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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."