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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.