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...

Water crisis in Al-Ahwaz

Ahwaz News Agency has published a documentary on the crisis in drinking water provision made by the official Khuzestan TV channel that was banned by Iranian censors.

The Al-Ahwaz region hosts 90 per cent of Iran's oil production and a third of its surface water, but the majority of its indigenous Ahwazi Arab inhabitants live in absolute poverty. Many struggle to get the basics, such as housing, drinking water, food, education in their native tongue and medicine.

The short documentary looks at the drinking water crisis in Dahimeh village in the Arab populated Shawoor area of Susa. Around half of the villages in the district are lacking access to clean water, leaving some 20,000 people at risk of serious illness.

Shawoor is just one of many Arab districts suffering poor water quality. In the past, Ahwaz News Agency has reported on Ahwazi Arabs dying of thirst. Over four years ago on a visit to the region, the Minister of Health refused to drink local tap water and admitted "We accept that the water in Khuzestan is very dirty and impure and we have reported the issue to the Ministry of Energy." However, little has been done and drinking water projects have been abandoned.

The Karoon River runs through the predominantly Arab city of Ahwaz City, providing an important source of irrigation and drinking water. However, the failure to treat raw industrial and human waste being pumped into the river along with the government's refusal to invest in de-siltation has created a hazardous environment. Disruptions to water supplies force many Ahwazis to rely on contaminated water from the Karoon, which contains high levels of human sewage and industrial pollutants. Local Majlis members have been warning for years of a mounting drinking water crisis as a result of the government's mismanagement of the region's water resources.

Arab unrest if Rouhani fails to meet high expectations

Rouhani met with Arab sheikhs in Tehran
President-elect Hassan Rouhani created high expectations among Ahwazi Arabs and other ethnic groups after he promised to end discrimination and enforce linguistic rights during his election campaign.

Official results show that Rouhani came second in the Ahwaz region with 34% of the vote, compared to Mohsen Rezaee on 46%, although these results are now in doubt due to evidence of electoral fraud by the regime.

The election contest offered the clearest sign yet that the Iranian regime is aware of Ahwazi Arab grievances. Presidential candidates spoke on issues that the Ahwazi movement has been raising for over a decade, but has faced persecution and accusations of separatism and foreign-inspired terrorism. Linguistic rights, poverty, discrimination in the workplace and environmental destruction were the top themes of the election debate in Arab districts as candidates tried to woo local support.

Raising hopes among some Ahwazis not already disillusioned with the political system could foment conditions for unrest in the future. The failure of the "reformist" administration of President Khatami to address grievances and instead sustain a programme of ethnic cleansing against Ahwazi Arabs led to civil unrest in April 2005, a period known as the Ahwazi intifada. Many Ahwazis who had supported Khatami's administration and formed cultural associations seeking to boost Arab rights became disillusioned and were subsequently imprisoned with some sentenced to death.

Rouhani's 10-point plan for non-Persian ethnic groups

Rouhani's 10-point plan for non-Persian ethnic groups
Rouhani attempted to win over several Arab sheikhs who were invited to meet him in Tehran and voice their concerns. At the meeting, he appeared to accede to their demands for a 10 per cent share of cabinet seats for members of the Arab minority. Already, his cabinet appointments appear to have fallen well short of this target.

Hailing from the north of Iran, the 'pragmatic conservative' sought to attract non-Persian vote with a list of 10 pledges to address ethnic discrimination, in accordance with neglected constitutional provisions. These included the right to learn in the native tongue, as stated in Article 15, and promoting a meritocratic economy based not on ethnicity or religion but personal strengths in order to leverage the best local human resources. Rouhani has also promised to promote local people into managerial positions.

The president-elect has failed to address some of the more urgent development issues that concern ordinary Ahwazi Arabs who feel increasingly estranged from their co-opted tribal leaders, namely the region's man-made environmental crisis and political issues. Rouhani's failure to engage with ordinary Arab workers and farmers indicates that his administration will continue to seek to use political and financial patronage to win the allegiance of tribal elites with little attempt to engage with the masses.

Candidates note problems, offer no solutions

Other presidential candidates appeared to have a greater understanding of the problems facing Ahwazi Arabs, although provided few policy solutions. In his rhetoric, Rezaee had made a notable ideological transition from a hardline principalist stance to a platform that stressed the economic and social marginalisation of non-Persian ethnic groups. He also attacked those who referred to the indigenous population as "Arab-speakers", a term regarded as offensive by Arabs for playing down their ethnic identity. Chief among his vocal concerns was the destruction of the local ecology, particularly the province's controversial dam and river diversion programme that has caused hardship and displacement for hundreds of thousands of local Arabs.

On a visit to Mohammareh/Khorramshahr, Mohammad Ghalibaf said that "Years after freeing the city, I feel ashamed of the failure... Khuzestan suffers from basic problems relation to water, the environment, employment and industry."

In a side-swipe against institutional racism, he said "considering ethnic groups as a threat is an unforgivable sin... When management and decision-making is centralised, there is a lack of appreciation of local capacities" and as a result it is a threat to national prosperity and security. However, Ghalibaf was short on answers.

Regime's vote fraud in Ahwaz municipality denies Arabs seats

Electoral fraud has denied Arab candidates a majority on the Ahwaz municipal council, Ahwaz News Agency can reveal in an exclusive report.

With most of the vote counted on Sunday morning, 17 Arab candidates - 12 of which belong to the "Al-Mowahada" list - were clear winners of the 21 seats up for election. In a highly unusual move and without explanation, the electoral authorities decided to postpone announcing the result until Monday. The mayor and provincial governor are alleged to have intervened to manipulate the results. The outcome is that just five Arabs have been elected in a clear attempt to politically marginalise the indigenous ethnic Arab population, which represents a majority in the provincial capital.

The following Arab candidates were declared winners of the Ahwaz poll: Sayed Mahdi Alboshokeh (20,550 votes), Kazem Sawari (19,452), Ashour Sawari Pour (16,731), Ebtesam Albaji (15,461) and Naji Sawari (14,627). Although they were clearly ahead in the results on Sunday, the following Arab candidates from the Al-Mowahada list were denied seats in the Ahwaz city council: Rahim Kaab Omayer, Ali Naseri, Saham Saki, Khaled Lowaimi, Abdullah Abiyawi, Sayed Karim Saeed, Touran Hamid and Mousrafa Ramazan Ahmadi.

Intelligence services harass popular female Arab candidate

Sana Salami's campaign poster
Arab candidates were also subject to harassment. Sana Salemi, who stood for election to the Fallahiyeh (Shadegan) municipal council, was arrested and detained for hours by the Iranian intelligence services on 8 June for speeches she gave in Arabic.

She had participated in an Arabic poetry and cultural event in the town, which was attended by leading Arab poets and intellectuals. She was released following the intervention of respected figures from the community and after she had signed a declaration that she would desist from giving speeches in Arabic. She won a seat with the second highest number of votes in the election.

Mrs Salami was among a relatively large number of Arab women standing for election at a municipal level. Seventeen Arab women were elected to local councils in Arab-majority towns and cities in the region.

Conspiracy of electoral fraud

Regime supporters had openly voiced concern over the potential success of Arab candidates in the run up to the elections. Ahead of the election, Eng. Falsafi, the secretary of Khuzestan committee of the conservative Islamic Society of Engineers, published an article on the Shooshan news agency website stating that it was unacceptable for elections to promote ethnic identity, which indicated his objection to Arab candidates campaigning on an anti-discrimination platform. He said that one particular race must not dominate municipal authorities, although Arabs remain a majority in many towns in the province, and called for lists comprised of one ethnicity to be examined carefully.

Ahwazi activist Abu Mousa told ANA: "Falsafi's demand as well as his suggestion that non-Persian ethnic lists are the result of potentially subversive activity contrasts with pledges by some presidential candidates, including president-elect Hassan Rouhani, that non-Persians should be appointed to managerial positions in non-Persian areas and that seats in cabinet should be reserved for members of non-Persian ethnic groups.

"The demands Falsafi made of Arab candidates are not made of ethnic Persian lists in areas where Persians are a majority. He questions the loyalty of Arab candidates, yet like all candidates they are subjected a vetting procedure to judge their loyalty to the regime before they are allowed to stand for election.

"The regime is confused. It knows the rising strength of the non-Persian ethnic movements inside and outside Iran and is adopting their political language, but at the same time wants to repress non-Persian voices, particularly Ahwazi Arabs, because it does not trust their loyalties."

Doubts over Rezaee's success

The results cast doubt on the authenticity of the presidential election vote in the province, which gave Mohsen Rezaee 46% of the vote, up from just 7% in the election four years ago, and put him ahead of Hassan Rouhani who won the poll nationally. Although the hardline "principalist" touched on issues such as ethnic discrimination, poverty and environmental destruction in his campaign, Rezaee is largely unpopular among ethnic Arabs.

Aside from electoral fraud, Rezaee's high proportion of the vote could also be explained by an Arab boycott of the presidential election and the number of polling stations in Arab districts was halved, ensuring a lower turn-out for Arabs as well as long queues for the press cameras. Official figures suggest that the turn-out was higher for the municipal elections (over 80%) than the presidential election (officially 74%) as Arabs rallied in support of Arab candidates standing in local authorities.

Rezaee is an ethnic Lor from Masjed Soleiman and has been accused by Arabs of enabling Lors from outside the province to settle on land confiscated from indigenous Arabs. He was also involved in the Black Wednesday massacre during the 1979 Arab uprising in Mohammerah (Khorramshahr).

Regime hackvitists bring down Ahwazi websites

Ahwazi Arab websites and blogs were hacked and brought down by Iran's cyber army during election day. In the run-up to the election, the websites of the Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz and the National Resistance of Al-Ahwaz were disabled by cyber attacks. On election day, the DSPA's website was brought down once again along with the Ahwazi Arab People's Democratic Popular Front by a group called the "Iran Cyber Army". The attacks were not confined to the Ahwazi movement, but also struck sites belonging to the Green Movement.

Although such attacks are illegal, the Iranian government has openly declared them to be part of its 'soft war' strategy. Deputy of the Supreme Leader's representative at the IRGC Brigadier General Mohammad Hossein Sepehr boasted earlier this year that Iran had the world's "fourth largest cyber army" whose remit includes "stop and foil cyberspace activity by opposition elements and opponents of Iran, for whom cyberspace is a key platform for communicating, distributing information, and organizing anti-Iran activities."

Opposition websites were offline for only a few hours, indicating that while the attacks were well-coordinated they were merely disruptive rather than fatal to website operations.

UNHRC Side Event Sheds Light on the Plight of Iranian Minorities

AHRO Director Dr Karim Abdian
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) and the Nonviolent Radical Party held a Side Event on Tuesday, June 11th, in the Palais des Nations in Geneva entitled ''Iranian minorities: what future after Ahmadinejad?''. The Side Event focused on the human rights situation of Iranian minorities and provided a platform for discussion with regard to the upcoming government change in the country.

The event, moderated by Mr. Antonio Stango from the Nonviolent Radical Party, began with an opening speech by Mr. Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch. Dr. Karim Abdian, the executive director of the Ahwazi Human Rights Organization (AHRO), inaugurated the panel discussion debating the upcoming elections and the regionalization of the Syrian conflict and the influence it exercises on Iran. Mr. Abdollah Hejab, the Kurdish representative of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and UNPO presidency Member, followed with a speech on the difficulties facing minorities in Iran.

Mr. Baban Eliassi then took the floor and discussed the electoral process in Iran and its effect on Kurds, Balochs, Turkmen and Ahwazi people. His speech was followed by Mr. Taimoor Aliassi, the UN representative of the KMMK-G, who discussed the role of drug-related offenses as a tool of repression against ethnic nationalities in the country.

The event was concluded by a presentation from Ms. Marina Nemat. The international best-selling author gave a moving account of her experiences in Iran and her imprisonment in Evin, a political prison in Tehran. During the question and answers, Dr. Hajimuhammet Kor, a member of the Iranian Turkmenistan Human Rights Defense Organization gave an interesting insight on the situation of Turks who also undergo discriminatory practices in Iran.

Source: Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation

Pahlavi's bid as "unity" figure fails amid Ahwazi criticism

Pahlavi struggled to answer simple questions
Reza Pahlavi was humiliated yesterday as he came under fire from ethnic Ahwazi Arab opposition activists who are critical of his family's violent legacy of ethnic cleansing.

The monarchist leader's bid to portray himself as the "unity" figure of opposition in Iran in an event at the British parliament was dealt a severe public blow as Ahwazis put his political platform under intense and sustained questioning.

Mr Pahlavi, who has adopted the title "crown prince" since his father was overthrown, launched his campaign for democracy at a meeting of the Henry Jackson Society, but failed to address the issues affecting the country's persecuted non-Persian ethnic groups.

The question and answer session was dominated by Ahwazi and Balochi activists who, one after the other, asked Mr Pahlavi to acknowledge the persecution of ethnic groups, embrace the right to ethnic self-determination and free speech and denounce state terrorism against non-Persians under both the Pahlavi dynasty and the Islamic Republic.

Amid heckling and booing by monarchists in the audience who were determined to silence the non-Persian ethnic voice, Ahwazi activist Issa Yassein said: "I am proud of my family's defiance against the brutality and barbarism of the Pahlavi regime and the Islamic Republic. Your father's SAVAK tortured and killed my uncle. Are you ashamed of your father's treatment of Ahwazi Arabs? Would you say sorry to them?"

Kazem Wali tackles Reza Pahlavi on ethnic rights
Ahwazi activist Kazem Wali said: "I am from Arabistan, now called 'Khuzestan'. Your grandfather changed the name in 1936 from Arabistan to Khuzestan and that was followed by changing the name of every single town and village and systematic ethnic cleansing against the non-Persian ethnic minorities. You talk about free elections and democracy, but you didn't specific your definition of democracy. Democracy means the right to self-determination for ethnic groups, it means allowing people to choose their future. Will you please accept the self-determination of non-Persian ethnic groups, especially Arabs, Kurds, Baloch, Azeris and so on?"

Ibrahim al-Arabi, chairman of the European Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation, said: "I thank the Henry Jackson Society for the opportunity for bringing the third generation of oppressed and oppressors face to face. You grandfather oppressed my father, your father did the same and Khamenei is finishing the job. Do you believe in the right to self-determiation for Arabs, Kurds, Baloch, Azeris and others? If not, why should I believe you? On your website, you said there would be a dark future if we talk about self-determination. You talk about killing. Why should I believe you?"

Ibrahim al-Arabi, chairman of the
European Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation
Former Ahwazi political prisoner Jamal Obeidi asked Mr Pahlavi: "Do you accept that non-Persian communities have their own history, culture and other features? Do you accept us as a nation? Tell us what rights you would like to grant non-Persian nations in the future." 

Mr Pahlavi refused to answer or acknowledge the suffering of Ahwazis under the Pahlavi regime and did not address the principle of self-determination. Ignoring the questions and points raised, he simply referred to Chapter 11 of his "National Council for Iran" which promises decentralised decision-making, but makes no mention of ethnic groups. The NCI has no non-Persian member groups. 

On the question of ethnic rights, the NCI's charter is little different from the Islamic Republic's constitution, but omits Article 15 of the current constitution which nominally recognises non-Persian linguistic rights, although these are not put into practice. Meanwhile, Article 2 of the NCI's charter is similar to Article 26 of the IRI constitution, which places emphasis on "territorial integrity and national unity". These concepts are commonly used to violently persecute any ethnic group from peacefully demanding their rights under the UN Charter.

London-based Ahwazi activist Abu Mousa said: "Mr Pahlavi has failed to show any genuine leadership and cannot claim to be a figure of national unity. Many monarchists have supported the arrest, imprisonment and execution of Ahwazi Arab activists for upholding their rights, even when they have not wielded a weapon or caused any loss of life.

"Monarchists loyal to Mr Pahlavi have also launched a criminal campaign of intimidation, hate and threats of violence against individual Ahwazi activists in Europe, accusing them of being terrorists, Ba'athists, Salafis, British agents and working for an international Jewish conspiracy. Their language and actions are no different from the Islamic regime's Revolutionary Guards that terrorise Ahwazis in Iran.

"Mr Pahlavi has consistently refused to denounce the actions of those loyal to him and will not criticise ethnic persecution by the Islamic Republic. This shows he is little more than another tyrant in waiting who would, like his father and grandfather, unleash genocidal violence against ethnic groups."

An Ahwazi political prisoner writes from death row

The following letter was written by Ahwazi Arab death row prisoner Hashem Shabani, who is facing imminent execution for "enmity with God" along with four other friends and colleagues. His conviction followed a Revolutionary Court trial that has been condemned by the international community, including UN experts and human rights NGOs, as falling well short of all standards of justice. Shabani was tortured into making a confession, which was broadcast on Iran's English-language Press TV channel in December 2011. He was forced to confess to receiving assistance from Hosni Mubarak and Muammer al-Qadafi, the former rulers of Egypt and Libya respectively. Aged 32, he is married with one child and took care of his elderly parents, including his father Khalaf Shaabani who was disabled while fighting Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq War. He has written poetry in Arabic and Farsi and taught Arabic language in high schools. Before his incarceration, he was a cultural, civil and student activist and also a blogger. Those who know him state that he has never supported armed insurgency against the Iranian state, let alone had contact with foreign governments.

To Whoever is Concerned About Humanity,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I started my journey wielding my pen against the tyranny that is trying to enslave and imprison minds and thoughts; colonising people's minds before colonising their lands and destroying people's thoughts before destroying their region.

I was mainly driven to raising awareness of tragedies and hardships of Iran's nations, particularly the Ahwazi Arabs. During the time [reformist government] which enabled the [non-Persian] nations to express their views via the newspapers and institutions, a number of my friends established an NGO called "Al-Hiwar". We managed to organise events, but the authorities blocked our peaceful activities. We hoped that the Iranian government had opened the way to enable us to achieve some of these nations' legitimate demands, especially the right to study in the mother tongue and civil rights. However, there was never any hope, it was only an illusion and it became clear that the aim [giving opportunities to non-Persian people to be active in the reform movement] was to identify anyone who has these kinds of demands.

The first page of Shabani's appeal
After 2005, I realised that the avenues for expression via the official and local media were blocked. Consequently, I continued my activities via internet by publishing my essays and poems which reflected the suffering of Ahwazi people through websites using my nickname "Abo Ala Al-Ofoghi". I have published two poems named "Al-eteraf be-alofoghiyeh" [Horizontal confession] and “Eghaa Mazarib Al-dam” [the rhythm of the blood gutters]. I produced a study on the Black Wednesday massacre, which the regime perpetrated in May 1979, although I did not have time to publish it. Also, I had started a linguistic-intellectual study about Ahwazi Arab society named “Thawrat al-mofradat al-shatheh” [Irregular Vocabularies Revolution] which remains incomplete due to my arrest. I highlighted the Iranian authorities' policies to bombard the thought and mind of Ahwazi Arab society through planting three ways of suffering:
1. Using irregular vocabularies
2. Bilingual
3. Ambivalent language.

This is done to stop freeing the society's thought through several mechanisms and dirty methods, such as:
1. Framing thoughts
2. Maintaining thoughts
3. Misleading thoughts
4. Limiting thoughts

While I was studying a Masters degree in Political Science (Science and Research), I met a few Ahwazi activists through the internet and contacted with them using different names but mainly “Abo Ala Al-Ofoghi”. I published my essays using the name “Al-Moghawema Al-Shabiya Le-tahrir Al-Ahwaz” [Popular Resistance for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz] and named myself as Abo Walid Al-Ahwazi, the spokesperson of this movement. These contacts were personal and without anyone else's involvement and were used to raise awareness of the hideous crimes against Ahwazis perpetrated by the Iranian authorities, particularly “arbitrary and unjust executions”. Through this reporting, I was defending the legitimate right that every nation in this world should have which is the right to live freely with full civil rights.

With all these miseries and tragedies, I have never used a weapon to fight these atrocious crimes except the pen.

On 11 February 2011, after I had come home from work at Shaihk Ansari High school (I used to teach at Khalafyeh secondary and high schools), I was arrested by the Iranian intelligence service and the first accusation put against me was forming the "Al-Moghawema Al-Shabiya". As I mentioned above, I told the Iranian security service that this name is only a nickname which I used to try explain my feeling about the tragedies that my people suffer, but they were not convinced. After being put under various forms of physical and psychological torture, I was forced to take their orders and confessed to stating that are member of this (fake) movement. I accepted these allegations and said anything they liked. After spending five months in detention by the secret intelligence service - plus two further months - I was transferred to Karoun prison.

I first appeared in court on 21 May 2012 where I told the truth before the judge and denied the allegations made by the Iranian intelligence, stating that there was no movement, and it was only me "Hashem Shabani" and I was forced under physical and mental torture by the intelligence service to accuse other people according to their dictations.

After explaining the situation in full detail in three hearings in which I gave my testimony and stated the truth, I was surprised and became angry when I and four of my friends were sentenced to unfair and arbitrary death sentences and another friend, Rahman Asakereh, was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in exile.

I would like to confirm that I have never participated in any armed activity whatever the motives. I disagree with armed activities if there are other peaceful channels to make demands and express our wishes and aspirations.

This is an urgent appeal to all relevant human rights organisations to act. We demand a retrial before a neutral, just, non-biased and public court. I plead with you to do your very best to achieve that.

Best regards,

Your friend, Hashem Shabani, Abo Ala Al-Ofoghi.

Karim Abdian leads the Ahwazi voice at the United Nations

General Secretary of AHRO, Dr Karim Abdian, attended the twelfth session of "The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII)" in New York City in May. Dr Abdian addressed issues such as the persecution and ethnic cleansing of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in their home land by the Iranian regime.  
The Forum allows all participating NGOs, the World Bank and civil organisations cooperation and support in order to establish a supportive network for Indigenous Peoples. It aims to help them provide their nations and their NGOs with the essential means to further human development and fight poverty and racial discrimination.  
During the first week of the event by the Forum, international experts examined their reports on indigenous youth such as identity, challenges and hope (Articles 14 and 25 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (E/C.19/2013/3)). The Forum also discussed and analysed other issues such as health, education, culture, human rights and violence against of indigenous women and girls (Article 22(2)). 
Dr Abdian gave an extensive and detailed report highlighting issues such as health, low levels of human development among indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, environmental crises, violence against women and girls and human rights violations by the Iranian regime. Abdian also drew attention to educational problems among indigenous Ahwazi Arab youth due to a lack of schooling in their mother tongue since they are forced by the Iranian regime to study with Persian language.
During the event Dr Abdian managed to register AHRO with the newly established Forum of the Indigenous Peoples, an historical achievement for the Ahwazi NGO that will bolster the support network with the Forum and other NGOs in order to raise the awareness on Ahwazi cause.
Dr Abdian had the opportunity to meet with many representatives and ambassadors of Western and Arab countries at the event and provided them with the most up-to-date news and human rights violations against indigenous Ahwazi Arabs. He had supplementary meetings with Egyptian, Iraqi and Palestinian ambassadors in which he called for political and media support for the Ahwazi cause.    
Dr Abdian also met with Mr Jeffrey Trimble, the Deputy Director of the International Broadcasting Bureau which runs Voice of America, and Mrs Lynne Weil, Director of Communications and External Affairs at the Broadcasting Board of Governors.
Concerns were raised about the power of the Persian lobby, namely the NIAC, National Iranian American Council which supports the Islamic Republic under the ruse of campaigning against the war on Iran. The Persian lobby attempted to underestimate and deny persecution and racism suffered by non-Persian nations.  The lobby has also extensively working to prevent and close down the media coverage of the Free Iraqi Channel since the channel tried to present and show the truth on the news on human rights violations against non-Persian nations generally and indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in particular.  

From AHRO newsletter, June 2013