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...

"Al-Ahwaz will be next battle after Syria"

Al-Ahwaz Batallion of the Free Syria Army
Relations between the opposition to Syria's Assad regime and the Ahwazi Arabs are growing with both forging bonds to fight their common enemy, the Iranian regime.

With Iran now in effective control over its Syrian vassal state, the Syrian opposition have pledged to support the Ahwazi struggle in meetings with senior Ahwazi leaders.

A company of the Free Syria Army's Dere'a Al-Jazeera in Al-Mayadin has named itself the 'Al-Ahwaz Brigade' in solidarity with the Ahwazi intifada in Iran. They were instrumental in recently liberating the area from the Iranian-backed Assad regime.

Alliance between Ahwazis and Syrian opposition
Meanwhile, there have been top-level discussions between the leaders of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. In September, ASMLA leaders met with Brotherhood Comptroller General Mohammad Riad al-Shaqfeh in Syria.

Both groups accused Iran of sowing sectarian strife in the Arab world and acting like a colonial power. ASMLA described its formal contacts with the Brotherhood as a "quantum leap in strengthening the relationship between the Ahwazi and Syrian revolutions" that would enable them to "work together to overthrow the existing alliance of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian regime, which continue to spill the blood of Arabs in Syria and Ahwaz."

Damascus' Ahwazi community

Ahwazi-Syrian unity on the streets
Syria had been a safe-haven for Ahwazi Arab refugees until Bashar al-Assad forged closer alliances with Tehran. On Iranian orders, Assad forcibly refouled several UNHCR-mandated Ahwazi refugees living in Damascus, including Faleh Abdullah al-Mansouri, the leader of the Ahwaz Liberation Organisation who now has Dutch citizenship. Assad ignored UNHCR statements that such actions were in contravention of international humanitarian law. Syrian human rights campaigners frequently condemned the deportations, while Persian-led "opposition" groups have failed to voice any protest.

Before the Syrian uprising, the Ahwazi community in Damascus was living in fear, but is now fully behind the revolutionary struggle. There have been frequent demonstrations in Syria by Ahwazi Arabs flying the opposition flag alongside their own.

"Al-Ahwaz will be the next battle"

Solidarity with Ahwazis in Tahrir Square
The Ahwazi struggle is attracting support from across the Arab world. In August, members of Egypt's Coalition for the January 25 Coalition held a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square in support of the Ahwazi intifada. Palestinian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi and Ahwazi demonstrators condemned the "represssive policies practiced by the Iranian authorities against the Arab people in Ahwaz" and called for independence for Al-Ahwaz.

A press conference at the event was addressed by former Syrian opposition MP Mohamed Mamoun Homsi who voiced solidarity for the Ahwazi Arabs' struggle for self-determination, which he stated was a legitimate demand under international law. Homsi warned the Iranian regime that the struggle of the Ahwazis against injustice and oppression would be the next battle following the overthrow of the Syrian regime.

Ahwazi call for military intervention in Iran

Ahwazi Arab groups have urged the international community to consider Libya-style multilateral military action to remove the Iranian regime. In an opinion survey conducted by the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network (AASN) leading Ahwazi parties and activists were unanimously opposed to an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, but warned that sanctions will not be enough to encourage the regime to abide by its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in accordance with UN resolutions.

Only multilateral military intervention aimed at overthrowing the oppressive, terrorist-sponsoring regime will prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons, said the respondents who urged Western governments to work with them towards democratisation.

Discrimination against Arabs in Iranian football

Discrimination is starving budding Ahwazi Arab footballers of sponsorship and equipment, according to local coaches.

Rasoul Sayahi, the coach of the Jenobeh-Azadegan football team in the Arab populated town of Sosangerd (Khafajiyeh), told Farsnews: “Our players do not have a soccer shoes to play with. We managed to be within the first four teams in province's league division one without having support and managed to qualify for the provincial championship.”

However, Sayahi is unhappy with the lack of sponsor for the football club based in the Dashteh-Azadegan district. The poor financial situation could prompt them to withdraw from the championship.

He added: “Sometimes before the game the players have to eat Samboseh and Falafel [the cheapest take away in Al-Ahwaz], however the oil industry in the Dashteh-Azadegan area sponsors the Tehran Naft football team."

An Ahwazi footballer told Ahwaz News Agency: "Ahwazi teams are the best in Iran and are known for their 'Brazilian style'. Before the Revolution, most of the Iranian national team was Ahwazi Arab. Historically, when the British were residing in Abadan and Ahwaz they taught football to the Ahwazi Arabs. Nowadays even the local teams are excluding Arabs from their teams and facilities. We all know how non-Arabs get their children in the best teams and nominated for national teams."

Hospital overwhelmed by cancer epidemic among Ahwazi Arabs

Pollution caused by industry and war is leading to high rates of cancer among Ahwazi Arabs, according to local sources.

Dr Ali Ehsan Pour, the head of Ahwaz City's Shafa Hospital, which specialises in oncology, said many locals were dying due to lack of trained staff and sufficient medical facilities to deal with the high number of cases.

He said that cancer patients in the region have little hope and suffer due to the rudimentary services on offer.

'In the past the hospital did not have a shortage of staff and medical equipment,' he said. 'Due to the rising number of cancer patients, the situation is critical in terms of providing proper treatment.'

He added that Shafa Hospital was the only one in Khuzestan province that provides treatment for cancer. At present there are just 20 beds available in the hospital. The intensive care unit is still under construction.

Every month, 5,000 patients with cancer, haemophilia and thalassemia visit the hospital. Although it is funded by the government, patients have to pay for chemotherapy and radiotherapy and are forced to sell their valuables, including their homes, to pay for treatment. The charges are beyond the means of the impoverished Ahwazi Arab population and inflation has led to a 500 per cent increase in the cost of chemotherapy.

Amir al-Saedi, who specialises in oncology at a London hospital, said: "The area in Ahwaz experienced eight years of war and the Iraqi regime used chemical weapons that contaminated many farmlands. Mustard gas was used during the war. Added to this is industrial effluent with dangerously high levels of lead found in the Karoon River.

"Many Ahwazi Arabs experience short-term and long-term symptoms, such as prostate cancer among men and leukemia among children, infertility, chronic coughing and skin problems. The local environment has also been severely affected by pollution from the war with marsh biodiversity severely affected."

Iran's wave of arrests widens following pipeline explosion allegations

The Iranian regime has used a recent militant attack on a pipeline to widen arrests of Ahwazi Arabs with at least arrested this morning (18 November), including a prominent poet. The latest arrests confirm that the attack is being used by the authorities to frame and punish innocent people and non-violent activists, including those who use traditional cultural means to express Arab sentiments.

Renowned Ahwazi Arab poet Abdulal Aldoraghi, known as Abu Shaima, pictured, was among those taken from their homes in Ahwaz City's Kut Abdullah district. He had attended the funeral of another Ahwazi poet, Sattar al-Sayahi, who died in mysterious circumstances after being released from custody for questioning. Mourners held protests at the funeral, which attracted hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs.

Others arrested in Kut Abdullah on 18 November include:

  • Mohammad Sayahi
  • Kamal Moghadam
  • Saud Sayahi
  • Jasem Mazraeh (Mazreawi)
  • Latif Torfi
  • Hani Sawaedi
  • Hossein Motairi
  • Hatam Helalat
  • Moslem Shejirat
  • Kazem Bawi
  • Jawad Neisi

Arrests of at least 17 other Ahwazi Arabs were reported in Mashali, Darwishiya, Khozami and Hey-althowra on Sunday morning.

In addition, Adel Mowla Atshani (25, son of Ismaiel) was arrested by intelligence services in Hamidiyeh City on 12 November. According to recent reports, his family home has been raided and he is being tortured. At least nine Arabs, mostly from the Ka'abi tribe, were also arrested in the Khalaf Al-Moslem area near Shush this week on charges of involvement in a recent gas pipeline attack, which security forces have blamed on foreign governments. 

Arrests in Shush following pipeline explosion

The Iranian regime has rounded up a number of men in the Khalaf Al-Moslem area near Shush as it seeks to combat a growing armed insurgency among members of the persecuted and deprived Ahwazi Arab community.

The National Resistance of Al-Ahwaz, the political front of the militants, claimed responsibility for an attack on a gas pipeline in the Shush area.

Most of the men are from the Al-Kaabi tribe, which is dominant in the area. The names of nine men arrested by the intelligence services are:
  • Ali Chbeishat (Al-Kaabi), 46
  • Hussein Ali Chbeishat (Al-Kaabi), son of Ali Chbeishat, 28, married with one child
  • Salah Aldin Ali Chbeishat (Al-Kaabi), 22
  • Habib Silawi (Al-Kaabi)
  • Sayed Yasin Mousawi, 34
  • Salman Jayan (Al-Kaabi), 32
  • Mohammad Jayan (Al-Kaabi), 30
  • Karim Jayan (Al-Kaabi), 34
  • Aashour Shamakli, 33 from Alsarkha village
The families of the detainees gathered in front of the local intelligence services building demanding information on charges against them and calling for their release. They were dispersed after they were told the detainees would be transferred to the custody of the provincial headquarters of the intelligence services in Ahwaz City.

Two other arrested detainees (pictured right) were transferred from the Shawoor area of Shush to the intelligence services in Ahwaz City. Abdullah Abbas Al-Sarih (31), arrested on 19 August, and the poet Ahmad Ali Al-Kaabi (27), arrested on 8 September, have been subjected to physical and mental torture. Relatives of the men claim they have been forced to confess activities they were not involved in.

Ahwazi Arabs have frequently testified that they have suffered torture in order to extract false confessions. A secretly filmed testimony by four Ahwazi Arabs, who were executed earlier this year, alleged the direct involvement of state prosecutors in torture. Detainees are tortured into implicating innocent men and claiming they were acting on behalf of various foreign governments. Despite repeatedly claiming to have broken up the Ahwazi Arab insurgency, the Iranian regime has faced mounting social unrest and militancy within the impoverished ethnic group whose homeland contains one of the world's largest reserves of oil.

Iran alleges Western involvement in pipeline explosion

The Iranian regime has made a number of arrests in connection with last month's sabotage of a gas pipeline by Ahwazi Arab militants.

Quoting IRNA, Associated Press claims the suspects are being held on charges on planting bombs on behalf of 'foreign intelligence services'. The regime alleges that it had confiscated bombs and other weapons imported from an unnamed 'neighbouring Arab country'. Other official reports claimed that the arms were supplied by one of the Arabian Gulf 'littoral states', suggesting it may seek to blame Saudi Arabia. The number of arrests is unknown.

The pipeline was attacked near Shush (Susa) on 23 October by the Hasanein Brigade of the Brigades of the Martyr Mohiuddin Al Nasser, the military wing of the National Resistance of Ahwaz group. No-one was hurt in the attack.

A communiqué by the group claimed responsibility for previous unpublicised attacks, including a roadside attack on security forces on 15 April and a train transporting oil near Haftapeh station on 16 September, allegedly destroying the train and the railtrack.

The group aligns itself with the Syrian opposition, which has held talks with Ahwazi groups in recent weeks as the Syrian civil war takes on a regional dimension.

The regime has frequently accused foreign agencies of fomenting unrest among Ahwazi Arabs, who have long-standing grievances over poverty, ethnic marginalisation, religious persecution and aggression from security forces. However, no tangible evidence has been presented to support the claims of foreign intrigue.

Video of the pipeline attack

Recent statement by the Mohiuddin Al-Nasser Brigades

Eighth Ahwazi Arab killed under torture by Revolutionary Guards

Ahwazi Arab political activist Jamil Sowaidi became the eighth Ahwazi Arab political prisoner to die under interrogation so far this year.

Revolutionary Guards took the 47-year-old welder from his home and informed his family earlier this month that he had died, although his body was not released to them. He had never been charged with any crime.

Although his family were warned not to pursue the matter, they have struggled to confirm details of when or where he died. Officials at Sepidar Prison in Ahwaz claimed that no-one with his name had ever been admitted. The Revolutionary Guards are known to operate detention centres outside the official prison system where they conduct interrogations using torture.

Sowaidi is the eighth person to be killed under interrogation this year. Abbas Sawari, arrested in April 2011, whose body found washed up on the shore of the River Karoon in September. Alireza Ghobaishawi, 37 years old from Khalafiya (Khalafabad), was killed while in detention in AugustOther Ahwazi detainees killed under torture are Ghaiban Obaidawi from Hamidiyah, Mohammad Cheldawi from Ahwaz, Reza Maghamesi from Dezful, Mohammad Kaabi from Susa and Nasser Alboshokeh from Ahwaz.

Extrajudicial killings of Ahwazi Arabs are at least as frequent as official executions of political prisoners. The killings come amid a massive clamp-down on Arab activist and any sign of dissent in response to the uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. The Iranian regime is particularly anxious about the influence of a Syrian revolution on the indigenous Arab community as the Syrian opposition openly states its support for the Ahwazi cause.

Arrests at funeral for Ahwazi poet

Iranian security forces have detained dozens of Ahwazi Arabs at the funeral of Ahwazi poet Sattar al-Sayahi, who died in mysterious circumstances two weeks after his release from detention for questioning.

Arab activists widely believe the poet, popularly known as Abu Surror, was assassinated. The authorities had attempted to prevent him from involvement in a variety of Arab cultural activities.

Hundreds of Ahwazi Arab mourners turned out to Abu Surror's funeral where they expressed their sorrow and anger at his death. Clashes erupted between the mourners and the paramilitary forces of the Bassij as the funeral became an expression of opposition against the regime's anti-Arab policies.

Karim Abdian, director of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO), has called on international society to pressure the Iranian government into investigating Abu Surror's death and release those detained at his funeral. Abdian reiterated demands by the Ahwazi Arab opposition for UN Special Rapporteurs to be allowed access to Al-Ahwaz and investigate human rights violations.

In contrast to Abu Surror's suspicious death, the murder of blogger Sattar Beheshti, an ethnic Persian, in custody has prompted swift action by the authorities with a number of those involved in his interrogation now held in custody. Beheshti's case continues to dominate headlines across the world due to efforts by wealthy Persian groups who have ignored the plight of non-Persians suffering similar human rights violations. The authorities have failed to investigate eight deaths of Ahwazi Arabs in custody so far this year.

Video of the funeral of Abu Surror

Majlis: proposed final administrative annihilation of Al-Ahwaz

The Ahwazi Arab homeland will be broken up further into new provinces, if member of parliament for Behbahan Mohammad Bagher Shariati gets his way.

Shariati has proposed subdividing Khuzestan province, which forms the largest part of the historical region of Arabistan that stretched along the north coast of the Arabian Gulf towards the Strait of Hormuz. He claimed the creation of new provinces would enable the better management of the region's problems, such as the adverse impact of river diversion on agriculture, high unemployment and the environmental crisis.

Nasser Bani Assad, spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "The further political fragmentation of the Ahwazi Arab homeland will not resolve the region's problems, but rather exacerbate them. Creating new provinces will make it easier for the regime to exploit the region's resources.

"The heart of the problem is the disempowerment and persecution of the region's indigenous Arabs who are demanding more self-determination over their affairs. Self-determination would enable the indigenous population to identify and resolve the multitude of problems arising from Tehran's destructive rape and pillage of this land. The creation of new provinces is intended to undermine their historical claims and further alienate them in ever smaller administrative zones. This process would set barriers between Arabs as a community.

A map of historical Arab-populated areas,
once known in Farsi as 'Arabistan',
situated along the north of the Arabian Gulf
"Already, the historical Arab population is divided between Khuzestan, Bushehr, Hormuzgan and parts of Fars and other provinces with provincial borders that have little respect for historical and cultural ties and purposefully weaken the collective Arab voice.

"Alongside forced displacement, regime-enforced demographic change to make Arabs a minority in their own land and the eradication of Arabic as the mother tongue of ethnic Arabs, the political division of historical Arabistan is part of the regime's policy of ethnic cleansing.

"Without free and fair elections, without freedom of speech and without self-determination for Ahwazi Arabs, such administrative sub-division is meaningless and will only heighten the aggressive policy of Persianisation and economic exploitation that Shariati upholds."

Majlis member: anti-Arab discrimination is causing poverty

Abadan's member of parliament Mohammad Saeed Ansari has hit out against discrimination against 'native' workers.

Although the Ahwazi Arab homeland hosts many of Iran's oil, petrochemical, agricultural, ship-building and manufacturing industries, the native people endure high levels of unemployment. A member of the Energy Commission, Ansari said that in Asaluyeh, only half of those in employment are native Arabs while in Abadan less than five per cent of workers are from the region. Meanwhile, poverty and unemployment among Arabs in these cities remains high.

Ansari also accused the authorities of harassing native people involved in fishing and other traditional livelihoods and being denied provision for self-employment. Racism has also denied many Arabs opportunities to work in local government. Ansari denounced the provincial governor for poor management, which he claimed was making the situation for native people worse.

Ansari was supported in his claims by Nafeaa Alboghobiesh, the vice chairman of Showra council, who claimed that the youth of Mahshaher (Mashour) city were suffering high unemployment despite the presence of many petrochemicals companies.

Ahwazi Arab activist Nasser Bani Assad of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) said: "A member of the United Front of Conservatives, Ansari has been increasingly vocal on the issue of Arab rights as his party has sought to undermine the beleaguered President Ahmadinejad. Having remained conspicuously quiet for many years, Ansari has recently spoken on lack of employment rights, racial discrimination and the destruction caused by the river diversion projects.

"Ahwazi activists are familiar with the tactics of factions within the Iranian establishment who periodically exploit Arab grievances for their own political ends. When such groups win power, they sustain violent persecution and imprison the activists that were deluded into believing there was a legal, constitutional method of winning their legitimate rights.

"When Ahwazi Arabs start peacefully mobilising and speaking up for themselves, they are silenced. There are hundreds of Ahwazi Arabs who have been imprisoned, exiled and executed because they were manipulated and then abandoned by Khatami's so-called 'reformists'. Nothing is likely to change whoever wins the presidency next year. The Supreme Leader will always win."

Ahwazi Arabs arrested in Eid clamp-down by Iran

The Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha was once a time for Ahwazi Arabs to celebrate their unique culture, but is now associated with the Iranian government's brutality. This year's Eid was marked by mass arrests as the regime sought to quash all public expressions of Arab identity.

Arrests were carried out in the districts of Kut Abdullah, Mohammareh (Khoramshahr) and Haidyeh throughout October with prisoners transferred to unknown locations. Human rights activists are concerned about their wellbeing and the probability that they are being tortured.

The Iranian socialist Union of People's Fedaian of Iran has published the names of eight of those known to be in detention:

  • Kut Abdullah: Towfigh Doraghi (36) and Ali Mazraa (41) were arrested on 30 October
  • Mohammareh (Khorramshahr): Jasem Khasraji (30, son of Mohammad), Amin Khanfari (20, son of Ghanem) and Hadi Abu Eissa (40, family name not yet confirmed) were arrested on 27 October
  • Haidyeh: Jabbar Abyat (38, married, son of Houssein), Ali Sayahi (27, married, son of Oodeh) and Abboud Manbohi (32, son of Sabhan) were arrested on 18-21 October

Ahwaz sugar workers reduced to slavery and poverty

Workers from the Ahwaz Sugar Refinery this week staged protests over months of unpaid wages as an unemployment crisis grips the region.

Employees and their families clashed with police outside the offices of the provincial governor as they demanded salaries, compensation for lost earnings and payment of their national insurance, health and pension contributions that the management has refused to pay to the Social Security Department.

While the Iranian government is keen to blame the country's woes on international sanctions, the company's long legacy of poor management and years of unpaid loans led to bankruptcy and mass redundancies. Meetings between workers and management, brokered by the provincial governor, have achieved no resolution to the dispute.

Led by Iraj Emani, the sugar refinery's trade union has been in dispute with the management for over two years, previously staging a protest against unpaid wages and lay-offs in March. Many of the employees have been working for the company for over 20 years and on top of poverty have found they have no healthcare cover.

Director of the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network Daniel Brett said: "The indifference of the management and the government towards Ahwazi workers enduring job insecurity demonstrates the callous disregard the regime has for the inhabitants of this region. In many companies, workers are expected to put up with hardship caused by irregular payment of wages by managers whose corruption is tolerated by their political benefactors. Workers have little recourse for action as trade union activity is heavily restricted in Iran and union leaders are subjected to harassment, intimidation and imprisonment."