwazi Arabs, is urging the British government and the international community not to recognise the results of this election.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: "All instruments of power are in the hands of the military and the Guards and the most ideologically driven and fundamentalist Shi'a clergy. They will not give one inch of power away, even to the so-called reformist opposition within the establishment.

"We encourage Ahwazi Arabs to organise civil society groups under any name as well as underground organisations to affect the very explosive situation.

"We call on Ahwazi Arabs to renew their intifada against the Iranian regime that began in April 2005 and rise up against this despised government, because the alternative is another four years of servitude, poverty and oppression.

"We hope that the scales will fall from the eyes of all peoples of Iran and that they will withdraw their participation in the regime's democratic charade."