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...

Hundreds of "thieves" arrested; mass arrests ahead of election

More than 550 "thieves" have have been arrested in the Arab border town of Al-Mohammarah (Farsi: Khorramshahr) since the beginning of this year, said local police chief Colonel Hussein Azizi in a recent statement.

The figures bring to light the high level of arrests in Arab towns and cities. Ahwazi Arab campaigners believe that a significant number of those accused of theft and other crimes are low-level political activists who are being rounded up and detained on spurious charges ahead of potential demonstrations in April and in the run-up to presidential elections in June. Many have been arrested by members of the intelligence services rather than the police, indicating they are being pursued for political crimes.

Activists have reported an intensification of the Iranian regime's security presence in recent weeks, possibly in relation to planned mass executions. Nine Ahwazi Arabs have been sentenced to death, five of whom have had their death sentences upheld by the Supreme Court.

Low-level or casual activists, such as those who may restrict their activism to street demonstrations, are often detained on false charges of theft, drug trafficking, illicit sex and other misdemeanors that can carry a social stigma. Recent days have seen two women and one man executed in Ahwaz for non-political crimes, having been convicted in revolutionary courts and held in Karoon Prison alongside Ahwazi Arab political dissidents.

Among those arrested in a swoop by the intelligence services in recent days are four Ahwazi Arabs from Jarahi in the north of Ahwaz City:
  • Hassan Hazam
  • Fakher Abdulrahman Assakerah
  • Tawfigh Abdulhamid Ali
  • Aayad Haikal
Their whereabouts are unknown. The men are believed to have been arrested in relation to complaints by residents of Jarahi and Maashour (Farsi: Mahshahr) about poverty and ethnic discrimination.

Ahwazi prisoner released five years after deportation from Syria

Ahwazi Arab political prisoner Saeed Hamadi has been released after five years imprisonment, according to local sources.

He was extradited from Syria to Iran and jailed in Karoon Prison in 2008, but was released on 18 February. He was one of the founding members of Al-Amjaad and Al-Shorogh cultural centres. The charges against him were unclear, but are thought to relate to his Arab cultural activities. The Iranian regime has closed a number of Arab cultural centres and bookshops on the grounds of threatening national security.

A number of other Ahwazi Arab refugees were deported by the regime of Bashar al-Assad, all of whom are UNHCR protected refugees. Currently, UNHCR registered refugee Mohammad Ali Amouri is facing imminent execution two years after he was illegally repatriated to Iran by the Iraqi authorities. Both the Iraqi and Syrian governments routinely break international laws on non-refoulement of Ahwazi Arab refugees, apparently in an attempt to cement their alliance to the regime in Tehran.

Arab market destroyed by Iranian forces while native Arab unemployment soars

Keyan Market in Ahwaz City, which is an important centre of commerce for impoverished Arabs, was burned down by Iranian security services on 14 February in spite of a soaring unemployment problem.

The police took the action after shop-keepers at the market refused to vacate their shops following an order by the local authorities, who had warned them not to object to the action.

A local source said: "The policy is not new and not surprising. The Iranian regime wants to harm and humiliate the Ahwazi Arabs. The regime not only arrests and executes Ahwazi Arab activists, it is also closing their independent sources of income from their farms and shops."

Unemployment among Ahwazi Arabs has soared due to the economic crisis. According to member of parliament Habib Aghajari, the unemployment rate in the cities of Mashour (Farsi: Mahshahr), Handian (Hendijan) and Emediyeh (Omidiyeh) has risen above 25 per cent. Aghajari called for a moratorium on recruitment of non-local people and reserve all jobs for residents of the area in order to resolve the unemployment problem.

Ahwaz member of parliament Shokrekhoda Mosavi recently claimed that 95% of people of Ahwaz City are unemployed. Mosavi raised the issue in the Iranian parliament in relation to Article 28 of the Iranian constitution, which states that all citizens have the right to choose their employment. His request for a debate was rejected by deputy speaker Mohammad Hassan Torabifard.

Daniel Brett, chairman of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, said: "The unemployment crisis among Arabs is being blamed by the Iranian regime on international sanctions. In reality it is the result of institutionalised ethnic discrimination and deliberate attacks on economic sectors on which the Ahwazi Arab population depends, such as farming, fishing and small businesses. The destruction of Keyan Market is another example of the regime's desire to economically marginalise the ethnic Arab population."

Ahwazi Arab executed in Karoon Prison

The Iranian regime executed an Ahwazi Arab on 14 February, four years after he was sentenced to death by a revolutionary court, according to local sources.

Sabbah Lowaimi, 38 years old, married with two children, came from the Sayed Khalaf district of Ahwaz City. He was accused of dealing in illicit drugs, although his relatives claim that the security forces failed to find any evidence and insist he never took drugs.

Some Ahwazi Arabs suspected of involvement in anti-regime activities are charged with drug offences in order to denigrate them and deflect political criticism. Revolutionary courts, which are internationally condemned for poor standards of justice, try both drug traffickers and political dissidents. The notorious Karoon Prison also holds both types of prisoner.

"Syria is a province of Iran" - says leading Iranian mullah

One of Iran's leading preachers has called Syria the country's "35th strategic province" and said it has a higher priority than Khuzestan, the formerly autonomous oil-rich Arab-majority province in the southwest.

"If the enemy attacks us and wants to appropriate either Syria or Khuzestan, the priority is that we keep Syria," Mehdi Taeb, the head of the Amar Yasser strategic headquarters which was established to fight the 'soft war' against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Taeb added: “If we keep Syria, we can get Khuzestan back too, but if we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran … Syria had an army, but does not have the ability to manage a war inside Syria’s cities. It is for this reason the Iranian government suggested that Syria establish a Basij …The Syrian Basij was formed with 60,000 Hezbollahi who have taken over the war in the streets from the army.

"If you have money, then everything is sorted. But the problem is that as a result of the sanctions we have no money and without money we cannot bypass the sanctions."

Taeb's remarks confirm recent US reports that the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Iranian regime have formed a militia network to protect their interests should Bashar al-Assad be toppled.

Iranian regime hiding Arab bodies in unmarked graves

The mass grave of four Ahwazi Arabs executed last year has been identified by an ethnic Bakhtiari resident of Baghmalek city, according to local sources.

The witness claimed that the men's bodies had been take to the site by security officers and placed in a single grave that was filled with cement. He said the grave was located in the village of Ghale-tal near Baghmalik. Three security personnel kept watch at the grave for three days.

The families of the men - Taha Heidarian, Abdolrahman Heidarian, Abbas Heidarian, and Ali Sharifi - who were executed amid international controversy have never been told the whereabouts of the graves, in direct violation of Islamic custom. The security services have provided contradictory reports and have, on occasion, led them to believe that two of the men are still alive. Nevertheless, funeral ceremonies have been held for the men, who had protested their innocence following secret trials that were widely condemned as deeply flawed.

Executed political prisoners are commonly buried in unmarked mass graves, which the Iranian regime calls "Lanat Abad", the place of the "damned people".

Iran responds to Al-Azhar conference with anti-Arab repression

The January conference at Al-Azhar
expressed solidarity with Ahwazi Arabs
Iranian police and the intelligence service have begun a campaign of arrests of Arab activists across Al-Ahwaz following a conference at Egypt's Al-Azhar University which called for self-determination for indigenous Ahwazi Arabs.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently visited the Al-Azhar mosque in order to establish Iranian leadership in the Muslim world and play down growing Egyptian solidarity with Ahwazi Arabs. He was instead publicly humiliated when Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb told him to respect Iran's Sunni population and to give Ahwazi Arabs their full rights as citizens. 

The Iranian regime is reportedly annoyed over the pro-Ahwazi sentiments expressed by officials and Sunni leaders at Al-Azhar and is taking revenge against Ahwazi Arab activists.

The Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz (DSPA), which is run in exile, reported that around 30 people are being held in custody for political crimes. The reasons for the arrests are unknown, but the DSPA believes they may be connected to a call on Facebook for a peaceful demonstration against the execution of five Ahwazi activists. One Ahwazi blog claims that those arrested are mostly involved in Arabic poetry recitals, which are commonly used to express political dissent, and has named those detained in Malashiyaa shanty town of Ahwaz City, as:
  • Abdullah Silawi
  • Mohammad Bawi
  • Jawad Badawi, son of Jalil
  • Habib Koroshat
  • Majedd Hashemi, son of Obaied
  • Sadogh Badawi
  • Tofigh Sarkhi
  • Salem Daghagheleh Zadeghan
  • Nawaf Hamodi
  • Hossien Hamodi
  • Hakim Khasraji, 21 years old
  • Khairullah Mansouri (Mazrae)
  • Naji Bozar (Silawi), son of Hamid, 19 years old
  • Yousef Zehiri, son of Yaghob
  • Sajad Badawi, son of Hossien
  • Khali Marwani (Khasraji), son of Mohsen, 22 years old

In Khalafiya, Saeed Asakereh, 37 years old, was arrested on 26 January by the intelligence services and taken to unknown place. His family have not received any news of his whereabouts and are deeply concerned for him due to existing health problems. On 8 February, the regime arrested the Ahwazi activist Habib Korashat, a 30 year old married man with one child, in Malashiya.

Iran's repression against Arab Sunni converts

Members of the IRGC are involved in anti-Sunni repression
An alleged "Wahhabi sect" has been closed down in Abadan by the 'Unknown Soldiers of the Imam Zamam', the name used for the intelligence services, according to the Iranian media.

The judge Mortazavi alleged that a number of people who traveled to Arab states in the Gulf region have been converting 'naive people' to Wahhabism, but have been identified and arrested by intelligence agents.

Mortazavi announced that following raids, the accused were arrested, literature was confiscated from their homes and during interrogations they made 'confessions'. The file has been passed to the Abadan Revolutionary Court.

Nematullah Behroozi, the head of Abadan Justice Administration, said: “The aims of this secret sect contradict with Islam and Shi'ism. These sect promoters are targeting those who are illiterate or have insufficient information about the sect. They first instill doubts about Shi'ism and then deceive them and pay them money to recruit them.”

There is no suggestion that those arrested have been involved in violent activities or political subversion. 'Wahhabism' is a term used to denounce any form of Sunni belief, including those schools that are in opposition to the highly conservative Wahhabi thought that Iran associates with violent radicalism. Traditionally, the Sunni Arab population in Iran has been concentrated along the Shatt al-Arab and the Gulf coast.

Many Ahwazi Arabs are converting to Sunnism due to their rejection of the Shia theocratic political system in Iran. Such conversions cannot be deemed apostasy in Islam, which would carry the death penalty. As such, the government seeks to justify the denial of freedom of worship by associating Sunnism with subversive foreign influence, particularly from Saudi Arabia. Often those accused of Wahhabism are secularist and progressive in their outlook.

Mandeans of Ahwaz appeal against persecution

The Mandean community has released the following statement, asserting its right to freedom of worship and criticising endemic discrimination. The Mandeans, like the Ahwazi Arabs, are indigenous to southwest Iran. Followers of a Gnostic religion committed to non-violence, they originate from the followers of John the Baptist, pre-dating both Christianity and Islam, and continue to practice ancient baptismal rites. During the period of Arab self-rule before 1925, they were allowed to worship as they please and were able to live and work freely, often as goldsmiths and merchants. Although many Muslims recognise them as "followers of the Book", today they endure violent persecution, particularly by Shi'ite militias in post-Saddam Iraq and under the current Iranian regime. They risk becoming extinct as they are forced into religious conversion.

The Mandaean of Iran have lived in the area of Khuzestan in Southern Iran close to the borders with Iraq for over 2000 years. Their numbers are currently estimated to be between 5,000-10,000.

The Mandaean religion has not been recognised legally under Article 13 of the Iranian constitution as a result the Mandaean community is not protected by law and not recognised as a religious minority with rights and freedom to practise their religion. They are discriminated against in all policy decisions. 

Throughout recent years the Mandaean of Iran have suffered persecution and harassment as a result of religious discrimination.

Most recently two Mandaean youth were killed in Ahwaz - Farhan Jasib Zahrooni and Hadi Haider Zahrooni - following a minor road accident. As the punishment for such killing is much lighter than for the rest of the population, the [compensation] for killing a Mandaean is one quarter of that demanded by law for killing a Muslim.

Like other minorities, the Mandaeans suffer varying degrees of discrimination in education and employment. They are often denied access to higher education.The Mandaeans are treated as second class citizens. They are exposed to continuous pressure to convert to Islam.

There is a pressure on Mandaean women and girls in particular to be forced into marriages with Muslim men. Worse still there has been reported incidents of rape of Mandaean women in which the court has judged that the perpetrator had 'purified' the women, instead of being punished.

The Mandaeans are considered ‘unclean' by their Muslim neighbours experience social problems when touching or handling food when shopping and are even denied medical treatment due to this taboo.

Moreover, there have been attacks on their places of worship, the Mandi. The Mandaean religion demands of the Mandaeans to Baptise in the running waters, mostly on the river sides. However, places for baptism at the river side are highly polluted and prevent these rites from taking place. Cemeteries have also been decimated as has happened in Ahwaz in 2001.

These are few of the difficulties the Mandaeans in Iran are facing today:
  1. The Mandaean are not recognized in the country's constitution article 13
  2. The Mandaean religious minority is illegal
  3. They can not choose their jobs and have to follow the government instructions
  4. They are not permitted to work in health or foodstuffs departments or opening restaurants
  5. They do not have civil rights in the country courts as Iranian citizenship
  6. Mandaean youth are prevented from studying at university unless they have to write "Muslim" on the application
  7. Government offices forbid the employment of the Mandaeans
  8. Mandaean children are forced to study Islamic theology and memorize verses from Quran and in this way they try to make the Mandaean children accept the Islamic religion
  9. The Mandaeans can not be educated in the common law to become a lawyer or judge
  10. They are not permitted to register or start any kind of associations or societies for their welfare
  11. The Mandaeans are allowed to vote but cannot stand for election. They are only allowed to vote for Muslims.
  12. The Mandaeans are obligated to serve in the army, taking no consideration to their pacifist religious believes which prohibits them from carrying arms.
  13. The Mandaeans cannot build their prayer houses (Mandi)
  14. The Mandaean cemetery is under government custody
As a result of all this, Mandaean families are forced to leave Iran and migrate to other parts of the world. In the year 2011 alone some 300 families have fled Iran, There are now many Mandaean families all over the globe.

We urge the international community to intervene on the behalf of the Iranian minorities and to pressurise the Iranian government to give recognition to the Mandaeans as a religious minority, to protect them under the law and to give them equal rights and the freedom to worship in their country Iran.

Source: Mandean Union

Security clamp-down, executions imminent?

Sources in Ahwaz City report an intensification in security, prompting speculation that five Ahwazi Arab political prisoners will be executed very soon.

Ahwazi Arab activists in the restive districts of Hamidiya and Hey Al-Thawra have pledged to create civil unrest across the city if the regime carries out the hangings of Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshokeh, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshokeh, Hashem Shaabani and Hadi Rashedi, who were convicted and sentenced in July 2012.

The condemned men have won the support of several UN Human Rights Council specialists, the European Union, the German and British governments, Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and a multitude of human rights organisations. There has been widespread condemnation of the illegal nature of the trials and sentencing.

In response to potential civil disorder, the Iranian security services have set up surveillance operations at road junctions and traffic lights. A number of Ahwazi Arab activists with suspended sentences or who are in the process of appealing against their convictions have also been called to report to the Ministry of Intelligence.

Daniel Brett, Chairman of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "Clearly the regime is in a panic and has been taken aback by the scale of international solidarity. If it executes the men, it will be shown up as an abuser of the rights of ethnic Arabs and, particularly in the case of UNHCR-registered refugee Mohammad Ali Amouri, will have committed crimes against humanity due to the complete lack of material evidence. If it climbs down, it will be a victory of human rights and could set a precedent across Iran for greater freedoms ahead of the presidential election.

"We call on the judiciary and the civilian authorities to show strength and desist from executing political prisoners. Any further executions will be a sign of weakness in the face of opposition and signal that the regime feels threatened by even the mildest opponents, such as the five currently facing hanging. It will also demonstrate that the Iranian regime is not a liberator of Arabs or a leader of Muslims, but a violent oppressor at a time when it is arming and aiding tyranny in Syria."