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Ahwaz clamp-down a prelude to state terror during elections

Ahwazi Arab activists are warning that the pre-emptive arrests of hundreds of Arabs ahead of the anniversary of the April 2005 Ahwaz intifada will be repeated on a national scale ahead of the presidential elections.

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation has named over 250 Ahwazi Arabs have been rounded up and held without charge in an effort to intimidate and silence protests. The actual number is likely to be far higher.

Small sporadic and peaceful protests have occurred in Arab neighbourhoods in Ahwaz, including the use of motorbikes to disrupt highways and calls of "Allahu Akbar" from rooftops at night. However, the level of state terror under effective martial law has deterred many from taking action that could lead to confrontation with the security forces.

The state's ability to prevent unrest with mass arrests of Arabs signals that the regime may take wider action across Iran to intimidate any form of dissent from the hard-line stance of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Spokesman for the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) Nasser Bani Assad said: "Political activists elsewhere in Iran have taken a blind eye to the recent events in Ahwaz, but the tactics used against Ahwazi Arabs will be used to prevent any criticism of the regime and the conduct of the election. We believe that if hundreds are arrested in Al-Ahwaz, hundreds more will be arrested in other centres before political activists even get the chance to debate, question and complain. This year is likely to see an unprecedented level of state terrorism to prevent the civil unrest that followed the 2009 presidential election."