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Arrest of 244 Ahwazi Arabs in recent weeks, says NGO

At least 244 alleged Ahwazi Arab political activists have been incarcerated by the Iranian authorities in recent weeks in a mass clamp-down intended to prevent protests in April.

In its latest quarterly report, the Al-Ahwazi Human Rights Organization reports that "the majority of the arrests include cultural, political and religious activists whom are currently being held at the private cells or general prisons. The detainees have never received any official subpoena or warrant prior to the arrest and the reasons of their arrests remain unknown to the detainees and their families."

April will mark the 88th year since Reza Pahlavi ended autonomous Arab rule in the region by deposing Sheikh Khazaal, the Sheikh of Mohammareh and leader of the powerful Bani Kaab tribe. In 2005, the 80th anniversary saw massive unrest among Ahwazi Arabs with the Iranian regime temporarily losing control over parts of the oil-rich region. Over 130 Arabs were killed in the violent repression of the protests and many more were imprisoned. Since then the Iranian government has put Arab neighbourhoods under martial law, although protests are frequent.