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...

Retired Arab teacher humiliates Iranian President

President Hassan Rouhani was left humiliated and embarrassed after an elderly Ahwazi Arab publicly castigated the Iranian government for systemically ignoring his community's long-standing appeals for jobs, education, clean water and human rights.

In a daring display of defiance in front of television cameras and a public audience, retired teacher Haj Ghasem Hamadi of Khafajyeh [correction: in the previous version of this report, the man was wrongly identified as a religious sheikh] lambasted the Iranian regime's indifference to the plight of Ahwazi Arabs during a presidential visit to a local mosque. Rouhani was left speechless and the man was interrupted by a presidential aide.

Hamadi said: "In terms of agriculture, there is no water only salty water, no irrigation, no fertilizers and no seeds. They provide 20 bags of compost per hectares for Dezful, but we are given one per hectare. In terms of agriculture everything is below par. In terms of facilities in the area also is below par.

"We have got problems in education. Our situation is bad. No one asks about our hardship. Everyone who comes from there [from Tehran] says hello and goodbye. That is all."

Rouhani asked: “You mean there is nothing?”

The man answered: “There is not anything. You are in Tehran, you don’t know this region is deprived. There is no farming, no reconstruction, no water, no prosperity, no one asks about us, you are in Tehran, shouldn’t you ask about the deprived regions? We have the oil, the water, the land but we are dying from hunger!"

President 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.

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. However, he has failed to appoint any Arabs to ministerial positions.

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 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.

Ahwaz is thirsty!

Water shortages and high levels of water salinity continue to plague the Ahwazi Arab region, according to the latest Iranian media reports.

The Al-Ghadir water pipeline, which was supposed to bring fresh water to the mostly Arab population in the region, has yet to be completed years after it was started. The Al-Ghadir water pipeline project is said to be unfinished due to a lack of funding, although the region produces more oil than Kuwait and the UAE combined. The head of the project Abdulsamad Raeeisi told ISNA that in Phase 2 the pipeline is supposed to extend to Ahwaz Sity, Susangerd (Khafajyeh) and Shadegan (Falahyeh), with Phase 3 consisting of an underground pipeline to take water from the Dez river.

Shawoor, an area with more than 65,000 people, is one of the most disadvantaged. Villages such as Migren 1, 2 and 3, Shamkhi, and Shnain Hussein do not have access to clean water, despite being located only a few hundreds meters from the heavily polluted Karkheh river. Some complain they have not had access to potable water for over 30 years, while many villages have only two hours access to mains water every day.

The villages of Shoush (Susa) district are also suffering from the lack of clean water, in spite of being surrounded by the Shawoor, Dez and Karkeh rivers. Shoush has 219 villages of which 64 have no drinking water. Over the whole province, 1,118 of a total of 4,015 villages have no access to clean water and a further 302 rely on water storage tanks. However, the Iranian authorities have refused to act to help these Arab-populated areas. Residents blame the Karkeh dam for the dramatic decrease in the water level in the rivers, which has come alongside a deterioration in water quality.

Member of parliament for Andimeshk (Salhiyeh) city, Saeed Ali Daraiee, said that many villages do not have electricity, roads or access to clean water. He claimed that the situation was bad even during times of strong government finances, but the economic crisis has made matters worse with no hope of developing basic public services.

Member of parliament for Abadan, Mohammad Saeed Ansari, said : "While the city is surrounded by water, local residents have no access to clean water. It has been more than 10 months since the mains water pipeline broke but there has been no serious remedy. And during summer people have to survive without water in temperatures of 60C."

A newly elected member of Ahwaz City municipal council, Ghoulam Reza Sabz Ali, claimed the city's development is retarded with a lack of basic infrastructureMeanwhile, the head of the farming authority in Hendijan, Kambiz Mohseny, has warned that the high level of water salinity in the Zohreh river is endangering farming. Poor water quality was also recently raised as a concern by the Committee of Monitoring Transmitted Diseases at the Ahwaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences. Scientist Dr Bakhtiari Nia remarked that water- and food-born diseases are getting worse as a result of poor water quality and a lack of access to clean water and a healthy diet.

Iran: Ex-Defence Minister attacks regime's record in Al-Ahwaz

Former Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani, an ethnic Arab who rose to the top of the Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq War, this week made unprecedented criticism on the Iranian regime's treatment of Ahwazi Arabs while visiting a mosque in Ahwaz City during Eid celebrations.

Regarded as a regime loyalist and the only Arab to have held a cabinet position in the Islamic Republic, Shamkhani accused the regime of "sectarianism" for launching a new television channel, Ahwaz TV, which is intended to counter Ahwazi Arab opposition.

Often praised for his role in the fight against Iraqi forces, Shamkhani accused the government of failing to reconstruct and develop the Ahwazi Arab region for the benefit of the people following the end of the 1980-88 war, which saw many towns devastated and still has a legacy of one of the world's worst landmine problems. He highlighted various challenges facing the region in relation to good resource management and human development, but although government officials have often acknowledged the problems they have failed to act.

In a side-swipe at the ruling theocracy, Shamkhani claimed that native people had felt marginalised by the government's decision to import extreme Shia fundamentalists from Arab countries, such as Tunisian theologian Muhammad Al-Tijani, to confront Sunnis. He claimed these theologians had little understanding of local Arab society and had proven to be counter-productive, fuelling conversion from Shi'ism to other faiths.

Instead of progandising with religion and television channels, Shamkhani called on the government to deal with discrimination and resolve problems of poverty, which motivate disloyalty among Ahwazi Arabs. He claimed that in spite of frequent changes of administration and 15 different provincial governors, the policies in the region have not changed.

Fears of execution as Hadi Rashedi is moved

Hadi Rashedi before his arrest
Hadi Rashedi "confessing" on Press TV

Ahwazi political prisoner Hadi Rashedi has been moved from Karoon Prison to an undisclosed location, prompting fears that he is in danger of imminent execution. According to informed sources, he had pledged to begin a hunger strike if he was taken from prison, despite his ill health.

Rashedi is among five members of the Arab cultural organisation Al-Hewar (Dialogue) who were arrested in February 2011 and convicted in July 2012 of "enmity with God", "corruption on earth" and "acting against national security." They were sentenced to death and their death sentences were upheld by the Supreme Court in January 2013. Since then, the five have been frequently taken from their cells and held for days at secret prisons run by the intelligence services, where they have been tortured.

Rashedi is 38 years old and is unmarried. A highly qualified post-graduate with an MSc in chemistry, he worked in local high schools as a teacher. He has a keen interest in cultural issues and is an advocate for the poor. He suffers from heart disease and as such is exempt from military service. During his imprisonment, he has suffered considerable mental stress, developing a serious digestive disorder as a result. As a result of beatings, he has a fractured hip. He appeared in a documentary aired by Iran’s Press TV in which he was forced to confess to firing a gun at buildings housing security personnel and government officials in Khalafabad. He was described as a member of the ‘Khalq-e Arab’, although no single organisation operates with this name.

Four other members of Al-Hewar facing execution are:
  • Mohammad Ali Amouri Nejad, 33, a fisheries engineer arrested in February 2011
  • Hashem Shaabani, 31, married with one child, arrested in February 2011
  • Jabar al-Boushokeh, 27, married with one child, employee of his father's rock-grinding business and involved in social welfare activities, arrested in March 2011
  • Mokhtar al-Boushokeh, 25, who was one year into his military services and is the brother of Jabar al-Boushokeh.

Shaabani was moved from Karoon prison to an undisclosed location two weeks ago, prompting concern that he was also in danger of imminent execution. All five men have held hunger strikes during their incarceration in a desperate attempt to protest their innocence.

The sentences for the five men have been condemned by United Nations special rapporteurs, the European Parliament, members of the British parliament, the German Foreign Ministry, the British Foreign Secretary, the US State Department and other international and Iranian human rights organisations. Press TV has been put under EU sanctions for broadcasting the forced confessions.

Four other Ahwazi Arabs were sentenced to death in September 2012 and it is feared their death sentences have recently been approved:
  • Abdulreza Amir Khanafereh, son of Younes, 25 years old, single
  • Abdul Amir Mojadami, aged 32, married 
  • Shahab Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 26, single 
  • Ghazi Abbasi, son of Ahmad, aged 30, single

Poverty: Highest joblessness among Arabs, Baloch and Kurds

Non-Persian ethnic groups endure the highest rates of unemployment in Iran, according to recently released government statistics.

Of the top 20 cities for unemployment, seven were in Arab majority areas, seven in Balochi areas, four in Kurdistan and just two in Persian-majority areas. While Balochistan has long suffered under-development, the Ahwazi Arab region contains much of the country's oil, petrochemicals, metallurgical and agricultural industries. In Kurdistan, Al-Ahwaz and Balochistan, the unemployment rates are the same, at 30-47%, demonstrating that indigenous populations are being subjected to institutional discrimination.

Actual unemployment rates are likely to be far higher. Official statistics are based on the welfare claimant rate, which is likely to be well below the level indicated by standards used by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Unemployment is recognized as an acute problem among Arabs due to the refusal to employ local people in industry. The lack of employment opportunities caused by discrimination have fuelled unrest among Arab youths, prompting some members of parliament in the region to speak out against unfair labour practices.

Those in employment struggle with consistent non-payment of salaries and repression of trade unions, which prevents them from organizing collectively. In 2012, workers from the Ahwaz Sugar Refinery staged protests over months of unpaid wages in a dispute that began in 2010. Many of the employees have been working for the company for over 20 years and on top of poverty have found they have no healthcare cover.

Sayed Sharif Hosseini, Ahwaz member of parliament, has also criticised discrimination in favour of non-native people from other provinces in Khuzestan's (Al-Ahwaz) organisations and offices, adding: "Unfortunately, the local recruits quota has been reduced in some organisations. This is not in the province's interests. The most important goal should be to reduce the rate of unemployment and we demand action from the government." Meanwhile, Majlis member for Shushtar (Tostar) Sadar Ebrahimi claimed that the province's developmental problems are due to the lack of effective, capable and indigenous management.

Although Abadan, home to one of the world's largest oil refineries, has a high employment capacity, oil company managers are refusing to fulfil a 50% quota for local people, according to Abadan’s member of parliament Seyed Hussein Dahdashi in September 2012. He accused provincial authorities of not providing Majlis members precise information on the proportion of nonindigenous and indigenous employees in different economic sectors.

Another member of parliament Mohammad Saeed Ansari also hit out against discrimination against ‘native’ (Arab) workers in November 2012.21 A member of the Energy Commission, Ansari said that in Asaluyeh, only half of those in employment are natives while in Abadan less than five per cent of workers are from the region. Meanwhile, poverty and unemployment among Arabs in these cities remains high. Ansari also accused the authorities of harassing native people involved in fishing and other traditional livelihoods and being denied provision for self-employment. Ansari denounced the provincial governor for poor management, which he claimed was making the situation for native people worse.

Ansari was supported in his claims by Nafeaa Alboghobiesh, the vice chairman of Showra council, who claimed that the youth of Mahshaher (Mashour) city were suffering high unemployment despite the presence of many petrochemicals companies. He claimed that even those local youths with a good education were being denied jobs in favour of migrant workers from other parts of Iran.

Rouhani betrays ethnic non-Persians in cabinet selection

Rouhani breaks pledges he made to non-Persian ethnic groups
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has betrayed a pledge he made to Arab sheikhs in the presidential election campaign to allocate at least 10 per cent of cabinet positions to ethnic Arabs.

The competition for the Arab vote among the presidential candidates witnessed a range of promises. Official results for the Ahwazi Arab region saw Mohsen Rezaee win the vote with Rouhani coming runner-up.

Instead of fulfilling his pledge, Rouhani has made a number of controversial appointments of establishment figures who are implicated in crimes against humanity. They include Moustafa Pour Mohammadi, the "Butcher of Evin", becomes the Minister of Justice. He was in charge with executions, assassination and the torture of many political prisoners in Evin prison where Zahra Kazemi, the Canadian of Iranian origin, was tortured to death in 2003. In 1987, he was the Attorney General of the Revolutionary Court in Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan), which is implicated in crimes against the Ahwazi Arabs. He also served as Assistant to Ali Fallahian, the Minister of Intelligence who was wanted by Interpol for terrorist attacks in Buenos Aires.

Hailing from the north of Iran, the 'pragmatic conservative' Rouhani 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.

Since his election, Rouhani has largely abandoned these pledges and appears to be maintaining the campaign of persecution and execution against Arabs.

Ahwaz TV: Regime panicked into propaganda response

Fearing the growth of grassroots Ahwazi media activism, the Iranian regime has launched its own Ahwaz satellite television channel.

Launched in the presence of Ayatollah Jazayeri and provincial governor Jafar Hejazi, the channel has been devised to counter the influence of exiled Ahwazi groups. Jazayeri  said: "the launch of this television channel was urgently required to combat Wahhabi plots in Khuzestan." The Iranian regime routinely denounces Ahwazi activism as Sunni fundamentalism, even though religious sectarianism plays little part in the Ahwazi resistance movement.

Ahwazi activists believe the channel launch demonstrates the seriousness of the Ahwazi Arab challenge to the regime, which has seen the movement attack pipelines and organise some of the largest mass opposition demonstrations in the country. The channel launch will reaffirm Ahwazi Arab national identity while providing a stark contrast between the regime's propaganda on ethnic harmony and the reality of unemployment, poor education, low life expectancy, homelessness and environmental destruction that the indigenous population has to endure on a daily basis.

Eid in Al-Ahwaz: Protest and Repression

The Iranian authorities conducted raids on Ahwazi Arab homes during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in a clamp-down on Arab demonstrations.

The Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz reported the arrests of three men: Ibrahimm, Dahimi and Hussein Hamoudi from Malashiya and Moustafa Silawi from Hay al-Thawra.

In spite of the arrests, Ahwazi Arabs held demonstrations asserting their identity throughout Eid. In the demonstrations, people chanted for Al-Ahwaz and against sectarianism. In one protest, they chanted that Al-Ahwaz was a nation of Imam Ali, Abu Bakr, Uthman and Umar, a statement that indicates that the Ahwazi Arab nation is not divided along Shia-Sunni divides but remains united.

Dozens of Ahwazi Arab activists face trial

Dozens of activists who demonstrated on the anniversary of the 2005 intifada have appeared in court in recent days.

Among them, on Tuesday 6 August, Saleh Tamoli (Torfi) (30), Mehdi Zergani (30) and Adel Saadoun (24), from Hay al-Thawra in Ahwaz city, appeared in Revolutionary Court. They had been arrested by the Intelligence Services on 11 April 2013. Their personal belongings such as laptops and books have been taken and they have been tortured by security officers over the past two months.

The Arab activists previously appeared in branch 12 of the Revolutionary Court on charges of making propaganda against the regime by launching Facebook pages and other social network activities.

In their recent appearance in court, they were denied a solicitor. The only evidence offered to support the charge of propaganda against the regime was some pictures relating to the conflict in Syria which were found in their laptops.

Source: Al-Arabiya

Free Syrian Army supports Ahwazi struggle

Riad Al-Assad pledges support to Ahwazis

The Free Syria Army has voiced its support for the Ahwazi Arab struggle for independence against the Iranian regime.

FSA commander Riad al-Assad, former colonel of the Syrian Airforce, called for the withdrawal of Persian occupation forces in Al-Ahwaz in a letter to Lebanese Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrullah. The FSA has previously shown its solidarity with the Ahwazi cause by naming its armed Dere'a Al-Jazeera contingent in Al-Mayadin the Al-Ahwaz Battalion.

There have been top-level discussions between the leaders of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz (ASMLA) and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. In September last year, ASMLA leaders met with Brotherhood Comptroller General Mohammad Riad al-Shaqfeh in Syria. Both groups accused Iran of sowing sectarian strife in the Arab world and acting like a colonial power. ASMLA described its formal contacts with the Brotherhood as a "quantum leap in strengthening the relationship between the Ahwazi and Syrian revolutions" that would enable them to "work together to overthrow the existing alliance of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the Iranian regime, which continue to spill the blood of Arabs in Syria and Ahwaz."

The Al-Ahwaz Battalion in Syria
A regional conflagration of Arab guerrilla forces fighting Iran is spreading inside Iranian borders with the resumption of operations by ASMLA's military wing, the Brigades of the Martyr Mohieldain al-Naser, which this week blew up a major gas pipeline feeding the petrochemicals industry.

The growing solidarity was inevitable after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and its Shia proxy Hezbollah intervened directly in Syria in support of the Al-Assad dictatorship. Meanwhile, there is angry opposition among Iraq's Sunni Arab population towards the pro-Iranian Shia-led government in Baghdad.

In February, one of Iran's leading preachers has called Syria the country's "35th strategic province" and said it has a higher priority than Khuzestan, the formerly autonomous oil-rich Ahwazi Arab-majority province in the southwest.

Ahwazi Arab rebels blow up pipeline in Iran

A major gas pipeline feeding Iran's massive Marun petrochemicals complex was blown up by Ahwazi rebels belonging to the Brigades of the Martyr Mohieldain al-Naser on Monday (5 August).

A statement claiming responsibility was published on the website of the National Resistance of Al-Ahwaz, a pro-independence group working in exile with headquarters in Denmark. The Brigades of the Martyr Mohieldain al-Naser are the military wing of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz. The attack occurred on the first day of the inauguration of President Hassan Rouhani and is a reminder to the regime that ethnic Arabs are increasingly angry over high levels of poverty and unemployment, issues on which he campaigned during the presidential election.

In its statement, the rebel group condemned both the regime's execution campaign against Ahwazi dissidents, Iran's intervention in Syria and its influence in Iraq. It vowed to fight and overthrow the regime alongside Kurdish and Balochi rebels.

The complex located in Mahshahr has one of the largest ethylene capacities in the world, with annual production capacity of 1.1 million tonnes of ethylene feeding a multitude of downstream units. Facing international sanctions on oil exports, Iran is more reliant on the petrochemicals industry. However, Ahwazi Arabs endure the environmental destruction and economic marginalisation that has accompanied the rapid growth of this industrial sector.