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...

Ahwazi hunger strike ends after 28 days

Five Ahwazi Arab political prisoners have ended their hunger strike against their death sentences following pressure on their family members.

The protest was launched in response to a decision by the Supreme Court to uphold their death sentences against their ill-treatment in prison, including torture and denial of medical care, according to Amnesty International.

The plight of the five men - Mohammad Ali Amouri, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, Hashem Sabani and Hadi Rashedi - who belonged to an Arab cultural group known as Al-Hewar, has been the subject of an international lobbying campaign by human rights organisations. Condemnation of their execution has been voiced by the UN Human Rights Council, the European Union and many governments. The EU has imposed sanctions on the judge that sentenced them to death.

Kamil Alboshoka, cousin of Sayed Jaber Alboshoka and Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, told the Ahwaz News Agency: "The families of the five as well as fellow prisoners pleaded with them to end their hunger strike as their health deteriorated. Hadi rashedi and Mokhtar Alboshoka have become seriously ill and all men are severely weakened."

Mohammed Amouri, Hadi Rashidi, Hashem Shaabani and brothers Jaber al-Boushakeh and Mukhtar al-Boushakeh were sentenced to hanging for "enmity with God" in July 2012. Three other Ahwazis were convicted of the same crime but were given prison sentences: Ali Badri (four years imprisonment) Ismail Abayat (five years), Abdul Rahman Asakereh (20 years).

Mohammad Ali Amoori (33), arrested in February 2011, is a fisheries engineer originally from Ahwaz City who relocated to Khalafabad. 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 taught in some of the high schools in Khalafabad. He was originally inspired into political activism by the presidency of Mohammad Khatami. He 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 that was 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.
Hadi Rashedi (37), single was arrested on 28 February 2011 with his brother Habibullah Rashidi, former chair of Khalafabad municipal council. A highly qualified post-graduate with an MSc in chemistry, he worked in local high schools as a teacher. He has a keen interest in cultural issues and is an advocate for the poor. He suffers from heart disease and as such is exempt from military service. During his imprisonment, suffered considerable mental stress, developing a serious digestive disorder as a result. As a result of beatings, he has a fractured hip. He appeared in a documentary aired by Iran’s Press TV in which he was forced to confess to firing a gun at buildings housing security personnel and government officials in Khalafabad. He was described as a member of the ‘Khalq-e Arab’, although no single organisation operates with this name.

Hashem Shaabani (31), arrested in February 2011, is originally from Ahwaz City and a resident of Khalafabad. He is married with one child. He has a Bachelor degree in Arabic language literature and education and holds a Masters degree in Political Sciences from Ahwaz University. He has written poetry in Arabic and Farsi and teaches Arabic language and Arabic literature in high schools. He is a cultural, civil and student activist and also a blogger. He takes care of his elderly parents. His father Khalaf Shaabani was disabled while fighting Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq War. Due to their son being arrested, his parents are suffering both physically and mentally. In December 2011, he was featured on Iran’s international television station Press TV in which he was forced to confess to being involved in separatist terrorism and supporting Ba’athism in Iraq. He was also made to claim that he had assistance from Hosni Mubarak and Muammer al-Qadafi, the former rulers of Egypt and Libya. Those who know him state that he has never supported armed insurgency against the Iranian state, let alone had contact with foreign governments.
Rahman Asakereh (33) is married and father of five children. He has a BSc in Chemical Engineering from Khorramabad University and an MA in Social Sciences from Ahwaz University. He was in the process of editing his Master’s thesis, which was focused on the difficulties faced by bilingual students in the Iranian education system, when he was arrested. He worked as a chemistry teacher in local high schools and conducted free courses for university entrance exams for Arab youth. He was active at a regional level in cultural and civic activities and was a student activist at the universities he attended. Rahman Asakereh’s 14 year-old son Hamed Asakereh (pictured on right) died on September 13, 2011 after he was hit by a police car in suspicious circumstances while his father was in prison. It is suspected that Hamed was murdered to cause distress to Rahman. 

Jabar al-Boushokeh, 27 years old and from Khalafia, was arrested on 13 March 2011. He is married with one daughter and was working for his father, Mohammad al-Boushoka, in a rock grinding company. He was also an engaged in social welfare activities. He was arrested with his brother, Mokhtar al-Boushokeh (25), who was one year into his two-year military service. The brothers are understood to have been tortured over a period of four months. As a result, Mokhtar is suffering mental health problems and is said to be permanently shaking and unaware of where he is.

Friday prayer leader attacks Iran's treatment of Ahwazi Arabs

A prominent Friday prayer leader in Alkhafajeyeh (Susangerd) launched a wide-ranging attack on the Iranian government's failure to improve basic social and economic conditions for Ahwazi Arabs.

In a daring sermon conducted in front of senior government officials, Hojat Aleslam Sari Asl spoke of the resistance of Arab tribes in Dasht-e-Azadeghan (Alkhafajeyeh) against British invaders and the sacrifices Arabs made during the Iran-Iraq War. However, in spite of the loss of life suffered by the population they were not getting their fair share of government assistance and officials had betrayed their promises to develop the region.

He said: "There is a lot of backwardness and deprivation in this region. Despite trillions in signed contracts for natural gas and oil in the are, the government refuses to spend even five percent of oil revenue on the local population. Additionally, there is a high rate of air pollution but no consideration of the environmental crises. The Oil Minister during his visit last year stated that unfinished projects in the area will be completed, but a promised new 128 bed hospital in Susangerd has yet to be completed after 12 years."

The Imam also criticized the rate of employment of local people within many oil and gas companies. He added that local young people are graduating with relevant qualifications, but many staff were still being brought in from other regions. The executives of these companies claim that local people do not have relevant qualification and experience while more than 80 per cent of staff in oil companies are non-local and have no higher than a high school diploma.

The prayer leader appealed for improved water supply for farming, which is the main source of livelihood for many Ahwazi Arabs in the area. He criticised the mismanagement of water resources and added: "The government takes our oil and should give us water for farming."

Another area of concern voiced by the imam was the lack of decent housing. He raised the example of the Mehr national housing project which was supposed to construct 200 units of housing for local people in Marei, 7km from Susangerd, but construction had yet to start. A lack of job opportunities and poor social and economic development were contributing to a growing problem of drug addiction among local Arab youth. 

Nasser Bani Assad, a spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "It is unusual for clerics to make open political attacks on the government, but he obviously felt it his duty to give a voice to the local Ahwazi Arab population which continues to endure discrimination and poverty. The imam is saying little different to the complaints made by the Ahwazi Arab movement, which is outlawed in Iran. His religious position has given him some protection from arrest, but it was no doubt a brave statement to make."

Ahwazi group destroys Iranian oil company property in protest

Activists belonging to an Ahwazi Arab opposition group burned vehicles belonging to an oil exploration company in Iran this month in protest at the failure to disburse oil revenues back to the region and ongoing land confiscation. Members of the Ahwaz Democratic Popular Front (ADPF) filmed the torching of the vehicles in Hamidiya.

On camera: Violent racial abuse of Arab students by Basiji teacher

A student has secretly filmed ritual racial attacks on three Ahwazi Arab students by their teacher, Basij member Ali Salehi Por.

The teenage students - Mohammed Gharbawi, Ali Reza Gharbawi and Massoud Afrawi - were humiliated in front of their classmates in a violent and organised attack at Faridneya School, Ahwaz City.

The shocking video of the punishment, which is illegal under educational regulations, reveals the racist child abuse in the Iranian education system. Ahwazi Arab youths under-achieve at school due to discrimination and being forced to learn in Farsi, a language that is not their own.

A spokesman for the Ahwaz Centre for Human Rights said: "The punishment is for students who don't do their homework or who get low grades in the questioning exams in class. Whatever they have done, they should not be punished like that, according to educational regulations. But away from observers, Arab students get this punishment, so you can imagine how those with such a mentality deal with prisoners."

Ahwazi child refugee dies of thirst trying to reach Australia

Three year old Ahwazi Arab boy Moustafa Khaled Bayt Lofteh died as a result of severe thirst as his family attempted to flee persecution in Iran for refuge in Australia via Indonesia, according to the Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz.

The captain lost navigation for five days during which the passengers exhausted the water and food on board. They were eventually rescued by Australian authorities.

Moustafa's father is an Arabic teacher from Alkhafagyeh (Susangerd) who fled the country when the regime dismissed him from his job. He was teaching Arabic and English to deprived Arab youths in his neighbourhood without official permission. Such acts are viewed with deep suspicion by the authorities who have banned Arabic cultural and language organisations. Five Ahwazi Arabs are currently facing execution for forming the Al-Hewar (Dialogue) group, which promoted Arabic language and culture among youths.

Daniel Brett, chairman of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), said: "This tragic death demonstrates the extraordinary lengths refugees have to go to in order to get sanctuary in a safe country. Moustafa's family were desperate enough to take the long and difficult journey to Australia.

"Others have attempted to reach Europe, but there are few safe routes and most methods involve paying criminal syndicates involved in drugs, arms and people trafficking to cross borders.

"The Iraqi government has repeatedly broken international law by returning refugees to Iran where they have been incarcerated on their arrival and often tortured. The Syrian regime also co-operates with the Iranian authorities in forcibly returning UNHCR-registered Ahwazi Arab refugees, often with the assistance of the UNHCR's office in Damascus which was infiltrated by the Syrian intelligence services. Syria is now too dangerous to pass through due to conflict. The difficulties in reaching Europe make Australia a more attractive destination, despite the challenges involved in travelling such a long distance.

"Unless the international system supports the speedy resettlement of refugees to places where they are safe and supported, people will continue to die seeking refuge and criminals will continue to profit from their misery."

Profile of a hero: Mohammad Ali Amouri

Below is a translation of a profile of Ahwazi Arab cultural activist and UNHCR-registered refugee Mohammad Ali Amouri who is on hunger strike while waiting execution by the Iranian regime. It is written by someone very close to Amouri.

Mohammad Ali Amouri was born 17 February 1978 in Mohammarah

During the Iran-Iraq war his family fled to Alkhalafieh until 1998 when he was offered a place to study fisheries at the Industrial University of Isfahan and at the same time started his cultural and political activities at the student union there (Anjuman-e-Islami).

In the first year of his degree he was appointed to the student union body and due to his hard work and commitment he gained students' support in the second year of his course was appointed as the general secretary of student community at the university. During the administration of the liberal Iranian president Mohammad Khatami and due to his political and cultural activities he managed to create and publish cultural newsletters at the university. These included the cultural and literary “Ghazal” newsletter in Farsi which used to be published monthly and the social and cultural “Altorath" (Heritage) newsletter in Arabic. Both gained lots of students attention and interest due to their subject matter and the concepts of civil society, democracy and freedom following years of  isolation and repression prior to the Khatami presidency.

One of the most important activities by Mohammad Ali Amori is the establishment of Iran’s ethnic nations congress in 2001 which had crucial role in bringing discriminated nations closer to each other. Many cultural activists, lecturers and poets attended the congress where they presented their thoughts present cultural events, exhibitions and folkloric activities representing each nation. These activities continued in the following year at the university and more students from different Iranian nations such as Kurds, Arabs, Balochis, Turks and Turkmens joined in and welcomed these activities. 

Amouri completed his degree and joined compulsory military service in the education department where he chose to teach in suburban and poor areas around Alkhalafyeh and continued his cultural activities. He established cultural and literary symposiums and through them he was able to raise awareness of Arabs, their suffering and encouraging their struggle against drug addiction and the unemployment among young people, where the highest rates are among Ahwazi Arabs, and challenging the backwardness caused by tribal conflicts. He also was able to encourage Ahwazi women to re-integrate within the society through involvement in education and work. He encouraged other students and graduates and lecturers to establish local NGOs in name of “ Al-Hewar” (Dialogue) during the second Khatami administration when there was some degree of freedom.

The most important aims of “Al-Hewar” were to raise the level of cultural and scientific knowledge among students in Arab areas where they suffer deprivation and low educational performance due to discrimination by the central government. A year after “Al-Hewar” began its activities it was banned by the authorities due to a misunderstanding by local officials on Iran’s ethnic nations' cultural, political and social needs.

Mohammad Ali Amouri was called by the Intelligence Service (Etellaat) on two occasions. They threatened to dismiss him from his job in the education authority and said he would not get a job after military service in any official departments in future if he continued his cultural activities. He was subsequently dismissed from his job. After the Intifada (Uprising) in April 2005, the Iranian authorities banned all cultural activities in Ahwaz. After the Khatami presidency ended, the Arab areas of Ahwaz were put under more security and greater restrictions. Amouri then went to Tehran, the capital city, as he was unable to get a job in Ahwaz. In Tehran he started work as translator for news agencies but was unable to secure an official job. He returned to Alkhalafyeh and worked in local agricultural authority. He started writing short stories for the "Al-Salam" newsletter in which he expressed Arab suffering and deprivations. He also got an opportunity to write about Ahwazi prisoners, the arbitrary repression by the intelligence services and lack of fair courts and discrimination of Ahwazi Arab detainees.

Following increased pressure by the intelligence services, he decided to escape the country and entered Iraq illegally. There he claimed asylum with the UNCHR but he was arrested by the Iraqi authorities and under the Article 24 of Iraqi constitution was sentenced for five years and one month in Basra prison. In the prison his claim for asylum was accepted (No: 463-0913302). International human rights organisations and some diplomats called on Iraqi government to release him from prison. But the Iraqi government refused to release him and instead he was secretly transferred to Iran three years after his imprisonment.

The Iranian intelligence services arrested and detained him in unknown area where he experienced severe physical and mental tortures and his younger brother was also arrested by the intelligence service to put him (Mohammad Ali) and his family more under pressure. On the same day his younger brother was arrested, their mother as a result of this had a stroke and admitted to ICU the local hospital. Also many of his friends and cultural activists were randomly arrested without any reason and charges. Six months later and after severe torture he was transferred to Karoun prison.

Teenage Ahwazi Arab's body found in the Karoon River

The body of a 14 year old Ahwazi Arab resident of Hay al-Thawra (Dayereh) was found in the Karoon River last week.

Pictures of Maitham Hamid Abidawi's corpse show that his hands were bound behind his back and his feet were tied together. A rescue team was deployed and allegedly found other bodies in the river, according to the Media Center of the Ahwazi Revolution.

The bodies of many Ahwazi activists who have "disappeared" have been washed up in the Karoon. Last September, human rights activists reported that the body of Abbas Sawari, arrested in April 2011, was found washed up on the shore of the Karoon. Sawari was arrested after participating in demonstrations in the Hay al-Thawra district commemorating the sixth anniversary of the Ahwazi Arab intifada. Extra-judicial killings of low-level Ahwazi Arab activists are believed to far out-number official executions.

Provincial official warns of unrest among educated Ahwazis

Ahwazi Arab youths pose a threat to national security, according to Sayed Karim Husseini, the Political and Security assistant to the Khuzestan provincial governor.

Husseini claimed that an increase in cultural and academic achievement among young Arabs was being exploited and manipulated by Western enemies. He pointed to the increasing political activism among Arab university lecturers, students, teachers and the wider middle-class as proof of the threats against the Islamic Republic.

Ahwazi Arabs have long suffered high levels of illiteracy and low educational attainment due to instruction in the Farsi language as well as discrimination in educational institutions. Three of the five Ahwazi Arab cultural activists currently facing imminent execution were employed as teachers and gave extra tuition to Ahwazi students in the Arabic language.

Ahwazis address Geneva meeting

ACHR director Ali Saedi addresses meeting at Geneva
The Iranian regime is engaged in crimes against humanity in its attempts to ethnically cleanse Ahwazi Arabs from their homeland, Ali Saedi the Director of the Ahwazi Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) told a meeting at the UN headquarters in Geneva this week.

Addressing activists, UN officials and human rights NGOs, including the independent expert on minority issues Rita Isaacs, Ali Saedi called for the international community to do more to support the rights of "defenceless" Ahwazi Arabs who are facing "barbaric violence" by the Iranian state.

He drew attention to the massive injustices faced by various non-Persian ethnic groups as well as Iran's poor track-record on human rights, especially unfair death sentences. He also met with UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed and Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi to thank them for their support following a UNHRC meeting in which Iran faced global condemnation for its human rights policies.

Ali Saedi meets UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shahid
"One of the worst examples of Iranian conduct is the mass arrests carried out randomly in against the citizens of the cities of Ahwaz, Hamidiya, Falahieh, Mohammerah (Khorramshahr) and Khalafia (Khalfabad), which has reached more than 50 during the past two months," said Ali Saedi.

"There are concerns over the health of activists in jail who are facing various types of torture, including those who suffer from disabilities. In addition, most prisoners will still suffer from the effects of torture long after they leave prison.

"The families of the political prisoners have complained of the lack of adequate attention by international organisations regarding the situation experienced by Ahwazi prisoners."

The ACHR makes the following demands:
  • Stop death sentences, which were recently upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court
  • The immediate release of all political detainees who have been detained, tortured and sentenced in unfair military trials for practicing their basic rights
  • An end to continuing violation of human rights, including the violent suppression of peaceful protests, continued arbitrary detention and unfair trials and sentencing
  • Stop the assassination of Ahwazi men and women under the pretext of "war with God" and other spurious charges
The following Ahwazi Arabs were recently sentenced to death:
  1. Mohammad Ali Amouri Nejad, 33, a fisheries engineer arrested in February 2011
  2. 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
  3. Mokhtar al-Boushokeh, 25, who was one year into his military services and is the brother of Jabar al-Boushokeh.
  4. Hashem Shaabani, 31, married with one child, arrested in February 2011
  5. Hadi Rashedi, 37, single with a post-graduate qualification in chemistry, arrested in February 2011
  6. Abdulreza Amir Khanafereh, son of Younes, 25 years old, single
  7. Abdul Amir Mojadami, aged 32, married
  8. Shahab Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 26, single
  9. Ghazi Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 30, single

Geneva: "Ahwazi Arab illiteracy is due to discrimination"

Left to right: Ali Saedi of the Ahwazi Centre for Human Rights,
Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi and Amir Saedi and Saleh Hamid,
both of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation.
Ahwazi Arabs are often semi-literate in their native language, but struggle with learning Iran's official language Farsi which is foreign to them, Ahwazi Arab rights campaigner Amir Saedi told at a meeting at the UN headquarters in Geneva today.

At a round-table discussion on the rights of linguistic minorities, Amir Saedi outlined Iran's violation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child as well as its own constitution in relation to the education of Arabs.

Speaking to an audience that included UN officials and NGO leaders, including Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi, he said: "Most Arab villages have no schools... While the illiteracy rate in Iran is about 10%-18%, it is over 50% among Arab men in Khuzestan and even higher for Ahwazi women. In non-industrial rural areas such as Fallahieh (Shadegan), illiteracy among women is close to 100%.

"Indigenous Ahwazi students drop out of schools at a rate of 30% at elementary level, 50% at secondary and 70% at high school because they are forced to study the “official language”, Farsi, a language which is not their own.

"The learning of Arabic is confined to religious study and is commonly classical Arabic rather than the local dialect. Consequently, Ahwazi Arabs are often semi-literate in their native language, but struggle with learning in a language that is foreign to them."

The discussion on linguistic minorities followed condemnation of Iran's human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council in which Iranian delegate Muhammad Javad Larijani's personal attacks on Special Rapporteur on Iran were condemned by the chair. In a long list of rights abuses, UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed drew attention to the planned execution of five Ahwazi cultural rights activists.

Yesterday, the European Union imposed sanctions on two Ahwaz Revolutionary Court judges for sentencing Ahwazi political prisoners to death, while two Press TV chiefs faced sanctions for broadcasting fake confessions extracted after months of torture.

EU sanctions against Iranian hanging judges and regime propagandists

Televised forced confessions of Ahwazi political prisoners
lead to EU sanctions against Press TV chiefs
The EU has imposed sanctions on two Iranian judges who have convicted and sentenced a total of nine Ahwazi Arab cultural activists to death following trials widely condemned as flawed.

Wanted: Morteza Kiasati

Morteza Kiasati, judge of Branch 4 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court, was among nine individuals added to the list of Iranians facing sanctions over human rights abuses. He imposed death penalties on Taha Heidarian, Abbas Heidarian, Abd al-Rahman Heidarian and Ali Sharifi, who were executed in June 2012. The EU states "they were arrested, tortured and hanged without due process."

Last July, the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network published a briefing document giving comprehensive information on the execution of four Ahwazi Arabs, including a full English translation of their dramatic appeal to the United Nations in a secret video recording inside prison. Their appeal provided conclusive evidence that their "confessions", aired on Iran's English language satellite channel Press TV, were made following months of torture. Their mass grave is believed to have been recently located in the village of Ghale-tal near Baghmalik.

Wanted: Seyed Mohammad Bagher Moussavi

Seyed Mohammad Bagher Moussavi, a judge at Branch 2 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court, imposed death sentences on five Ahwazi Arabs - Mohammad Ali Amouri, Hashem Shabani, Hadi Rashedi, Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka - in March 2012 for "activities against national security" and "enmity against God". The sentences were upheld by Iran's Supreme Court on in January 2013. The five were arrested without charge for over a year, tortured and sentenced without due process.

Wanted: Press TV propagandists

Sanctions were also imposed on head of IRIB World Service and Press TV Muhammad Sarafraz and Press TV newsroom director Hamid Reza Emadi who were found responsible "for producing and broadcasting the forced confessions of detainees, including jour­nalists, political activists, persons belonging to Kurdish and Arab minorities and violating internationally recognised rights to a fair trial and due process."

Global condemnation

The EU sanctions come following global condemnation of the treatment of Ahwazi Arab political prisoners. This has culminated in a damning statement by UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed this week. In his presentation to the UN Human Rights Council, Shaheed said: "five Ahwazi Arab men were convicted of among other charges 'spreading propaganda against the system' and sentenced to death in connection with their founding of an Arab minority linguistic and cultural organization named 'Al-Hiwar.' Reports from multiple sources indicate that all five men were mistreated or tortured while in detention, and that they were not afforded fair trials. I urge the Iranian government to officially halt the execution of these cultural activists, two of whom are teachers, and to take every effort to investigate the aforementioned allegations."

Four other Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death in September and it is feared their death sentences have recently been approved:
  • 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

Iranian outburst against UN Special Rapporteur in human rights session

The Iranian delegate to the UN Human Rights Council was today condemned by the UNHRC President for disrespect after he accused UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed of colluding with "notorious terrorists" in producing his human rights report.

In his presentation, Shaheed drew attention to five Ahwazi Arab cultural activists currently facing execution, stating that they were tortured and were not given a fair trial. He also criticised Iran's treatment of human rights defenders, raising the issue of five Kurds who were arrested for contacting him on human rights abuse. Other issues addressed in his presentation were the harassment and arrest of independent journalists and defence lawyers, the widespread use of torture, the persecution of religious minorities and the treatment of members of the "Green Movement".

Iran: "Shaheed working with US-backed terrorists"

Larijani: condemned for disrespect
Without addressing any of the points in Shaheed's presentation, Iran hit back with an attack on the Special Rapporteur. Its delegate Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary-general of the Iranian high council for human rights, alleged "selectivity" and the "manipulation of human rights machinery" by the United States in order to achieve a result in line with US interests. The attack  in the UNHRC followed unfounded accusations by Larijani and other Iranian officials that Shaheed had been bribed by the US government.

Larijani also maintained that lesbian and gay rights were a "cultural invasion" and "an assault on Islam" that had no relevance to the work of the UN Human Rights Council.

Shaheed was accused of a "hypocritical approach to human rights" by the Iranian delegate who claimed he had "failed to meet minimum standards of impartiality, honesty and fairness" by colluding with a "notorious terrorist cult", an allusion to the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK). He ended his speech by claiming that the "US and European states train, arm and use terrorists against Iran and these terrorists were Shaheed's sole source of information.

Iran left isolated in the international community

After the delegate was reproached by the chair for "derogatory and disrespectful" remarks, delegates from European states lined up to condemn Iran's treatment of women, ethnic and religious minorities and human rights defenders. The main target of criticism was the scale of executions, the use of torture and the lack of fair trials, particularly ongoing executions of juveniles.

Iran did, however, receive support from North Korea and Venezuela as well as an equivocal response by Ecuador which accused the UNHRC of being manipulated by the "imperialist interests" of the United States, but nevertheless condemned Iran's use of the death penalty. North Korea and Venezuela offered no defence of Iran's human rights record, but criticised the country-specific mandates of UN Special Rapporteurs, which they claim unfairly target the developing world by powerful Western countries who seek imperial dominance by interfering in internal affairs.

The UNHRC's dialogue on Iran was suspended and is due to recommence on 12 March at 9.00am CET.

UN Human Rights Condemnation of Iran to be Aired Live Today!

Watch the presentation by Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran, on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran live on this page: UN Webcast

Times are: 14:30 Central European Time (17:00 Tehran, 13:30 London, 9:30 New York, 6:30 Los Angeles)

Twitter coverage will be provided by the Ahwaz News Agency - hashtag #unhrc

His presentation, which will include condemnation of Iran's treatment of non-Persian ethnic groups, will be followed by a dialogue between the Special Rapporteur, UN member states and the Iranian regime.

It promises to be a lively event. The Iranian regime has already accused Shaheed of being a paid American agent, relying on biased evidence. However, it has barred him and all other UN rapporteurs from visiting Iran since 2005; the last being Miloon Kothari, the then UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, who accused the regime of forcibly displacing Ahwazi Arabs. Iran has therefore failed to abide by its obligations under UN Special Procedures.

A live presentation in the Farsi language can be watched by clicking on this link:
به صورت زنده ببینید: سخنرانی دکتر شهید در بیست و دومین نشست شورای حقوق بشر

Iran claims "bribery" over human rights report

In an astonishing and unsubstantiated attack, the Iranian regime claimed that UN Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmad Shaheed was bribed into criticising its appalling human rights record.

The Chairman of the Iranian parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Alaeddin Boroujerdi said: "Since the very first day that Mr. Ahmad Shaheed was introduced as the United Nations rapporteur we guessed that he was an American agent, but his later reports assured us that he has been assigned to this mission by the US.

"Ahmed Shaheed contacts anti-revolution elements instead of Iranian authorities to receive information and to prepare his reports, and acts in harmony with the Americans when compiling reports."

Boroujerdi also claimed Shaheed was a former foreign minister of Myanmar, revealing the regime's depth of ignorance about the highly acclaimed and widely respected former politician from the Maldives.

The Iranian parliament's foreign policy chief also claimed that Shaheed had failed to visit Iranian prisons and therefore his report on treatment of prisoners lacked legality. Shaheed has been banned from visiting Iran to make an independent assessment of the human rights situation and is therefore relying on sources outside the country. This has prompted accusations that he is biased. Iran insists that he should instead only rely on official government sources for information on human rights.

Iran's response: "Ahwazi Arabs do not exist"

In his latest report on Iran, the UN Special Rapporteur wrote extensively on the situation facing Ahwazi Arabs following interviews with political refugees, pointing to "arrests, detentions, and prosecutions for protected activities that promote social, economic, cultural, linguistic and environmental rights." He claimed that Ahwazi political prisoners had been physically and psychologically tortured, "including by floggings, beatings, and being made to witness executions,  threats against family members, and the actual detention of family members for the purpose of implicating others, or to compel others to report to the authorities."

In its response, the regime displayed its characteristic chauvinistic attitude towards Ahwazi Arabs - a term used to describe Arabs from in and around Ahwaz City. It said: "Using the phrase 'Arab Ahvazis' is considered as being politically-motivated and therefore ... it is against the spirits of the Special Procedures. This phrase is in fact a faked expression. The Special Rapporteur is therefore reminded that he should not use such politically-motivated expressions and phrases which would create division."

It vehemently denied any allegations of human rights abuses against Ahwazi Arabs and instead claimed that "the Arab Nation grouplet" was involved in terrorist operations and had drafted "an organizational charter in order to fight with the Islamic Republic of Iran through military operations with the aim of separating the Khouzesan province."

Kothari: "Iran said I would be the last"

It is unlikely Tehran will ever allow UN human rights experts to conduct assessments in Iran. Speaking to Ahwazi activists in London last year Miloon Kothari, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, claimed that Iranian officials told him in 2005 he would be the last human rights official to visit the country. Ahmad Shaheed was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Iran in 2011.

Following his visit to Ahwaz during the last days of the Khatami administration, Kothari condemned land confiscations aimed at ethnic minority groups, including Ahwazi Arabs. Since then, no UN Special Rapporteurs have been permitted access to Iran, in direct violation of the country's obligations to the UN Human Rights Council. Any replacement of Shaheed is likely to result in more stalling.

Hundreds of Ahwazis demonstrate in Brussels against executions

Waving Ahwazi, revolutionary Syrian, Kurdish, Azerbaijani and EU flags, hundreds of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs and their supporters demonstrated outside the European Commission in protest at the Iranian regime's ongoing violent persecution in the Al-Ahwaz region.

Protesters voiced their support for the hunger strike by six Ahwazi prisoners of conscience, five of whom are facing the death penalty and one a 20 year sentence for their involvement in Arab cultural activities. Four others have also been sentenced to death for political crimes.

Speaking to the media, Masoumeh Kaabi told of her experience in prison. She said: "For three months I was kept in the detention of the Iranian intelligence where I suffered physical and psychological torture. Then they transferred me to Sepidar Prison in Ahwaz and I was sentenced to four-and-a-half years."

According to the Centre to Defend Families of Those Slain abd Detained in Iran, a further 11 Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death on 5 March for threatening national security. It is unclear whether this includes those already known to be facing execution.

Meanwhile, the notorious Karoun Prison in Ahwaz City saw violent clashes between prisoners and guards, leading to the detention in solitary confinement of 25 prisoners.

Iran regime is anti-women, anti-Arab

Generally speaking by looking at current facts about Ahwazi Arab women, you see that these women have a similar legal situation and conditions to other women in central areas of Iran. Nonetheless, Ahwazi women share same the same culture and social existence with women in neighbouring Arab countries.

However, Ahwazi women are left far behind the two mentioned populations in terms of their social, cultural, economical, political and educational position. What is the reason?

We can not blame only the discriminatory laws against women in Islamic republic regime the cause of this problem. These laws are applied to both Ahwazi Arab women and women in central areas of Iran, although non-Persian women are subjected to more political repression.

We can not blame the ethnic tribal customs and traditions of Ahwazi Arabs people either. Women with same culture and social beliefs in neighbouring countries, for instance in Bahrain, have become advocates and judges, therefore this reason is not valid.

So, what is the main and real reason of chaotic and miserable situation in which Ahwazi Arab women find themselves? The answer lies in the regime's policy of discrimination against other nationals within Iran's geographic territories. 

Non-Persian women suffer multiple discrimination in terms of laws and common laws and because they are less protected by law, therefore they are subjected to more social crimes and violence. We can point out the honour killing issue. These kind of crimes are perpetrated by men and the Islamic Republic regime laws facilitate the honour killing.

Legal violence

Men commit murder in the name of honour and dignity as they are aware that according to three articles of the Islamic Penal Code they are protected from punishment:
  • Article 630 of Islamic Penal Code - whenever a man finds his wife committing adultery, being aware of her willingness [towards the adulterer], he may kill both his wife and the adulterer at the scene. Should the woman be under duress, he may only kill the man [the adulterer].
  • Article 220 of Islamic Penal code- “a father or paternal grandfather who kills his children will be sentenced for maximum of 10 years imprisonment.”
  • If the relatives of the murder victim do not complain against the murderer, by the law the murderer will not be sentenced.

In these type of crimes, the murderer and victim are usually from the same family and honour killings are perpetrated by either husband, father, brother, or one of the close family such as the paternal uncle. Therefore, according to these three law articles mentioned, a court can issue its decision (just or unjust) without any hearing.

The existence of such laws proves the fact that all women in Iran are subjected to violence and discrimination, but these violations are worse in non-central areas as these types of crimes are more reported in these areas.

For instance, Khuzestan (Arabistan) is leading other provinces in anti-women crimes, especially amongst Arab tribes. So we should ask why this grim phenomenon is more frequent in places where non-Persian people are living such as Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, etc.

Of course part of this problem is the culture, customs and tribal systems of these regions. If laws were amended, there would be a huge decrease the number of these crimes in the central regions. But in peripheral regions, where non-Persian nationals live, the reduction would be small as people of these regions have tribal traditional views.

In order to eradicate this crime or reduce the number of killings in these areas what should be done? We need to build a culture similar to the Arab neighbouring countries. But how can we do this? What are the effective factors to build this culture?

Edward Taylor (1832-1917), defines culture as a complex collection of knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, attitudes, customs, and anything a man learns from his society. So, culture can be passed to next generation through education. Therefore education is the key fundamental fact of building a culture.

Education facilities and culture building

How education can be provided?

The main and effective way of public education about honour killing is through general media. The role of the media role is undeniable in terms of educating societies and advancing prosperity. Media plays a significant role in increasing public knowledge and raising economic, social, political and educational awareness and forming public opinion. But the fundamental role of media is “culture building.”

It is obvious that television is the most powerful and effective media platform in culture building in non-Persian populated areas especially in terms of problems surrounding women. However, state television is entirely controlled by the government and it is working for the interest of this regime. The central government wants to sustain the traditional tribal systems among non-Persian people. This government knows that keeping these communities within these kinds of systems is the main obstacle to cultural improvement. It is a deliberate attempt to prevent these communities from culture-building.

Because this problem is rare in central areas of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the government is not keen to amend the laws and the authorities are not keen to tackle this problem though education and cultural activities. The worst problem is that this government does not allow independent Arab women rights activists to be active and prevent any demonstration against honour killing among Ahwazi Arabs.

The regime encourages and persuades these communities to solve their problems by tribal and common laws and maintaining patriarchal control, even in women's issues. The regime’s policy is to lead these people away from civil laws and bind them to their tribal and ethnic roles so it can take advantage. By applying the tribal and traditional roles, people will be separated from the state in their daily political and economic affairs.

Non-native officials

The important and essential positions in Khuzestan (Arabistan), such as the representative for women's issues in the provincial Governor's office, have always been held by non-local, non-native and non-Arab officials both in the Islamic Republic and under the monarchist regimes. These women do not know the culture, customs and tradition of these people. They especially do not understand the problems facing Arab women in this area. Ahwazi Arab women are oppressed and suffer from illiteracy because they can not study in their language. How can they communicate with the Governor of the ethnic Persian chair of women affairs in the province?

According to the census, 70% of students have two languages. As half of these students are females, preventing study in the mother tongue and forcing them to study the official language has caused problems for their identity as well as education. This led to lack of confidence among women and the rate of women leaving school before graduation is high. In this case women are not capable to earn and make decisions, even in their own lives.

Ahwazi Arab women's problems and concerns are rooted in their community culture, customs and traditions and they are not going to be solved unless there are civil society organisations which originate in the heart of their culture. These civil organisations can play a major role in providing the best environment to work against discrimination against women.

For this purpose a number of Ahwazi Arab activists from the Ahwazi Arab community have tried to form a society in support of Ahwazi Arab women, the majority of whom cannot speak Farsi, to listen to their pain and concerns. However, their request was refused by local officials as well as officials from central government. Due to lack of modern networking like internet in these areas, physical presence is the only way of campaigning against this grim phenomenon. 

Ahwazi Arab women are capable of social activism, as seen in their participation in political activities during the short reformist reign of President Khatami which to some extent was politically tolerant. During this time, Ahwazi Arab women won three out of nine seats in the Arab-majority city of Showra. But in the current situation with the regime imposing discriminatory practices against ethnic nationals, women will be the most disadvantaged people. As such, it is no surprise that Ahwazi Arab women are absent from any social fields.

Ahwaz: confirmed the most polluted city on Earth

PM10 levels in the Arabian Gulf region
© Ahwaz News Agency

By Daniel Brett, Chairman of the British Ahwazi Friendship Society

The choking orange smog that routinely descends on Ahwaz City is familiar to its inhabitants whose quality of life and longevity are under attack from the noxious fumes of unbridled industrial development.

In terms of suffocating air pollution, Ahwaz outstrips Beijing and Delhi by a long stretch, according to the latest findings of the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Ahwaz City's measure of air-born particulate matter (PM10) is 372 ug/m3, which is a third more than the world's second-most polluted city, Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar and the only city in the world where average PM10 levels rise above 300 ug/m3.

The astonishing level of air pollution has taken its toll on the local population, which mostly belongs to the persecuted Ahwazi Arab ethnic group. Life expectancy is the lowest in Iran and residents suffer high levels of respiratory problems and cancer.

Ahwaz City's PM10 levels are the highest in the world
© Ahwaz News Agency

The Iranian government has sought to blame its arch-enemy the United States for the pollution, claiming that the toxic dust is the result of the use of depleted uranium bombs that were dropped during the Iraq War. However, nearby Kuwait City and Bushehr have PM10 levels far below Ahwaz City and none of the respiratory illnesses suffered by the inhabitants of the Al-Ahwaz region. Ahwaz City has by far the worst track-record in the Arabian Gulf.

Contributing factors include desertification caused by river diversion and the draining of the marshes and the oil, petrochemical, metals and sugar and paper processing plants in and around Ahwaz.

According to a recent report published by the Ahwazi Arab Solidarity Network (AASN), the region is undergoing irreversible ecological destruction. 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.

Like all problems in Iran, the solution is political. Without regime change that empowers the local population in how economic development progresses, the government will continue to plunder and rape Al-Ahwaz while the indigenous inhabitants, wildlife and natural beauty will pay the ultimate price. For the Ahwazi Arabs, environmentalism and self-determination go hand in hand.