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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.