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Relative Of Hanged Ahwazis Calls for International Prosecution Of Judges

A relative of two executed Ahwazi Arabs is calling on the international community to issue a warrant for the arrest of two Iranian judge...

New Ahwaz Mayor sacks Ahwazi Arab workers

New Ahwaz Mayor sacks Ahwazi Arab workers

Ahwaz City Council has axed around 400 Ahwazi Arab workers on the orders of the city's new mayor, Mansour Katanbaf.

The decision to sack the workers was ostensibly because the council is in financial hardship and is seeking to reduce costs, but all those made redundant are believed to be ethnically Arab. There are suspicions that the jobs will be filled by non-Arab personnel, possibly from outside the Ahwaz region.

Katanbaf was born in Ahwaz City in 1960 and had previously served as a civil servant in one of Tehran's borough councils. The new mayor, who was appointed three months ago, is regarded as one of the most extreme supporters of the Iranian regime and is a former member of the Revolutionary Guard. He is an ethnic Shushtari, a non-Arab whose family originate from Shushtar city about 70km from Ahwaz. Historically, powerful members of the Shushtari community have had uneasy relations with the Arabs and Lurs who live in the region.

Katanbaf's decision is a major blow to the Ahwazi community following a series of redundancies in the industrial sector. Two weeks ago, 38 Arabs were summarily dismissed from a sugar producing company after complaining about the axing of Ahwazi jobs. There are also reports that around 10,000 Ahwazi workers, the majority of whom are Arab, have lost their jobs at local brickworks following the completion of a number of construction projects.
British government response to killings in Ahwaz

British government response to killings in Ahwaz

Alastair Burt, the British foreign minister responsible for relations with Iran, has condemned the killing of Ahwazi Arab protesters following the uprising of April 15.
Below are excerpts of his statement to the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network:
"I was deeply disturbed by the reports of violence against protesters in Ahwaz on 15 April, including reports of deaths of 20-30 protesters at the hands of security forces and 700 arrests. This is grossly hypocritical when Iran claims to support protests elsewhere in the region. Government officials raised our concern about the protests in Ahwaz with the Iranian Chargé d'Affaires in London on 28 April. I further condemn the nine reported executions in Ahwaz mentioned in your letter of 27 May. I am deeply concerned about reports that they were executed for political offences ... 

"On 17 June, the UN Human Rights Council announced the appointment of former Maldivian Foreign Minister, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, as UN Special Rapporteur on Iran ... In his mandate, Dr Ahmed Shaheed will be able to make recommendations for future action to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council ... I firmly believe that the appointment of a Special Rapporteur and the EU sanctions against human rights violators will provide strong encouragement to the many Iranians, including the Ahwazi Arabs, who bravely continue to speak up for their rights and the rights of others, and will send a strong international message to Iran that its human rights record is being closely watched as well as being condemned."

Outside the spotlight, Arab uprising smolders in country's southwest

Article by Roula Hajjar from the Los Angeles Times website

As democratic movements rock the Middle East, a little-reported uprising in southwest Iran has largely escaped international attention, primarily due to the efforts of Iranian officials.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has for weeks cracked down on protesters in Ahvaz, the capital of the mostly ethnic Arab Khuzestan province, which has become a scene of ongoing unrest.

The violence began when the Iranian security apparatus, along with, as one Arab Iranian activist reported, paramilitary Basiji forces, suppressed an April 15 "Day of Rage" demonstration against the hard-line regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Similar to uprisings throughout the Arab world, the "Day of Rage" was organized through social network websites such as Facebook and Twitter. 

The "Day of Rage" protest, which spread from Ahvaz to other cities in Khuzestan such as Abadan, Khorramshahr, Hamidieh, Mahshahr and Shadegan, commemorated of the Bloody Friday demonstration that took place on April 15, 2005, and led to the death of 20 Arab Iranians and the arrest of 250 others. 

Iranian human rights activists have reported that in the last two weeks security personnel attacked peaceful protesters with live ammunition. Authorities have provided very little information on the situation following the crackdown. Little is known about the dead or injured since the protests began in mid-April. State news agencies have reported that "armed insurgents" were behind the killing of three people, including one officer. 

“Iran has made it impossible to confirm the scale of the deadly violence against protesters in Khuzestan province, making transparent and independent investigations into alleged killings and arrests there absolutely essential,”  Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Witnesses told rights advocates that raids began in Ahvaz began on April 14, a day before the protest.

On April 21, state television reported the arrest of eight members of the “Arab Peoples Group." Iranian authorities attribute the unrest in the southwest region to what they call "Arab separatist groups." 

"Daughter of Ahvaz," a female activist, told the website of Al Arabiya that 15 Arab Iranians have died in the region. 

The ethnic Arab Iranian population in the area has complained that the city remains severely underdeveloped despite being rich in natural gas and oil. Protesters also believe that the Persian and Azeri majority nation has intensified long-standing discriminatory policies toward Arabs and other ethnic minorities.
Human Rights Watch: Investigate Reported Killings of Demonstrators

Human Rights Watch: Investigate Reported Killings of Demonstrators

The following is a report from Human Rights Watch on the killing of Ahwazi Arab demonstrators

Iranian security forces should immediately halt the use of excessive force against demonstrators in an ethnic Arab province of southwestern Iran, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should open independent and transparent investigations into all alleged killings there since protests began on April 14, 2011, Human Rights Watch said.

Authorities should also restore regular telephone and internet communications to the region, Khuzestan province, and allow independent international media and human rights organizations free access to conduct investigations in the province.

Iranian rights activists and international media have reported that Iranian security forces fired live ammunition as well as teargas at largely peaceful protesters on a number of occasions, killing several dozen protesters since the demonstrations began. Human Rights Watch also received reports that authorities have arrested several hundred protesters and rights activists in Khuzestan and severely curtailed communications in the area. 

"Iran has made it impossible to confirm the scale of the deadly violence against protesters in Khuzestan province, making transparent and independent investigations into alleged killings and arrests there absolutely essential," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Iran's wall of silence around Khuzestan certainly makes it seem that the government is trying to hide what its security forces have been doing there." 

Authorities have thus far provided little information about people killed or injured during the protests, but the government announced the arrest of several members of what officials referred to as an Arab separatist group they allege was responsible for killing three people, including a police officer.

Khuzestan province, where much of Iran's oil and gas reserves are located, has a large ethnic Arab population believed to number more than 2 million. Despite Khuzestan's natural resource wealth, its ethnic Arab population, which is believed to constitute a majority in the province, has long complained about the lack of socio-economic development in the region. They also allege that the Iranian government has engaged in systematic discrimination against them, particularly in the areas of employment, housing, and civil and political rights.

The crackdown against protesters and rights activists began after Iranian-Arab activists called for a "day of anger" protest on April 15 to mark the anniversary of demonstrations in Ahvaz in 2005. The April 2011 demonstration, organized via social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, spread from Ahvaz to other cities in Khuzestan such as Hamidieh, Mahshahr, Shadegan, Abadan, and Khorramshahr, according to the International Minorities Human Rights Organization (IMHRO), a London-based group that focuses on the rights of minorities in Iran. 

A resident of the city of the Ahvaz told Human Rights Watch that security forces including Basij, armed police, plainclothes agents, and intelligence agents surrounded and infiltrated several Arab-majority areas in Ahvaz a week prior to planned demonstrations on April 15. He said that for about a week prior to the protests Ahvaz appeared to be under martial law. Movement between Arab neighborhoods in Ahvaz became extremely restricted as security forces set up checkpoints throughout the city, and masked security forces began launching home raids and arresting targeted individuals including rights activists. The resident told Human Rights Watch that he witnessed several dozen young Arabs being picked up by plainclothes security officers during some of these raids.

According to the witness, clashes broke out on April 14 between security forces attempting to arrest several individuals in the Homa neighborhood of Ahvaz and the residents' families and neighbors. The clashes led to the deaths of three individuals. The resident told Human Rights Watch that the next day, Friday, hundreds of Ahvazi residents filled the streets of Ahvaz but because of the heavy security presence protests remained isolated and scattered within the various Arab neighborhoods. The resident said:

Security forces shot directly at protesters with Kalishnikovs and used teargas and other choke-inducing gases against us. I saw at least eight people who had been hit by live ammunition fire shot by armed forces on motorcycles.... We tried to help the injured but we could not because the area was completely surrounded by security forces, and we heard news that the local hospital was under the control of security forces and anyone who goes there will be arrested.The resident told Human Rights Watch that a little while later men in his neighborhood attacked a local police station after they witnessed the killing of one of their fellow protesters. At least one person was killed during the clashes and several others were injured. "We could not help the injured because of the intensity of the gunfire," he said. "They were taken away by security forces."

On the evening of April 15, security forces, often masked, continued nighttime raids against individuals suspected of participating in the protests, the witness told Human Rights Watch. He said that he witnessed several of these raids, including the arrest of seven Arab women by security forces. 

On April 26, IMHRO provided Human Rights Watch with the names of 27 people it said had been killed by Iranian security forces since the outbreak of violence. The group also said that authorities have arrested several hundred protesters and rights activists. On the same day, a representative from the Ahwazi Organization for the Defense of Human Rights (AODHR), also based in London, told Human Rights Watch that since April 15 Iranian security forces "killed 48 innocent protesters, injured tens and arrested hundreds of Ahwazis."

Human Rights Watch has not been able to verify independently the numbers and identities of persons killed, injured, or arrested due to the security situation in Khuzestan province and severe government restrictions placed on independent reporting in the region. 

Several sources informed Human Rights Watch that after April 15, despite the security presence in Ahvaz and other Arab-majority towns in Khuzestan province, there were a few additional protests. Authorities have severely disrupted internet and mobile phone access in Ahvaz and many other towns throughout Khuzestan province during the past week or two. 

On April 18, the Iranian rights activist and Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi wrote a letter to Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stating that Iranian security forces had killed "more than 12 people" and injured dozens more in Khuzestan. Arabic-language outlets such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya have provided varying accounts of the violence and the numbers of dead, injured, and detained. 

On April 21, Iranian state television reported the arrest of eight members of the "Arab Peoples Group" during the early morning hours. An official said that on April 15, the eight men had carried out an "armed attack" against a police station in Ahvaz that resulted in the deaths of three people, including one police officer, and several injuries. On April 16, the semi-official Fars News Agency quoted a police official as saying that at least one person had been killed and two injured "at the hands of an armed insurgent."

The April 2011 protests mark the sixth anniversary of the 2005 protests in Khuzestan in which security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrators in Ahvaz and other cities and towns in the province. The 2005 protests erupted following the publication of a letter allegedly written by Mohammad Ali Abtahi, an advisor to President Mohammad Khatami. The letter referred to government plans to implement policies that would reduce the proportion of ethnic Arabs in Khuzestan's population. After security forces tried to disperse the demonstrators and opened fire on them, clashes between protesters and security forces turned violent. The next day, Abtahi and other government officials denied the authenticity of the letter, calling it fake. Security forces killed at least 50 protestors and detained hundreds more during the 2005 protests. 

The 2005 crackdown led to a cycle of violence throughout Khuzestan province, including several fatal bomb attacks in June and October 2005 and in January 2006 that killed 12 people. In response, the Iranian government imprisoned numerous activists it claimed were Arab separatists responsible for terrorist attacks against civilians, and sentenced more than a dozen people to death on terrorism-related charges. Since 2006, authorities have executed more than a dozen Iranians of Arab origin following flawed trials.

"In light of numerous reports of killings and mass arrests in Khuzestan and the government's track record of abuse against its ethnic Arab minority, the onus is squarely on authorities," Stork said. "The government needs to allow independent reporting in the region, provide a full and transparent accounting of persons killed or arrested by security forces during the past several weeks, and prosecute anyone responsible for human rights violations."
Authorities ban coverage of crackdown on Arab minority protests

Authorities ban coverage of crackdown on Arab minority protests

The following article was published by Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders condemns the use of force by the Iranian authorities to contain demonstrations a week ago in the southwestern province of Khuzestan and their ban on news coverage of the bloody clashes that took place. Both the national and international media were prevented from covering the incidents. The crackdown has continued this week with several arrests of netizens and media contributors.

The Iranian government hypocritically defends freedom of information about the violence taking place in neighbouring countries such as Bahrain, where blood has been shed to crush anti-government demonstrations, but imposes a complete news blackout on the deadly clashes between members of the Arab minority and security forces in Khuzestan, cutting it off from the rest of the world and denying access to both independent and state media reporters.

Calls were issued on the Internet and online social networks for demonstrations on 15 April in the provincial capital of Ahvaz to mark the sixth anniversary of the violent clashes that took place on 15 April 2005 between the security forces and members of the Arab community, who are the majority in province.

Members of the security forces fired live rounds into a spontaneous demonstration by young people on 14 April, killing three demonstrators. When the protests continued the next day, they were brutally crushed by Revolutionary Guards in several districts of the city including Haisohari, Coy Alvaieh and Cot Abdollah.

Round-ups of activists had already begun before the calls for demonstrations had been issued, and the arrests are continuing. According to some sources, at least 97 people are being held in prisons in and around Ahvaz, including Sepidar and Zyton (a secret detention centre controlled by the intelligence ministry).

The detainees include Ali Badri (of the blog Shataljarhi), Ali Torofi (of the blog Karoniat), and the poets Hamin Hairi and Shahid Amori, who contribute to various media. Several intellectuals and human rights activists in Iran have condemned the violence.

Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel peace laureate, wrote to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on 18 April requesting her intervention. “We have no information about the fate of the prisoners,” she wrote. “The security forces have forced the families of the victims to remain silent.”

The violence of six years ago was triggered by reports of an Iranian government policy of forcibly relocating members of the Arab community to other provinces. A letter circulated on 15 April 2005, which had supposedly been written by a government official, talked of “moving Arabs from this very sensitive area and relocating them in other regions of the country.”

Although the government insisted the letter was forged, its publication prompted uprisings and deadly violence in several of the province’s cities that continued for two days. The Tehran bureau of the Qatari TV station Al-Jazeera, which had been giving the incidents a great deal of coverage, was closed by the Iranian authorities on 18 April 2005 for “inciting unrest.”
Iran regime arrests eight Ahwazi Arabs over killings in Hamidieh, accuses non-existent group

Iran regime arrests eight Ahwazi Arabs over killings in Hamidieh, accuses non-existent group

The Iranian regime has arrested eight Ahwazi Arabs on charges of terrorism, accusing them of being members of a non-existent group called 'Khalq-e Arab' (Arab People) movement.

The eight are accused of killing a policeman and one or two civilians during unrest in Ahwaz City on April 15. Iranian press reports vary on the number of alleged deaths. A provincial police commander claimed they were nabbed in a joint operation by police and intelligence agents. The names of those arrested are not known. The regime has used the name 'Khalq-e Arab' in a variety of disturbances and bomb attacks in the Ahwaz region over the past 30 years, although groups that do advocate armed insurrection do not operate under this name.

The Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network has received reports that the security services may be attempting to frame Ahwazi Arab youth arrested during a house raid before the unrest broke out. The arrests come after the government withheld the body of Mohammad Mubaari who was shot dead by security forces in Hamidieh on April 16 in an attempt to pressure the family into publicly blaming Ahwazi Arab protesters for killing him. Meanwhile, the killings of unarmed demonstrators by the security services are not being subject to independent investigation, as urged by Amnesty International and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

The situation is complicated by false reports on Twitter and Facebook by some from outside Iran or unconnected with the Ahwazi Arab struggle that are lending credibility to the regime's accusations that the protesters are a national security threat. The regime wishes to isolate the Ahwazi Arabs and downplay their ethnic grievances by playing on the fears of the Iranian population of foreign involvement in domestic insurrection, particularly from Saudi Arabia, Britain, the US and Israel who represent the regime's most hated enemies.
Hardline Iranian website hits out at Britain, Gulf states and religious rivals for Ahwazi unrest

Hardline Iranian website hits out at Britain, Gulf states and religious rivals for Ahwazi unrest

A hard-line Iranian website has pinned the blame for recent Ahwazi Arab unrest on Britain, secular Shia Ahwazi Arab clergy and Sunni Wahhabists, signalling a sense of desperation within the regime over the Ahwazi Arab protests that left at least 12 dead according to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

The Tabnak news agency, which is owned by former Revolutionary Guards commander and former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei, has launched a wide-ranging attack on the regime's perceived enemies in an uncredited editorial.

The article claimed that militant Wahhabi (Sunni fundamentalist) groups were being supported by Gulf states to foment separatist unrest in the oil-rich region that forms the Ahwazi Arab homeland. It also accused the British of encouraging unrest and separatism among Ahwazi Arabs from bases in Basra. Part of this wild conspiracy theory involves the role of the  British Ahwazi Friendship Society, a group that has sought to promote Ahwazi Arab culture, as co-ordinator of Wahhabi separatists belonging to a group it calls the "Arab People's Front", although there is no group known with that name.

One of the most astonishing allegations is against the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Taher Shubayr al-Khaqani, who Tabnak accuses of unleashing a murderous campaign against innocent people in the border region with Iraq. Grand Ayatollah al-Khaqani was one of the clergy who rejected the theocratic system - the Velayat-e Faqih - during the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and also advocated ethnic rights to be enshrined in the new constitution. Al-Khaqani, who was once Grand Ayatollah Khomeini's personal tutor, led a peaceful uprising in Khorramshahr, originally known by its Arabic name Mohammareh. The protest was brutally put down by Rear Admiral Ahmad Madani while he was governor of Khuzestan during the interim government with the loss of hundreds of lives. Al-Khaqani himself was put under house arrest in Qom where he later died under mysterious circumstances.

His son Sheikh Mohammed Kazem al-Khaqani is also mentioned in the report in damning terms. Sheikh al-Khaqani has also spoken out against the Velayat-e Faqih as well as violent jihad and suicide bombing, although he has made no statements on Ahwazi Arab politics claiming that it is not the role of the Islamic clergy to determine the will of the people. Click here for his speech to a meeting at the House of Commons in 2007.