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

What about workers? A closer look at labour in Ahwaz

By Hala Saleem

Khuzestan is the richest region in Iran and the source of its oil, but the indigenous Arab people suffer the country's highest poverty rate. Why are the Arab Ahwazi people the poorest in Iran? To answer this question, it is important to look at the factors that have created the situation in Khuzestan province. Labour is a major factor that affects the living standards of societies. Although few human rights activists look in depth at labour issues in Ahwaz, it is crucial to look at what kind of difficulties Arab Ahwazi workers go through.

A growing body of evidence shows that high labour standards play a major factor in improving living standards in many societies. Labour rights are a key component to a functioning democracy and an equitable and sustainable economy. Yet, this is not the case in Khuzestan. Racism, anti-unionism and authoritarianism are three main issues that affect labour in the province.

According to research by the Middle East Forum, the unemployment rate in Iran is around 12 per cent. However, the actual figure is way higher than that. During the last 10 years, only in Khuzestan has the unemployment rate has increased from 16 to 18 per cent. Around 50 per cent of Arab women and young people are unemployed. In rural areas, the overall unemployment rate reaches 20 per cent. Despite the province's fertile lands, farms are suffering from lack of investment which leaves many farmers without work.

Racism is one of the main reasons for such unfair labour practices. Ahwazi Arabs are denied jobs throughout the region. A good comparison is the seven per cent unemployment rate in the Persian majority city of Dezful, compared to 31-50 per cent in Abadan and Mohammerah (Khorramshahr).

A prominent example of job insecurity in Khuzestan is the sugar refinery workers in Ahwaz who recently demonstrated against the unpaid jobs and benefits. While the government blames the international economic situation, these workers have to accommodate their lives to irregular salary payments in order to survive with the very little income they have. The situation would have been different if the workers were allowed to unionise, but collective bargaining would undermine the hidden agenda of the Iranian government to target Arab Ahwazi workers. As a matter of fact, trade unionists are harassed and prosecuted for participating in union activities.

Job denial and mass redundancies are not unfamiliar to Ahwazi Arab workers in Khuzestan province. In October 2011, Ahwaz Zamzam Company summarily dismissed 105 Arab workers claiming that the company was not in need of them. Yet, the lay-offs occurred at a time when Khuzestan’s provincial governor announced the creation of 137,500 job opportunities.

Ahwazi Arab workers are also likely to lose their jobs if they are to be found participating in any peaceful political protests or any activities that promote Arab rights and democracy or claim for their not paid wages for months. This was shown when Ahwaz mayor Mansour Katanbaf sacked 400 Arab Ahwazi workers who participated in political demonstrations in April and May 2011. All were denied their after-service benefits. Even when the workers appealed against unfair dismissal, the cases were not resolved. The workplace is used by the Iranian government to cleanse certain ethnicities and their political views. In doing so, the Iranian government has both violated international labour laws and its own laws.

The Iranian constitution states that Iranians should be treated equally despite their ethnicity or religion. Citizens should not have any privileges because of their race. However, this is not the reality and Arab Ahwazi workers are suffering because of their ethnicity.

Labour issues in Ahwaz should be at the heart of campaigns for  political and ethnic freedom in the region. Workers are the flowing blood of every society, and improving their status is crucial to the betterment of everyone

References:
Minority Voices newsroom, http://www.minorityvoices.org 
Ahwaz News Agency, www.ahwaziarabs.info
British Ahwazi Friendship Society: Human Rights and the Ahwazi Arabs. July 2007.

Mothers banned from appealing against executions

The mothers of five Ahwazi Arab political prisoners facing execution were banned from meeting Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Mosavi Jazayeri, the provincial representative of the supreme leader, on Monday (January 28), according to reports.

The women wanted to lodge a complaint relating to their sons' suffering, but were barred entry to his offices in Khalafieh (Ramshir) and denied the right to meet him. Security forces were deployed to remove them from the area.

On Wednesday (January 30), the mothers met with Shamsullah Bahmani, the MP for Khalafieh, to urge him to follow up the case of the five prisoners with Ali Larijani, the head of the Majlis. They were accompanied by the family of Rahman Asakareh, another political prisoner from Khalafieh who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

The mothers are leading a campaign to save their sons amid international outcry over the planned executions. The five men were convicted of "enmity with God" and sentenced to death last July. They were involved in cultural activities and no substantive proof have been given that they have committed any capital crime. Following nine months of torture in a secret prison operated by the intelligence ministry, they were forced to confess to crimes they did not commit. Their trials were heard in secret and they were denied access to a lawyer. This month, the Supreme Court upheld the death penalty and there are very few, if any, avenues left to save the men's lives. 

Global condemnation mounts over Ahwazi executions

World policy chiefs, United Nations experts and human rights organisations have united to condemn the planned execution of five Ahwazi Arab prisoners of conscience.

The latest to weigh into the tide of censure is EU foreign policy chief Dame Catherine Ashton who voiced "great concern" over the death sentences against the five men from Khalafieh, who were arrested in early 2011 for participating in an Arab cultural organisation. She urged the Iranian regime to commute the sentences, which were recently upheld by the Supreme Court, against Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshokeh, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshokeh, Hashem Shaabani and Hadi Rashedi.

She added: "I am concerned by reports that these men did not receive fair trials, and were forced to confess. I would like to remind the Iranian authorities of their obligations under international law, in particular regarding the protection of the civil and political rights of members of ethnic minorities."

Her statement came shortly after the human rights commissioner of the German foreign ministry, Markus Löning, criticised the lack of transparency in the trials and stated that the Supreme Court had "run contrary to the principles of the rule of law" in upholding the death sentences. He added that "it is completely unacceptable and displays a disregard for human dignity" for Iran to break international law and its own constitution by condemning to death people who were only "advocating for cultural rights and political participation."

The United Nations Human Rights Council has also weighed in with strong criticism of the conviction and sentencing of the five men last July. Earlier this week the United Nations independent experts on Iran, peaceful assembly and of association, extrajudicial executions, torture and minorities urged the Iranian authorities to halt the executions.

In a statement, the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez said: "Of grave concern, are allegations that the five individuals were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention and were forced to sign confessions. This is not only in breach of Iran's international obligations under the international covenant, which imposes an outright prohibition on torture, it is also in breach of Iran's Constitution that explicitly forbids the use of all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information."

UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed drew attention to the attack on the men's freedom of speech, saying: "It is absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned and condemned to death for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression, and affiliation to minority groups and to cultural institutions."

Shaheed was joined by UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues Rita Izsák who voiced her concern over the sentencing of individuals for advocating minority rights.

International, Iranian and Ahwazi Arab human rights organisations have also expressed their alarm at the imminent executions. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) was among the first international NGOs to react to the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the death sentences. In a statement, FIDH vice president Karim Lahidji, also president of the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI), said: "The ethnic communities, and in particular the Iranian Arabs, Kurds and Baluchis, are regularly targeted for demanding their rights, and occasionally members of these communities and their family members fall victim to the vengeance of authorities... The Iranian government must immediately revoke the death sentences of activists from ethnic communities as well as all prisoners of conscience and join the accelerating worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty."

In a joint statement, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for the death sentences to be annulled. Nobel Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi also jointly signed a joint statement with a number of Iranian NGOs calling for a review of the cases "in accordance with due process standards." They said: "Among ethnic minorities in Iran, Ahwazi Arabs are subjected to some of the most severe repression from the central government."


Four other Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death in September:
  • Abdulreza Amir Khanafereh, son of Younes, 25 years old, single
  • Abdul Amir Mojadami, aged 32, married 
  • Shahab Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 26, single 
  • Ghazi Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 30, single

UN rights experts urge Government to halt the execution of five Ahwazi activists

Below is an article published by The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

A group of United Nations independent experts on Iran, peaceful assembly and of association, extrajudicial executions, torture and minorities today urged the Iranian authorities to halt the execution of five Ahwazi activists, who are at imminent risk after their death sentences were recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

According to reports, Mr Mohammad Ali Amouri, Mr Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, Mr Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, Mr Hashem Shabain Amouri and Mr Hadi Rashidi, all founding members of Al-Hiwar, a scientific and cultural institute, were sentenced to death on charges including Moharebeh (“enmity against God”), Mufsid-fil-Arz (“corruption on earth”) and spreading propaganda against the system in 2012.

“Also of grave concern, are allegations that the five individuals were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention and were forced to sign confessions,” added the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez. “This is not only in breach of Iran’s international obligations under the international covenant, which imposes an outright prohibition on torture, it is also in breach of Iran’s Constitution that explicitly forbids the use of all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information.”

“Also of grave concern, are allegations that the five individuals were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention and were forced to sign confessions,” added the Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez. “This is not only in breach of Iran’s international obligations under the international covenant, which imposes an outright prohibition on torture, it is also in breach of Iran’s Constitution that explicitly forbids the use of all forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information.”

“It is absolutely unacceptable for individuals to be imprisoned and condemned to death for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression, and affiliation to minority groups and to cultural institutions,” stressed the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed.

On his part, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, reminded the Iranian authorities of their international obligations, recalling that “Iran is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights*, which guarantees the rights to free expression, free association and peaceful assembly.”

The five activists were arrested in their homes in Ahwaz in 2011, ahead of the sixth anniversary of widespread protests by the Ahwazi community, and were reportedly convicted following unfair trials.
“Under international law, the death penalty can only be employed when very strict conditions are met, for example only in respect of the most serious crimes and only after a trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process,” noted the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, expressing serious concerns about the way these trials were conducted.

“The number of cases of individuals belonging to minorities being sentenced for their activities related to their minority rights is a cause for serious concern,” said the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, Rita Izsák. “I urge the Government of Iran to halt these executions and to review the decisions of the courts to ensure that all human rights, including minority rights, are fully upheld and respected in practice.”

(*) Check the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm

Germany: "Planned executions are unacceptable and contrary to law and human dignity"

The German government has condemned Iran's planned execution of five Arab cultural activists from Khalafieh in Al-Ahwaz.

In a statement released today, the Auswärtige Amt, the German Federal Foreign Office, human rights commissioner Markus Löning criticised the lack of transparency in the trials and stated that the Supreme Court had "run contrary to the principles of the rule of law" in upholding the death sentences.

He added that "it is completely unacceptable and displays a disregard for human dignity" for Iran to break international law and its own constitution by condemning to death people who were only "advocating for cultural rights and political participation."

Löning called for Iran to overturn the death penalties and immediately release the five men - Mohammad Ali Amouri Sayed, Jaber Alboshoka, Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hashem Shaabani Amouri and Hadi Rashidi.

In its statement, the Auswärtige Amt said that "the Ahwazi Arab minority in Iran suffer marginalisation and discrimination in education, employment, adequate housing, political participation and cultural rights. Ahwazi Arabs are sentenced by the Iranian judicial authorities for standing up for cultural rights and political participation."

The British government has also condemned the executions. Last August, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said"I am deeply disturbed by the human rights abuses perpetrated by Iran in recent months.

"The torture and sentencing to death of Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hashem Sha'bani Amouri and Hadi Rashidi, from the Ahwazi Arab minority, comes less than a month after the secret execution in June of four other members of this minority group. This sets a very worrying trend.

"Sadly, these are not isolated incidents and many other Iranians are currently suffering at the hands of their government. Iran's continued, widespread persecution of ethnic minorities, human rights defenders and political prisoners is a disgrace and stands as a shameful indictment of Iran's leaders.

"The Iranian government should know that its systematic attempt to curtail the freedom of its citizens will not go unchallenged by the international community and only adds to its isolation.

"I call on Iran immediately to commute these death sentences, to stop torturing its citizens and to end the systematic persecution of its ethnic minorities."

Al-Ahwaz Environment Report 2013

The latest Al-Ahwaz Environment Report, published by the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network (AASN), reveals the scale of the ecological disaster in the Arab-majority Al-Ahwaz region.

Indigenous Ahwazi Arabs are being adversely affected by the environmental consequences of the Iranian government’s controversial  river diversion programme, intensive sugar cane farming and industrial pollution, which are all the products of the government’s misguided economic development policies. Droughts that were once easily overcome are now exacerbated by man-made water shortages.

The report accuses Iranian industry of persisting in its reckless pursuit of growth, regardless of the human effects. Asthma rates  have soared by in the region over the past decade and Ahwaz City is recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as having the world’s worst air pollution.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has officially warned the Iranian Environment Association that the southwest of Iran is facing a situation similar to the environmental catastrophes that have affected the Aral Sea in Central Asia and the Amazon jungle. The region contains extensive marshes and rivers that support endangered species of fish as well as migratory birds. Ahwazi farmers and fishermen also depend on the waters for their livelihoods.

Great controversy surrounds the river diversion programme. The government's plans, already under development, seek to siphon off 1.1bn cubic metres of water from the province's main rivers to central Iran. This is destroying the marshlands which serve as an important habitat for wildlife as well as helping to regulate humidity and rainfall further inland. Agriculture felt the worst of the effects of river diversion in 2012, which worsened the effects of drought. But wildlife and human health are being punished the most, with some species of birds and mammals facing extinction in the region and Ahwazi Arabs suffering neurological, respiratory and birth disorders as well as high levels of cancer.

Scientists reveal extent of environmental devastation of the Ahwazi Arab homeland

Fish containing high levels of heavy metals is causing development disorders and disease among Ahwazi Arabs, according to a number of recent studies.

Consumption of fish living in the heavily polluted rivers of Al-Ahwaz is affecting embryo growth, while contaminated drinking water is causing disorders of the central nervous system, according to the report. Residents suffer high levels of fatigue, blood disorders and diseases affecting the lungs, kidneys, liver and other vital organs as well as miscarriages, cancers, osteoporosis, endocrine disorders, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Disease and learning difficulties due to the ingestion of toxic metals.

The main sources of heavy metals such as lead, aluminium, mercury, copper, cadmium, nickel and arsenic in the environment are sewerage and industrial waste.

UK-based cancer specialist and Ahwazi activist Amir Saedi said: "Heavy metals are stored faster than they are broken down or excreted. They are stored in blood vessels, muscles, bones and joints. In cases such as zinc deficiency, cadmium replaces the deficiency and results in serious health problems."

Environmental problems in the rivers that traverse the Ahwazi homeland have been a long-standing concern among Iranian scientists and a major grievance of indigenous Arabs, who suffer serious illnesses. Over the past decade, Ahwazi Arab fishermen have reported outbreaks of disease among fish and a sharp decline in catches, indicating that Iran's mismanagement of water resources has devastated river life. Exacerbating the problem is the government's ongoing controversial river diversion programme, which involves constructing a series of dams to take water to provinces such as Yazd where water is scarce.

According to a 2011 study by Iranian scientists entitled "Assessment of Heavy Metals Concentration of Fish (Liza abu) in the Karoon River, Khuzestan province", samples taken from 72 specimens showed high levels of industrial heavy metals accumulated in liver and gills of bottom dwelling fish. It was found that the concentration of lead and manganese in L. Abu fish is 1mg and 0.7mg respectively, far higher than WHO standards.

Another Iranian study conducted in 2011 using samples of hilsa and shirbot fish in the Karoon river found high levels of nickel, cadmium and lead that were significantly higher than commonly accepted standards elsewhere in the world.

Another study that appeared in 2010 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Fisheries, published by the Iranian Fisheries Research Organisation, entitled "Heavy metals (Hg,Cd,Pb,Ni,Cu) concentrations in Euryglossa orientalis and sediments from Khur-e-Musa Creek in Khuzestan Province" found samples containing an average concentration of mercury, cadmium and nickel that was far higher than international standards. The source of the pollutants is believed to be waste waters from industries located in the Ghanam Inlet, particularly Razi, Emam and Farabi, as well as ports and shipping, the oil industry and metals producers. Other contaminants originate from the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and the Gulf War of 1990, which caused an oil spill volume of 11 million barrels.

Table: Average concentration of heavy metals (Hg, Cd, Pb, Ni, Cu), microgram/gram body weight, comparison between international standards and Euryglossa orientalis Fish in Mousa Inlet (Ahmadi & Ghanam) in Ahwaz (Khuzestan) province

International Standards
Samples
Mercury (Hg)
Cadmium (Cd)
Lead (Pb)
Nickel (Ni)
Copper (Cu)
WHO
0/5
0/2
-
-
10
FDA
0.1-0.5
1
5
1
-
NHMRC
-
0.05
1.5
-
10
UK MAFF
-
0.2
2
-
20
Euryglossa orientalis Fish
2.35
0.99
1.32
14.47
5.71
WHO: World Health Organisation
FDA: Food & Drug Administration
NHMRC: Australian national health and medical research council
UK MAFF: Ministry of agriculture fisheries and food

In March 2007, two of Iran's leading ecologists claimed that the Bandar Imam petrochemical complex is causing environmental devastation. Research by Dr Abbas Ismail Sari and Dr Bahram Kiaee found that a large area of Khuzestan is seriously affected by pollution from mercury and other dangerous chemicals used in petrochemicals manufacturing.

In December 2006, a conference Azad University in Ahwaz City heard that the Iranian regime's industrial policies are causing environmental chaos in Khuzestan. At the conference, Dr Hormoz Mahmmodi Rad, the head of Khuzestan's environmental organisation, described situation affecting the province's natural environment as "worrying" and "chaotic" with serious consequences for human health. He emphasised the need for planned industrial development with action to stop the industrial pollutants from pouring into the Karoun River. The Karoun is an essential water source for agriculture as well as fishing, which together provide the largest source of income for indigenous Ahwazi Arabs. Dr Mahmmodi Rad warned that the province's natural environment was in a perillous state, with biodiversity in the marshlands severely threatened and some animal species could face extinction as a result of industrial pollution.

Earlier in 2006, controversy erupted over pollution from the Bandar Imam Petrochemical Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned National Petrochemical Company, following the death of thousands of fish off the Mahshahr (Mashour) coast. Some Gulf states banned seafood imports from Iran due to radioactive contamination, indicating that marine pollution is a long-term industrial disaster.

Khatami denies the existence of Ahwazi Arabs

Former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has condemned a recent Ahwazi solidarity conference in Egypt, claiming it was "not related to any real ethnics within Iran".

In an interview with the "Karoon" newspaper on 21 January, the man widely lauded as a "reformist" in the West appeared to deny the existence of Ahwazi Arabs as an ethnic group.

He said: "I have a grumble. I am surprised that in the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries, there were demands for integrity, people's government, anti-colonialism and national unity... We don't expect within revolutionary governments that are aiming for popular rule, national unity and defending state integrity people setting up a conference and making statements that are not related to any real ethnics within Iran."

Despite his supposedly "reformist" stance, Khatami's administration sought to reduce the proportion of Arabs in Khuzestan from a majority to a third of the province's population, as revealed in a document leaked from the office of Vice President Ali Abtahi in 2005. The document, which was aired on various Arabic news networks, sparked widespread rioting by Ahwazi Arabs, resulting in the deaths of over 130 Ahwazis at the hands of security forces deployed on Khatami's orders. His crimes against humanity remain unacknowledged by his "Green Movement" sympathisers.

While Khatami condemns displays of Arab solidarity with the persecuted Ahwazi Arabs, Iran remains the world's leading supporter of separatist movements and has long sought to divide and weaken Arab nations such as Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iraq along sectarian lines. In most cases, it has supplied arms to proxy sectarian movements in order to undermine other countries' national integrity. These policies were pursued under successive Iranian administrations, including Khatami's presidency.

Egyptian presidential advisor Emad Abdel Ghaffour, the founder of newly founded Egypt's Al-Watan party, called for the conference "to be the launching pad for supporting the cause of the Arab people in every neighboring Arab country against the Persian occupation."
He added: "We raise our voices not only in the names of Arabs but also in the names of Sunni Kurds and Ahwaz people who have been subjected to great injustice. While some countries raise the banners of justice, we seek more than that. We want to show our support for the oppressed."
The conference in Cairo, attended by leading religious and political figures, was an expression of solidarity with a persecuted people and voiced the opinion that Ahwazi Arabs would be better as a separate state. Unlike Iran, the Egyptian government is not providing arms, but allowing freedom of expression for a persecuted minority that is unable to win its legitimate and constitutional rights under the present regime.
There has been outrage within the Iranian establishment over the expression of Arab solidarity. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, accused the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia of sponsoring the "extremist" conference to damage Iran-Egypt relations. Apparently unaware that Egypt has overthrown its dictator and is now a civilian-led democracy, Boroujerdi demanded the Egyptian government to condemn and ban all pro-Ahwazi activism in Egypt, which he claimed was "unacceptable and unjustifiable."


Khatami received a hero's welcome in Britain  in 2006
and was awarded an honorary doctorate by St Andrews University
at the opening of its Institute for Iranian Studies

Five Ahwazis transferred, execution expected

Five Ahwazi Arab cultural activists who recently had their death sentences confirmed by the Iranian Supreme Court were transferred to an unknown location on Friday morning (18 January) amid condemnation by the British government which has called for their release.

Prison officials told relatives of the men that they had been taken into custody by the intelligence services. The men, all from Khalafieh (Ramshir) and involved in the Al-Hewar (Dialogue) organisation, were arrested in 2011 and accused of "enmity with God", "corruption on earth" and "acting against national security." They were forced to confess following nine months of psychological and physical torture and later retracted their statements.

On of the five is Mohammad Ali Amouri, a UNHCR-registered refugee who was forcibly and illegally repatriated to Iran by the Iraqi authorities following pressure by the Iranian Consul in Basra.

The death sentences have attracted criticism from a number of governments and international agencies. On Friday (18 January), the British Foreign Office released a statement appealing to the Iranian authorities to overturn the death sentences and ensure they are not mistreated. It said: "These men have reportedly suffered severe mistreatment, including torture, and two were forced to confess on live television. Whilst the charges are as yet unclear, they appear to be politically motivated."

The executions were also raised in a House of Commons debate on human rights in Iran this week. Matthew Offord MP said "they have been sentenced not because they are criminals or have done anything to offend the state, but because they are all part of the Ahwazi minority, an ethnic group that the mullahs and the Iranian Government are determined to wipe out."

The five facing imminent execution include:
  • Mohammad Ali Amouri Nejad, 33, a fisheries engineer arrested in February 2011
  • Hashem Shaabani, 31, married with one child, arrested in February 2011
  • Hadi Rashedi, 37, single with a post-graduate qualification in chemistry, arrested in February 2011
  • Jabar al-Boushokeh, 27, married with one child, employee of his father's rock-grinding business and involved in social welfare activities, arrested in March 2011
  • Mokhtar al-Boushokeh, 25, who was one year into his military services and is the brother of Jabar al-Boushokeh.
Four other Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death in September:
  • Abdulreza Amir Khanafereh, son of Younes, 25 years old, single
  • Abdul Amir Mojadami, aged 32, married 
  • Shahab Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 26, single 
  • Ghazi Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 30, single

British parliamentarian condemns Iran's anti-Arab genocide

Daniel Brett, Chairman of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society,
meets government minister Norman Lamb MP
A British parliamentarian has condemned the Iranian regime for being "determined to wipe out" the Ahwazi Arab ethnic group.

In a House of Commons adjournment debate on human rights in Iran, Dr Matthew Offord, Conservative MP  for Hendon, stated that the latest Ahwazi Arabs to face the death penalty are not criminals and have done nothing to offend the state, but are being killed because of their ethnicity. In the parliamentary debate, he announced the names of Jabber Alboshoka, Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hadi Rashedi, Hashem Shabani and Mohammad Ali Amoori whose death sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court.

The debate was moved by David Amess MP, a long-standing supporter of human rights in Iran. Opening the debate, Mr Amess said: "The record of the clerical regime’s 34-year rule includes the execution of 120,000 of its political opponents, yet the world remains silent. It also includes the catastrophic repression of women, oppressed nationalities, and followers of various religions; the destruction of the majority of the middle class; the obliteration of the private sector; the falling of at least 40 million people below the poverty line; unemployment standing at 35%—an absolute disgrace—and a 40% inflation rate; and the plunging of the nation’s official currency. At the same time, Iran’s regime is sowing the seeds of discord right across the middle east, not least in Syria, where the mullahs are lending huge assistance to the dictator Assad, who is a very wicked man indeed."

Members of the Coalition government have been actively campaigning for the Ahwazi Arabs, including Liberal Democrats such as Sir Bob Russell and the Conservative Human Rights Commission. Last June, 26 members of parliament signed an Early Day Motion condemning the "persecution and discrimination faced by the Ahwazi Arabs" and calling on Iran to allow UN Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shaheed to conduct his own impartial investigation into anti-Arab human rights abuses.

Last August, British Foreign Secretary William Hague drew global attention to "the torture and sentencing to death of Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hashem Sha'bani Amouri and Hadi Rashidi, from the Ahwazi Arab minority." He called on Iran to "immediately to commute these death sentences, to stop torturing its citizens and to end the systematic persecution of its ethnic minorities."

Iraq colluded with Iran to deport Ahwazi refugee, now facing death

The Iraqi authorities colluded with the Iranian regime in the illegal refoulement of UNHCR-mandated Ahwazi Arab refugee Mohammad Ali Amouri, according to his former cellmate Saleh Hamid.

Hamid spent three years in prison with Amouri in Iraq. His allegations come alongside documentary proof that the Iraqi government ignored UNHCR appeals to prevent Amouri's extradition, contrary to international law. He said: "We were in the same section where we underwent torture, repression and suffering, sharing sadness and happiness together. I know he was not affiliated to any Ahwazi political party."

However, on Amouri's return to Iran in February 2011, he was arrested and last July was sentenced to death for "enmity with God" and acting against national security. His death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court last week.

Amouri is a fisheries engineer originally from Ahwaz City who relocated to Khalafabad, where he did some teaching in the local high schools. He graduated from Isfahan University with a degree in aquaculture and natural resources. He was one of the founding editors of the student newspaper Torath (Heritage) and was also an active blogger. He was originally inspired into political activism by the presidency of Mohammad Khatami and had proposed a plan to form a civic institution called Al-Hewar (Dialogue), but permission was denied by the Ministry of the Interior.

He was later involved in the Lejnat al-Wefaq (Reconciliation Committee), an Arab political association whose members were allowed to contest elections and won a number of seats in municipal councils, including a majority on Ahwaz City Council, as well as the Ahwaz seat in the Iranian Majlis. However, the organisation was banned by the government and he was forced to flee to Iraq in 2007 with Shahid Shaabani Amouri and Fares Silawi where he was arrested and detained for five years. Although he had refugee status, he was repatriated to Iran and arrested by the authorities. Fares was killed under torture in Iraq.

Hamid said: "Mohammad is a well-known civil and cultural activist who organised cultural, science and poetry events and exhibitions. He was helping poor students in Khalafiya city by running free classes and was an effective activist in his city. He was a very respected man because of his good manners and the sacrifices he made for his own people and his nation.

"During our initial criminal hearing in Basra [for illegal entry], one of the Iranian Consul staff was at the court with the judge. We saw him come out of the judge's room five minutes before the hearing. We informed the solicitor that our sentences were imposed due to pressure from the Iranian Consulate and the prosecutor was a member of one of the Iranian-affiliated militia."

Amouri, along with Hashem Shabaani, Hadi Rashedi, Jabar al-Boushokeh and Mokhtar al-Boushokeh, is in imminent danger of execution. Activists fear all five men will be killed in coming days. Four other Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death in September:
  • Abdulreza Amir Khanafereh, son of Younes, 25 years old, single
  • Abdul Amir Mojadami, aged 32, married 
  • Shahab Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 26, single 
  • Ghazi Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 30, single

Senior Iranian politician demands Egyptian censorship of Al-Ahwaz issue


One of Iran's most powerful parliamentarians has demanded the Egyptian government silence any pro-Ahwazi sentiment in Egypt, following a ground-breaking conference in Cairo that criticised Iran's treatment of ethnic Arabs in Al-Ahwaz.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, accused the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia of sponsoring an "extremist" conference to damage Iran-Egypt relations. Apparently unaware that Egypt has overthrown its dictator and is now a civilian-led democracy, Boroujerdi demanded the Egyptian government to condemn and ban all pro-Ahwazi activism in Egypt, which he claimed was "unacceptable and unjustifiable."

Others in the Iranian establishment have called for a cancellation of a meeting between Egypt's President Muhamad Morsi and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the staging of the conference, which was held at the Al-Azhar University and addressed by leading political and religious figures from Egypt and elsewhere.

Since the Arab Spring movement began, the Ahwazi Arab issue has gained prominence with support and solidarity advanced by freedom supporters from across the region. The Ahwazi movement has gained the support of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, the sister organisation of Egypt's ruling party and a major component in the Syrian opposition. The Free Syria Army has also created an Al-Ahwaz Battalion in solidarity with the Ahwazi intifada.

Death sentence confirmed for five Ahwazi Arab activists

The Iranian supreme court has this week confirmed the death sentences of five Ahwazi Arab political activists from Khalafieh (Ramshir), according to the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation.

Judge Sayed Mohammad Bagher Mosavi, the head of Branch 2 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court, sentenced the activists last July, following their conviction by a secret court of "enmity with God", "corruption on Earth" and activities against national security.

The five facing imminent execution include:
  • Mohammad Ali Amouri Nejad, 33, a fisheries engineer arrested in February 2011
  • Hashem Shaabani, 31, married with one child, arrested in February 2011
  • Hadi Rashedi, 37, single with a post-graduate qualification in chemistry, arrested in February 2011
  • Jabar al-Boushokeh, 27, married with one child, employee of his father's rock-grinding business and involved in social welfare activities, arrested in March 2011
  • Mokhtar al-Boushokeh, 25, who was one year into his military services and is the brother of Jabar al-Boushokeh.
The men are known to have undergone torture over a period of nine months while being held by the intelligence services. During this time, they were forced to confess to crimes and were denied access to legal representation.

Their sentences have been condemned by Amnesty International, the European Parliament, members of the British parliament, the German Foreign Ministry, the British Foreign Secretary, the US State Department and other international and Iranian human rights organisations.

Four other Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death in September:

  • Abdulreza Amir Khanafereh, son of Younes, 25 years old, single
  • Abdul Amir Mojadami, aged 32, married 
  • Shahab Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 26, single 
  • Ghazi Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 30, single

AHRO is appealing to the UK government to repeat its condemnation of the death sentences and the ongoing violent persecution of Ahwazi Arabs. It is also urging the British government to encourage the relevant Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran to visit the country.

Cairo conference provokes rage and allegations from Iran

Iranian hardliners have reacted with fury to a major conference in Cairo rallying support for the Ahwazi Arab cause.

Held on 10 January and coinciding with a visit to Egypt by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, the conference  was organised by Egyptian Salafists and Ahwazi activists and denounced "Persian occupation of Arab lands", receiving wide coverage in the Arabic media.

Among the speakers was Emad Abdel Ghaffour, the founder of newly founded Egypt's Al-Watan party and former leader of the Al-Nour party. Ghaffour also holds the position of the President's assistant for community outreach. Speakers also included Saudi preacher Mohammed al-Arifi, members of the Al-Azhar Mosque, the World Islamic Coordinating Council, the Ahwazi Justice movement, the Forum of Muslim Scholars, and the International Humanitarian Institutions Union, in addition to the Egyptian Reform Party and the Building and Development Party, the political arm of the Gamaa Islamiya, according to Al-Monitor. Representing Ahwazi Arabs was Sabah Mosawi of the Ahwazi Arab Renaissance Party (AARP).

Ghafour called for the conference "to be the launching pad for supporting the cause of the Arab people in every neighboring Arab country against the Persian occupation."

He added: "We raise our voices not only in the names of Arabs but also in the names of Sunni Kurds and Ahwaz people who have been subjected to great injustice. While some countries raise the banners of justice, we seek more than that. We want to show our support for the oppressed."

There was angry reaction to the meeting from within the Iranian establishment with calls for Iran's President Ahmadinejad to cancel a meeting with Egypt's President Muhamad Morsi in protest at the conference. There were also unfounded accusations of Qatari sponsorship of the conference and claims that it was arranged by the pro-Ahwazi lobbying group the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS).

BAFS Chairman Daniel Brett said: "The conference had no BAFS involvement and our focus is solely on activism in the UK and Europe. It appears to be an initiative by a grassroots convergence of Arabs who have grown weary of aggressive Iranian interference in the Arab world and desperate Ahwazis who have experienced over 80 years of persecution and marginalisation, without a word of support from their Persian compatriots.

"No doubt Ahwazis will welcome solidarity with their struggle from wherever it comes. But the Persian opposition has not only failed but has been a cheerleader for the racial persecution of Ahwazi Arabs and some supporters of the Pahlavi dynasty have praised the execution of Arab activists. As a spurned and hated people in Iran, Ahwazis are turning to the revolutionary leaders of the Arab Spring movement who support their right to self-determination.

"It is good to hear the Arab world taking more interest in the Ahwazi struggle and Mr Ghaffour and others should be praised for their stand against Persian chauvinism. Since Ahwazi Arabs are indigenous to an oil-rich region exploited by Tehran to maintain its terrorist state, the solidarity with the struggle will have significant massive implications that will be of benefit to all, apart from the ayatollahs and their allies and puppets. Al-Ahwaz is on the brink of becoming the new front-line in a new Arab Spring."

On 11 January, Ahwaz City witnessed the destruction of Iranian administrative buildings in a massive explosion, for which the Ahwaz Islamic Sunni Organisation (AISO) claimed responsibility; there were no casualties. The explosion came after statements of solidarity by the Free Syrian Army, which has created an Al-Ahwaz battalion. Meanwhile the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz (ASMLA) has held top-level talks with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which has expressed its support for the cause of Ahwazi Arab self-determination.

Ahwazi Intifada on Iran Heats Up As Arab Rebels Claim Bomb Attack

Iranian administrative buildings in the heart of Ahwaz City were the target of a major bomb attack by Arab insurgents on Friday, with responsibility claimed by the Kuwait-based separatist Ahwaz Islamic Sunni Organisation (AISO).

The explosion destroyed a number of buildings on Friday morning, reducing them to rubble, although the Iranian regime has claimed the explosion was caused by a gas leak. AISO said it carefully chose the timing of the attack so as to minimise the loss of life. The Iranian authorities say there have been no fatalities and only minor injuries. Eye witnesses claim that the explosion was heard all over the city and shook buildings nearby.

AISO said it had carried out the attack in revenge for the planned executions of Ahwazi Arabs on charges of "enmity with God". It has said it will step up operations in coming months ahead of the Iranian presidential elections in June. The buildings, it claimed, were used by Iranian government agencies involved in forced displacement of Arabs to make way for new settlements

The explosion comes following statements of solidarity by the Free Syrian Army, which has created an Al-Ahwaz battalion. Meanwhile the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz (ASMLA) has held top-level talks with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. This week, Iranian hardliners have called on President Ahmadinejad to cancel a meeting with Egypt's President Muhamad Morsi over a major conference in Cairo in support of Ahwazi Arab independence.

ASMLA has published a video of the aftermath of the explosion on YouTube.

Iranian regime displaces Arabs in favour of Luris

Ahwazi Arabs are being forcibly displaced from the Shoaabiyeh area of northern Al-Ahwaz and replaced by Luri tribes from elsewhere, according to the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO).

New settlements that exclude indigenous Arabs are being built for Lurs brought in from the provinces of Lorestan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Isfahan and Fars.

Farmland has been confiscated from Arab farmers under a 'tribal housing' programme. Peaceful demonstrations by local farmers in recent days have been forcibly put down by the police and Revolutionary Guards, according to AHRO. Detainees have been taken to secret detention centres on allegations of murder, which human rights activists claim is being use to militarise the Shoaabiyeh region in order to secure the ethnically exclusive Luri settlements.

The following have been arrested amid protests against forced displacement:

  • Shapour Hussein Pour Kaabi, 40, married with children, son of Taji, a social and cultural activist accused of murder
  • Kaab Hussein Pour, son of Shapour
  • Aref Hajat Kaabi, 31, married with children, son of Hajat
  • Hussein Hajat Kaabi
  • Adel Kaabi, 30, married, son of Hanash
  • Mahdi Kaabi, 14
  • Khalil Kaabi, 22
  • Hashem Salah Kaabi, 23
  • Hatam Attiyeh Kaabi, 31, married with one child
  • Walid Hanash Kaabi, 24
  • Jalil Hamid Kaabi, 18, university student
AHRO has condemned the arbitrary arrests and has called on the Iranian authorities to release the men and halt attempts to change the demography of the Shoaabieyh region.