European Ahwazi Human Rights Organisation, at the Ahwaz human rights meeting in the UK's Houses of Parliament, 15 May 2013
The violent campaign of persecution by the Iranian regime is now widely recognised. The non-Persian ethnic communities are regularly targeted for demanding their rights. Occasionally members of these communities and their family members fall victim to the vengeance of authorities.
Executions of arrested Arab protesters and cultural activists are routinely carried out. Ahwazi Arab political prisoners are highly vulnerable to torture and rape by interrogators and extra-judicial killings. Ahwaz City hosts some of the most notorious prisons in Iran, a country renowned for torture and extra-judicial killings. Secret security centres are used to extract false confessions. Most ethnic Arab political prisoners are imprisoned for demanding their cultural, linguistic, civil and human rights. They are tried in secret revolutionary courts without access to defence lawyers. Often they are sentenced to death by hanging.
Many political prisoners are forced to give televised confessions following months of torture inside the Ahwaz secret detention facility run by the Ministry of Intelligence. Some of these confessions have been broadcast on Press TV, a subsidiary of state-owned broadcaster IRIB that has now been taken off-fair in the UK by British regulatory authorities. The confessions included alleged “mind termination” techniques used by Western powers, Israel and Ahwazi opposition groups to turn people into unthinking killers. They have also confessed to receiving assistance from Hosni Mubarak and Muammer al-Qadafi, claims that are unproven, unfounded and far-fetched. Ahwazi political prisoners are sentenced to death following convictions for “enmity with god” and “sowing corruption on the earth”, which are common charges against those who oppose the Iranian regime.
In June last year, four Ahwazi Arab men from Ahwaz City’s Malashieh neighbourhood - Taha Heidarian, Abbas Heidarian and Abdul-Rahman Heidarian and Ali Naami Sharifi - were executed at Karoon Prison in Ahwaz. They were all arrested in April 2011 following anti-government protests by Arabs.
Nine Ahwazi Arab political prisoners are currently on death row. Five have had their death sentences upheld by the Supreme Court, which means they could be executed at any moment. Three of these are high school teachers. They are all members of the cultural group Al-Hewar, which sought to teach Arab youths Arabic language and culture. The Ministry of the Interior refused permission for the organisation and instead persecuted its members. Leading member Mohammad Ali Amoori fled to Iraq in 2007 where he was imprisoned for five years for illegal entry. In spite of winning UNHCR refugee status, he was illegally repatriated to Iran in early 2011, arrested and now faces execution. All five have faced extreme torture, including broken bones, and some are suffering mental health problems as a result. Four more Ahwazi Arab political prisoners are facing execution following verdicts handed down by secretive revolutionary courts in September 2012 with three more given prison sentences.
Extrajudicial killings of Ahwazi Arabs are at least as frequent as official executions of political prisoners. The bodies of many Ahwazi activists who have "disappeared" have been washed up in the Karoon. Last July, a 12 year old girl called Lilla Ghasan Hamid Obaidawi was killed and four members of her family were injured after security forces opened fire with live ammunition during raids on their village. A 15-year-old Ahwazi Arab boy, Morteza Al-Soweidi, was shot down during a demonstration against the actions of security services in April. Al-Soweidi was killed by Colonel Chabok Sawar as he joined local people in protesting against the destruction of Arab houses in the area where he lived with his family. In April 2013, political activist Sayed Lafteh Mosavi was killed under torture while detained by the intelligence services. He had been arrested some months before and held without charge.
Eight others were killed while in detention in 2012, including:
- 47 year old Jamil Sowaidi who was killed under interrogation in November while detained without charge;
- Abbas Sawari who was arrested from his home in April and found dead in the Karoon river in September;
- 37 year old Alireza Ghobaishawi who was killed in detention in August
- 19 year old Nasser Alboshokeh, who was arrested in January 2012 and died days later following extensive torture
- 21 year old Mohammad Kaabi, arrested in late January 2012 and died under torture two weeks later
- Ghaiban Obaidawi from Hamidiyah
- Mohammad Cheldawi from Ahwaz
- Reza Maghamesi from Dezful.
It is clear that the slaughter of Ahwazis is linked to their cultural persecution. We believe this state terrorism should be highlighted and condemned as crimes against humanity. We support the use of sanctions against all judges, security personnel, state-employed journalists and politicians who collude in this ethnic oppression.