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Ahwazis oppose sectarianism: setting the record straight

Ahwazis oppose sectarianism: setting the record straight

By Abu Moussa Zafrani


Ignorance of the Ahwazi Arabs has prompted some journalists, governments and international human rights organisations to portray their struggle as a sectarian conflict between Sunni Arabs and the Shi'ite state.

In an appeal to set the record straight, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) points out that 80-90 per cent of the Ahwazi Arab population in the southwest of Iran (Khuzestan) are Shi'ite. Ahwazi Arab culture is devoid of religious sectarianism and is instead based around tribal associations that are often mixed Sunni and Shia.

The Sunni Arab population is traditionally concentrated around the Shatt al-Arab (Arvand Rood), particularly Mohammareh (Khorammshahr). A small number of Ahwazi Arabs have converted to Sunnism and Christianity as part of a rejection of the regime's ideology and an extreme fringe minority have been influenced by radical doctrines such as Wahabbism. Most Arabs continue to follow Shi'ite beliefs, while rejecting Khomeinism as a heresy created to justify political oppression and ethnic persecution.

The Ahwazi Arab struggle has nothing to do with religion, it is a fight against social, economic and cultural marginalisation and persecution. The misunderstanding is the result of a campaign of disinformation by both the Iranian regime and some opposition groups who want to deny the problem of ethnic persecution in Iran in order to advance their political agendas.

The regime has vilified and dismissed the Ahwazi struggle as a Wahabbist insurgency. This is intended to demonise Ahwazi resistance as akin to Al-Qaeda, even though it is devoid of any religious ideology. Meanwhile, certain opposition groups and individuals are keen to play down cultural activism - particularly among Arabs - to control the political agenda. These wealthy opposition groups, controlled by middle-class chauvinist nationalists, have unfortunately had high-level access to the media and government, thereby distorting the real cause of the Ahwazi Arab uprising.

An example is the recent US State Department report on religious freedom, which states that Sunnis complain of under-representation "in government-appointed positions in the provinces where they form a majority, such as Kurdistan and Khuzestan Provinces."

In reality, the complaints are overwhelmingly about ethnic not religious representation. In some cases, notably Kurds and Balochis, ethnic groups are overwhelmingly Sunni, but their demands are based on collective rights, such as political devolution and self-determination, economic development, human rights and linguistic equality. While there is no doubt that non-Shi'ite groups such as the Baha'is, Christians, Sufis, Jews, Mandeans and others suffer violent persecution, there must also be recognition of the importance of ethnic persecution in Iran.

At an international level, Kurds and Balochis have worked closely with Shi'ite-majority ethnic groups such as Ahwazi Arabs and Azeri Turks to highlight the problem of ethnic persecution in Iran. Religion has not been a barrier to mutual co-operation and solidarity since few want to live under theocratic rule, either Shi'ite or Sunni. Ethnic rights activists seek to work with Iranians of all religions, ethnicities and ideologies to create a free society with fair elections and a political system in which they can live without intimidation and with respect. Misinformation can only create division.
Rape: Iran's weapon against Arab women

Rape: Iran's weapon against Arab women

Iranian security forces are using rape in an effort to silence discontent within the country's Arab population.

According to credible reports received by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) and its Danish sister organisation, the Dansk Ahwazi Venskabsforening (DAVF), two young Ahwazi Arab women were gang raped by four members of the Hefazat-e Etelaat-e Sepah Pasdaran, the intelligence service of the Revolutionary Guards that answers directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

The women are aged 25 and 26 years old and were raped at a Revolutionary Guards prison in Charshir district of Ahwaz City on 1 September. They had been arrested in an ongoing campaign by the regime against Arab cultural and political activists. One of the women was previously raped in 2006. The rapes were filmed by the intelligence services to blackmail the women's families into silence and to humiliate them in order to break them psychologically.

In Iran, victims of rape, including children and pregnant women, are executed for adultery and 'crimes against chastity'. But even if the women are not charged with adultery for being raped, their relatives fear being socially ostracised for the dishonour and shame that comes with extra-marital sex. In this way, families can be silenced and sometimes they carry out 'honour killings' if the wider community finds out.

BAFS spokesman Nasser Bani Assad said: 'These families should have no shame as their daughters, sisters and wives are victims. The shame belongs to Ayatollah Khomenei, who is directing rape gangs in all prisons under his control, and the Iranian security infrastructure. Rape is used to divide and silence. Those who accuse victims of being criminally culpable are collaborators with the regime.

'In defiance of the Iranian regime, we say to our Ahwazi sisters and their families that you bear no shame or responsibility for this evil violation. We mourn with you and on your behalf we will fight harder against Tehran's fascist government for the liberation of Ahwazi Arab women from cultural, political, social and gender oppression.'

In a separate development, two women were executed earlier this month in Karoon prison in Ahwaz City. They were identified only by their first names - Fozieh and Khadijeh. The Iranian media claimed they were drug traffickers. Three men were executed at the same time on similar charges.
Iran: Imminent execution of two Ahwazi Arab political prisoners

Iran: Imminent execution of two Ahwazi Arab political prisoners



Dorri-Najafabadi (قربانعلی دری نجف‌آبادی) was the former minister of intelligence during the presidency of Khatami. As the head of the Intelligence Ministry (VAJA or formerly known as SAVAK), he was responsible for controlling the biggest threat to the Islamic Republic—the Iranians. He still has considerable influence within Iran’s security apparatus which makes him a fearsome prosecutor general.
Profile

Ayatollah Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi is a particularly brutal cleric involved in many atrocities committed against his fellow countrymen. He is considered to be ruthless on the same order of magnitude as Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali the “cat strangler” and during his term, VAJA became a far more murderous of an organization than the previous regime’s SAVAK.

During Najafababadi’s time as the Minister of Intellignce, VAJA committedchain murders of Iranian Intellectuals and ordinary citizens whom he considered to have been critical of the clerical monarchy. Dorri-Najafabadi’s influence within the security establishment enabled him to avoid responsibility and “rogue elements” were blamed.

Dorri-Najafabadi’s brutality is matched by his backwardness; he famously claimed that toys such as the Barbie doll are “destructive culturally and a social danger” to Iran. He has played and continues to play a key role in stifling dissent in Iran.

In the aftermath of the election unrest, Dorri-Najafabadi promised to teach the protesters “a lesson they will never forget.” He made good on his promise; however, soon after the son of a prominent conservative politician, who was detained during the mass arrests of protesters, also died in custody due to severe torture, Dorri-Najafabadi said that a “serious judicial inquiry” was being conducted into prison deaths. It appears that he is once again setting the stage for avoiding responsibility.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference, Qorbanali Dori-Najafabadi, the prosecutor general, said “mistakes” had led to a few “painful accidents which cannot be defended, and those who were involved should be punished.”

Such mistakes, he said, included “the Kahrizak incident,” a reference to the deaths of several detainees at Kahrizak detention center in southwestern Tehran. (NYT August 8, 2009)

He is considered to be one of Iran’s worst clerics.

Iran: Seven Ahwazi Arabs Facing Execution

Seven Ahwazi Arab opposition activists have been sentenced to death in secret trials in Iran's Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz City, according to reports from the IranPress news service and the Human Rights Activists in Iran group. Two others have been sentenced to two and three and a half years imprisonment, respectively.

In an appeal to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, world leaders and the NGO community, the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) identified the men as Ali Saedi (25), Valid Naisi (23), Majid Fardipour (Mahawi) (26), Da'iar Mahawi (50), Maher Mahawi (21), Ahmad Saedi, (28), Yousef Leftehpoor (25), Sayed Morteza Musawi and Adnan Biat. Some of the men are known cultural rights activists. All but Musawi and Biat were sentenced to death.

Arrested in August 2007, all men have been held for months in solitary confinement in Ahwaz's notorious Karoon prison, where many Ahwazi Arab political prisoners have been tortured and executed. As is typical of Revolutionary Court proceedings against political activists, they were denied access to a lawyer.

The initial charges against all nine men were conversion from Shi'ism to Sunnism, followed by charges related to the assassination in June 2007 of Shi'ite radical pro-regime cleric Hashem Saimari and for 'acting against national security.'

Saimari was renowned for his fiery and sometimes violent rhetoric against Sunni Muslims, who he claimed were heretics. He was a known agent of the Iranian intelligence services while serving as the imam of Zahraa mosque in the poor, Arab-populated Hey al-Thawra district of Ahwaz City.

No Ahwazi Arab group claimed responsibility for the assassination and no evidence was produced to substantiate the government's charges against the men, who denied all charges of involvement in armed struggle and murder. Past executions based on similar charges have been carried out against innocent political and cultural activists, including some who were already in prison when the crimes they were alleged to have committed were carried out.

The execution of Ahwazi Arab activists has been ongoing since the April 2005 Ahwazi Arab intifada against the regime. Thousands of Arabs have been arrested by the regime and scores have been killed, either summarily or executed following secret trials. According to AHRO, since the intifada began on April 15, 2005, over 5,000 Ahwazis have been arrested, at least 131 were killed and over 150 were disappeared, believed to have been tortured and killed by Iranian security forces. The tortured bodies of 'disappeared' Ahwazi Arab activists have been washed up on river shores or caught in fishermen's nets.

The regime has linked the unrest to foreign influence, but has declined to provide any evidence to substantiate its allegations despite promising to do so. These unfounded claims include the allegation by a news agency run by supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Raja News, that the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) was set up by British intelligence services in collaboration with Wahhabist (Sunni fundamentalist) groups. BAFS has repeatedly stated that it opposes all political violence in Iran committed by both the regime and its opponents and has condemned assassinations and bombings. In reality, the accusations of foreign involvement are a ruse to justify the brutal persecution and arbitrary collective punishment of Ahwazi Arabs.

The execution campaign against Ahwazi Arabs has been condemned by independent experts appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Presidency, the European Parliament and members of the British Parliament.

Although the Ahwazi Arab homeland in Iran's Khuzestan province is one of the most oil-rich regions in the world and represents up to 90 per cent of Iran's oil production, this community endures extreme levels of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy. Ahwazis are subjected to repression, racial discrimination and faced with land confiscation, forced displacement and forced assimilation. Details of Iran's persecution of Ahwazi Arabs are contained in the Ahwazi Human Rights Dossier, compiled by AHRO and BAFS.