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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...

Iran's National Ecology Disaster and Climate Refugees


On December 06, the Houses of Parliament hosted a new report launch on Ahwaz, Iran the Middle East's Biggest Environment Crisis at a conference organised by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), the first non-profit UK-based advocacy organisation that celebrates its 12th anniversary. BAFS report emerges from a rich collection of English language news stories which was heard and discussed in the presence of a multi-disciplinary team of experts who are seeking sustainable solutions to the ecological disaster unfolding in Iran. The panel comprised of scientists, engineers and human rights activists discussed Iran's ongoing efforts to dam the rivers of the Ahwaz region and the disastrous effects of pollution.
The meeting was hosted by the Green Party's member of the House of Lords, Baroness Jenny Jones, and supported by Gandhi Peace Prize winner Peter Tatchell and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO). 
The House of Lords meeting chaired by Dr Sanjukta Ghosh heard from a panel of experts that the Ahwaz region, which has Iran's biggest rivers -- the Karoun and the Karkeh) and its extensive marshlands, is the most polluted place on the planet due to dust storms and the impact of heavy industry, including oil, petrochemicals and metals sectors. Concurrently, the damming of rivers and overuse could lead to conditions for a collapse in Iran's food supply that is dependent on this region.
BAFS chair Daniel Brett categorically stated with a wealth of evidence that Iran will cease to be a country within a generation unless the environmental crisis in the south-west Ahwaz region is tackled and a collapse of food production is adverted.
The Ahwaz region, which hosts Iran's biggest rivers (Karoun and Karkeh) and its extensive marshlands, is the most polluted place on the planet due to dust storms and the impact of heavy industry, including oil, petrochemicals and metals sectors.  Meanwhile, the mismanagement of water resources due to the damming of rivers and overuse is potentially creating conditions for a collapse in Iran's food supply, a large part of which comes from the region.
In the Karoun and Karkheh watersheds, a total of nine dams have been built or are under construction with a further 12 under study. The damming of the Karoun and Karkeh rivers is intended to increase the supply of water to cash crops, particularly the sugar industry, as well as generate hydroelectric power. It is also building water diversion tunnels to feed water from Karoun’s tributaries to Isfahan, which is facing its own water scarcity problems. The plan is to divert 1.1 BCM per annum to Isfahan. Water mismanagement is leading to desertification and exacerbating pollution.
Experts from the Centre for Middle Eastern Plants (CMEP) and the Carboun Initiative told the conference that the situation was still reversible with the appropriate management and technology transfer. They provided a wealth of scientific data suggesting Iraq and Kuwait have shown the marshes can be rejuvenated and deserts could be greened, while improved waste and water management could improve the overall environment.
However, representatives of the Ahwazi Arab and Balochi nationalities - Karim Abdian and Reza Hussein Borr - pointed out that the Iranian government was refusing to implement even the most rudimentary changes. Iran's scientific community, members of parliament and environmental activists had exhausted all options and the only solution was to overturn the political system.
More significantly, Iran's collapse may be inevitable if the environmental crisis leads to a decline in food crop output from the resource-abundant Ahwaz region. The consequences could include civil war as provinces compete for water resources and malnutrition affects the poorest sections of society.
Last week, the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change stated that climate change, including water resource management, is the greatest security threat of the 21st century. Iran's leading specialist on desertification, Prof. Parviz Kordavani, also warned that Iran has depleted 70% of its groundwater and the provincial competition for water will lead to internal conflict within five years.
Water diversion is destroying the marshes and rivers of Khuzestan, disrupting the entire national ecology and ultimately food crop productivity. There is a very real possibility that Iran will produce climate refugees in the near future. Already, the issue of Khuzestan's water resources and the damming of rivers has caused riots in the province by ethnic Arabs and Balochis who are indigenous to the region, and this is fuelling Arab separatism. 
With sanctions now being lifted, the world will need to look to practical solutions in which engagement with Iran will bring positive benefits to society and ensure sustainable development. Investment by European oil and electricity generating companies is coveted by Iran and Europe could be pivotal to whether Iran achieves a sustainable development for its people or becomes a failed state. Support for civil society inside Iran, particularly in the Ahwaz region, as well as the scientific community, would bolster the change necessary to avert another economic, social and security disaster in the Middle East.
  • Facts on the Ahwaz region (Khuzestan):
  • Iran’s biggest source of food crops – leading producer of wheat (1.1mn tonnes), second largest producer of maize (400,000 tonnes) and rice (300,000 tonnes).
  • Over 40% of Iran’s sugar production, mostly on sugarcane plantations: 4mn tonnes per annum.
  • 90% of Iran’s onshore oil reserves.
  • Petrochemicals production: 17mn tonnes, 30% of national total.
  • Steel production: 5mn tonnes per annum, a third of the national total. The steel industry in Khuzestan requires 1.4 billion cubic metres of water per annum to produce 5 million tonnes of steel, the equivalent of 6% of the River Karoun's annual average flow.
Since sanctions have been lifted, the region has supported massive growth in industrial output. In 2016/17, the government aims to increase oil output by 1mn b/d to over 4mn b/d, mostly from the Ahwaz region. It has already doubled crude steel exports to 2mn tonnes in the first seven months of the current Iranian year

IRAN CALLS FOR ETHNIC SOLIDARITY DESPITE TWO ARRESTS

IRAN CALLS FOR ETHNIC SOLIDARITY DESPITE TWO ARRESTS

Iran Arrests a Journalist and an Environmental Activist in Al-Ahwaz during a week-long demonstration against diversion of Karoon river that was held in both Ahwaz and Muhammerah.
Iranian security forces arrested two activists in Muhammerah -- the journalist Rahil Mosavi and environmental activist Roqaya Jafari who directly participated in the demonstrations against the transfer of Karoon river. They have been transferred to the Department of Intelligence in the city and have not been released till now.
According to news from inside Ahwaz and confirmed by AHRO,Roqaya Jafari was arrested at her home by intelligence forces after the end of the demonstration last Thursday. She has been charged for criticising Rohani’s letter about the water transfer and her actions have resulted in the issue of a security file, leading to Ms.Jafari's arrest for 4 consecutive days by the Intelligence Services.
Ms.Rahil Mosavi, on the other hand, is a photographer and journalist and civil activist who was verbally insulted and pushed by the security forces while she took photos of the demonstration in Muhammerah.Her left arm was injured as security tried to take her camera and eventually she was pushed into their car by force and driven away.
Demonstrators in Ahwaz and Muhammerah have criticised the leaked letter from Rouhani’s administration in which an order is given to transfer water from the Karoon river to cities such as Yazd, Isfahan Kerman and Rafsanjan, while the inhabitants of Ahwaz and Muhammerah and many other cities in the southwest region continue to suffer from lack of water for drinking and farming.
In the backdrop of these demonstrations, Iranian intelligence also called on many local civil and environmental activists for interrogation in order to intimidate and silence the public. The activists are questioned for organising and inviting people to demonstrate against the water transfer actions evident from the government's leaked document. Mr.Masoud Kanani is one of these environmental activists who has been accused in similar circumstances.
While Ahwazi MPs have drawn attention to Rouhani about the Karoon issue and demonstrations are rife in Ahwaz, a conference organised by the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) brought together a multi-disciplinary team of experts who are seeking sustainable solutions to the ecological disaster unfolding in Iran. The panel comprised of scientists, engineers and human rights activists discussed Iran's ongoing efforts to dam the rivers of the Ahwaz region and the disastrous effects of pollution.
The solution to such unrest is important at a time when Rouhani has issued calls for a national solidarity among ethnic minorities. As Khuzestan's Arab minorities are being affected by the river water diversion, any dialogue on the environment should be seen as a top priority. Hence the power of Intelligence forces to intimidate activists and suspect foreign agendas will make Rouhani and his team's nation-building efforts appear as double standards.

Ahwazis And Peter Tatchell At British Parliament In Appeal For Equality And Rights

Ahwazi Arab activists today met with Labour MP Neil Coyle in a bid to gain British parliamentary support for their campaign to prioritise ethnic rights in trade and investment.

The three activists were joined by leading British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell to press for economic justice as sanctions on Iran are lifted and oil majors look to invest in the Ahwaz region's massive energy reserves.

They pressed the MP to support five key demands:

1. Environmental sustainability. Ahwaz is the most polluted place on Earth, according to the World Health Organisation. The effects of the environmental crisis are undermining the livelihoods and welfare of indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, threatening Iran's food security and helping to fuel climate change. As well as the oil and petrochemicals industries that have no adequate environmental controls, there are ongoing problems with the drying of the marshes that straddle the Iran-Iraq border and the damming of the Karoon and Karkeh rivers. The UK and the EU should work to halt all oil prospecting in the marshlands, seek to stop the river diversion programmes and support the imposition of environmental regulations

2. Economic justice. Along with ethnic Balochis, Ahwazi Arabs suffer the highest rates of unemployment and malnutrition in Iran (on a par with Zimbabwe, Eritrea and Somalia). Khuzestan province MPs have repeatedly called for 1.5% of oil revenues generated by the province's resources to be reinvested into poverty alleviation, including adequate housing, education (including Article 5 of the Iranian constitution that states that non-Persian languages should have the same protection and promotion as Persian) and employment generation. We regard this as an absolute minimum that should be built into all oil contracts and overseen by genuinely independent non-governmental organisations run by non-partisan local people. The UK and the EU should, via trade and investment, push Iran to implement tangible policies that work towards the alleviation of poverty among Ahwazi Arabs.

3. Worker’s rights. Ahwazi Arabs suffer discrimination in employment - a fact that many MPs and Friday prayer leaders, as well as presidential candidates, have acknowledged. They are not represented in growth industries and in some sectors, due to the ban on unionisation, they often work without pay with the sugar industry a notable example. Instead of using and training local workers, state-owned industries entice people from other parts of Iran and many Ahwazis are forced into the informal sector, such as street hawking where their meagre stock is often seized by police and they are hassled by the authorities. The UK and the EU should encourage investors to uphold ILO standards, including the right to join free trade unions and collectively bargain. A local worker quota - as suggested by local MPs - should be implemented by British and European investors.

4. Political, cultural and gender rights. Ahwazi Arabs should have the means to argue for their rights, including the establishment of non-governmental organisations and political parties. They also have the right to campaign for changes in the political system, including the ability to discuss self-determination without being accused of threatening national security or terrorism. The Iranian government must drop criteria for elections so that Ahwazis can mobilise politically, as they did 15 years ago when they established the Lejnat al-Wefaq which won control of Ahwaz city council and a seat in parliament - a group that was banned and whose members were imprisoned, some of whom were executed. Repression has retarded Ahwazis ability to progress in a number of areas - not just in peacefully demanding their rights, but for Ahwazi women to be empowered against honour killings, forced marriage and inequality.

5. Lord Lamont is not the right person to be a UK trade envoy to Iran. Prior to his appointment, Lord Lamont was head of the British Iranian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the board of the Iran Heritage Foundation, both of which are recognised as pro-regime lobbies. The IHF is chaired by Vahid Alaghband, the head of Balli Group, which broke sanctions against Iran by leasing a jet to Iran's Mahan Air; he is also a Tory party donor. Lamont is a former adviser to Alaghband. Aside from Lamont's conflict of interests, there are also questions over the need to have a trade envoy. With sanctions now lifted on Iran, a new administration in the UK and Brexit requiring more intensive bilateral dialogue over trade, it is imperative that professional diplomats mindful of human rights, environmental and security considerations - and not a freelancing politician - take the lead.

Two Ahwazi Poets Arrested - Location Unknown



Two Ahwazi Arab cultural activists were arrested by Iranian intelligence and taken to undisclosed locations last night (5 October).

Amer Salem Silawi a 34 year old father is being held without charge, but his location is unknown. He has already been arrested five times for participating in and organizing cultural events and encouraging Arab youth to wear their traditional Arabic clothes.

The second arrested activist, Aref Nawaseri, is a poet from Falahieh (Shadegan) who recites Arabic traditional and national poems during events, weddings and funerals. He was returning home from the funeral of two Ahwazi youth and was arrested on his arrival. He is also being held without charge at an undisclosed location.

The arrests come just weeks after over 20 Ahwazi Arabs, including an academic and a poet, were arrested in Dezful on 23 August as part of the Iranian regime's clamp-down on social media. 

Thousands Of Ahwazi Children Denied Education Due To Illiteracy


Up to 40,000 Ahwazi Arab elementary school students in Omidiyeh (Ghunetria), 100km southeast of Ahwaz City, have been excluded from school for failing Farsi language proficiency, even though for most it is a foreign language.

According to reports from inside Iran, this week the indigenous Arab boys and girls aged six to 11 years went to school ready for the new academic year, only to discover they were bring denied education because they cannot understand Iran's official language.

The parents and children are protesting against the exclusion, concerned that they will lose out economically in later life. The exclusion is also regarded by Ahwazi rights activists as a breach of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Although the Iranian constitution recognises the right of non-Persian Iranian citizens to learn in their mother tongue, in the Ahwaz region there are no Arabic medium schools. The discrimination within the education system means that a high proportion of Ahwazi Arab children leave school early.

At a round-table discussion on the rights of linguistic minorities attended by UN Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Ahwazi Arab human rights activist Amir Saedi said: "Indigenous Ahwazi students drop out of schools at a rate of 30% at elementary level, 50% at secondary and 70% at high school because they are forced to study the 'official language', Farsi, a language which is not their own.

"The learning of Arabic is confined to religious study and is commonly classical Arabic rather than the local dialect. Consequently, Ahwazi Arabs are often semi-literate in their native language, but struggle with learning in a language that is foreign to them."

The rate of illiteracy among Ahwazi Arabs is four times the national average in Iran. Illiteracy among men is 30-40% and among rural women it is as high as 80%. The result is generations of poorly educated Ahwazi Arabs with little hope of social mobility or economic improvement.

Low levels of literacy exacerbate the problem of poverty, which has fuelled social unrest in the Ahwaz region. Although presidential candidates, including President Rouhani, and politicians have all pledged to improve native language education, no progress has been made in securing Ahwazi Arabs' constitutional right to linguistic equality.

Oil and the Destruction of the Garden of Eden

The ancient and unique Hor Al-Azim marsh is threatened by continuing oil exploitation, according to indigenous Ahwazi Arabs, environmentalists and members of parliament.

Critics of the oil industry are highlighting the threats to the marshland, which forms part of an ecosystem that is crucial to regulating moisture and temperatures in an otherwise hot and arid region.

Oil companies started exploring the Hor Al-Azim marsh in 2000 following controversial environmental approvals. The administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) confiscated 7,600 hectares of marshland for oil exploration over a 30 year period.

Drilling sites are drained before operations are started, leading to permanent damage. Since drilling operations started, the oil industry has caused added demand to water supplies, drained the marshes and caused high levels of pollution.

Many worry the area - believed to be the Garden of Eden in Biblical legend - could be turned into to a toxic wasteland.

Jasem Moramazi, the head of the Jounob water aquaculture institute, claimed that without the water-logged marshes, flora and fauna could face extinction. If the marshes dry up, species of fish such as benni, gattan, shabbout, shliaj and hemri, could be wiped out entirely, along with many mammal species unique to the marshlands that straddle the Iran-Iraq border. The marshes are also important for migratory birds from as far away as Africa and Russia.

Aquaculture is also a major source of income for Ahwazi Arab people in the marshlands. The degradation of the environment will impoverish the farmers and fishermen. Recent weeks have seen thousands of fish die in the marshland's ponds due to late of fresh water and severe oxygen depletion.

Jawad Kazemi Nasab Albaji, a member of Ahwaz, Bawi, Karoun in the majles said that the oil company has never specify 1% of the oil revenue to the local people in Hur for the environmental damage they caused to the area.

However, the Department of Environment and and oil producers have failed to develop a means to tackle waste water drainage into the Hor Al-Azim marsh. Hedayat Ulla Khademi, a member of Majlis, accused oil officials of ignoring the problems of toxic effluent from oil and petrochemicals production seeping into the marshland.

The situation is worse during rainstorms and flooding and was increasing the risk of disease, claimed Khademi. Instead, he suggested the petrochemicals industry should process waste into chemical fertiliser for the farming sector or buried deep underground. The decision to close 20 sluice gates that empty fresh water into the marsh was worsening the situation, according to Khademi. 

How the Iranian Opposition can Unite and Win

By Karim Abdian
For the past 37 years, the Iranian regime has been able to disunite, or generate current disunity and distrust, within the opposition and render it almost irrelevant. But this seems to becoming to an end.
The rights of Iran’s non-Persian nationalities were one of the central themes of a recent mass rally organized by the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), marking a departure from the usual annual program of the Iranian opposition group.
The three-day event in Paris, entitled “FREE IRAN”, attracted tens of thousands enthusiastic followers. Also attending were over 40 parliamentary delegates as well as representatives of governments, liberation movements and the media from around the world.
There appeared to be a drive to reach out to others in the Iranian opposition as well as Arab governments, in an effort to forge wider solidarity. Invited to attend for the first time, I headed a moderate Ahwazi Arab delegation as we sought to respond to the MEK’s offer to give our cause a fair hearing.
I am not unfamiliar with the MEK as I have known many of its leaders while a political prisoner in various jails in Iran during the Shah’s rule. I spent nearly two years of my 5 years term sentence in Tehran Evin prison where the MEK’s ideological father and leader, Aallatoah Taleghani, was also imprisoned.
MEK: emerging from introspection
I always thought that the MEK could have done a better job in uniting the opposition abroad and confront the regime from within more aggressively. I felt they were somewhat inward looking and have been unreceptive toward other members of the opposition groups, especially non-Persian nationalities movements, parties and organizations. This has not been helped by the existential threats it has faced due to the actions of the Clinton and Bush administrations as they sought to pacify the Iranian government.
The Clinton administration’s decision to list it as a foreign terrorist group on October 1997 as part of a diplomatic effort to open dialogue with moderates in Tehran and appease the mullahs. With Iran proven to be an untrustworthy partner due to its sponsorship of international terrorism and the controversies over the nuclear program, the MEK was delisted in September 2012. After the US invasion of Iraq, the MEK’s Camp Ashraf was attacked and now Camp Liberty, which hosts some 3,000 MEK members, is encircled and subjected to rocket attack by Iran’s puppet government. This along with the terrorist designation absorbed around 90 per cent of its activity, according to the organization’s leadership.
In the 1980s, Ahwazi activists and some of our Kurdish partners were part of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), whose largest member is the MEK – they left 4 years later.
One of the significant qualitative changes during this year’s event was the realization that the regime change needed to involve the entire spectrum of Iranian opposition groups. This is historically significant and there is precedent. The same argument was hotly debated during the early 1970s: whether or not the Shah regime needed be overthrown or could it be reformed. Some on the left, under pressure from USSR believed that the Shah was reformable and it was moving a way from “US imperialism”. However, by the mid-1970s, regime change became the dominant theme and the struggle focused toward this end.
Non-Persian nationalities: seeking empowerment
However, in early 2000, the leaders of Arabs, Kurds, Azeri, Baloch and Turkmen reached a conclusion that we, the non-dominant and doubly oppressed non-Persian nationalities, needed to start an independent opposition coalition. There was a realization that we had much in common and did not have sufficient support from Persian-led opposition groups.
On February 19 2005 in London, the leaders of organizations representing major nationalities and ethnic groups in Iran gathered in a historic summit to form the Congress of Iranian Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI). It issued a manifesto that states: Iran belongs to all its peoples and nationalities, a right that they have been denied or taken away from them; Iranian non-Persian nationalities have been subjected to double oppression, and; the legitimacy of any government is derived from its peoples and, in Iran’s case, the full cultural, national, ethnic and religious spectrum.
CNFI charted a roadmap for future of Iran stipulating that without the participation of all its nationalities to have the opportunity to rule the country and the regions that they live in, achievement of freedom, development and peace is impossible in Iran; that the establishment of a federalist system of government on the basis of ethnicity-nationality and geography is the only political mechanism that is enduring, and it (Federalism) allows all Iranian nationalities to realize their aspirations and the exercise of self rule in a framework of a free, united and a democratic Iran.
It also set the following principles as the basis for future activities and cooperation. This included the acceptance that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a totalitarian, anti-democratic state that violates the rights of the Iranian peoples. Furthermore, the state needed to be replaced with a plural, federal democratic government in Iran with the separation of religion and state. It would seek peaceful relations with all countries on the basis of mutual respect and respect for international norms and accords, and work to resolve conflicts employing peaceful means and international law.
MEK opens up to co-operation
The MEK’s “Free Iran” initiative promises to act as the same basis for a common platform. For this to happen, the two categories of opposition, the Persian-led opposition groups and non-Persian groups, such as CNFI, need to come to some understanding and form a unified Iranian opposition. They can then go forward to seek regional and international support. The MEK’s ability to run an effective mass rally with no glitches and providing accommodation, transport and security for tens of thousands people, without a hitch, indicates it has considerable capability, experience, and organizational strength. MEK and NCRI are certainly in a position to lead the Persian opposition initially in negotiations with CNFI for a unity platform.
However, there remain differences between the Persian-led groups and CNFI. While CNFI sets it platform as a decentralized and federal system as a minimum, the MEK believes in autonomy and autonomous regions only for Kurdistan. In a positive move, Dr. Mohammad Mihadesian, the head of MEK’s foreign relations, stated in recent interviews with Al-Arabiya and Alkhabriah that MEK seeks the same autonomy for the Kurdish, Arab, Baloch, Azeri, Turkmen and Lur regions as well.
However, in the 10-point “platform for Future Iran” which was handed out during the gathering it still states “We are committed to the equality of all nationalities. We underscore the plan for the autonomy of Iranian Kurdistan, adopted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The language and culture of our compatriots from whatever nationality are among our nation’s human resources and must spread and be promulgated in tomorrow’s Iran.”
CNFI believes a federal state would provide the political apparatus to address the cultural, social and economic inequalities that have arisen in Iran as a result of centralized control in Iran. It wants a constitutional guarantee that the rights of self-determination is clearly and expressly stipulated where should regions become under pressure from the central government, secession can be an option, if in fact that be decided in an internationally guaranteed and observed referendum. However, a maximalist demand can postpone this coalition and prolong this regime. I think the gap can be overcome with negotiations.
Karim Abdian is a Washington DC based political commentator and a human rights activist. He provides commentaries on Iran and the Middle East in Arabic, Farsi and English. He is the executive director of Ahwaz Studies Canter and the head of International Relations Committee of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI).

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Imprisonment Shines Light On Revolutionary Courts

By Abu Mousa

The sentencing of British-Iranian journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to five years imprisonment on "secret charges" has focused international attention on the secrecy and inherent injustice of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court system.

Running parallel to the conventional penal courts, trials in Revolutionary Courts are held in secret to prosecute drug smuggling and political and religious crimes, including blasphemy, espionage, "war with Allah" and "threatening national security". The Iranian regime is believed to have accused Nazanin, a journalist visiting family, of conspiracy to overthrow the regime.

As in all Revolutionary Court cases, the evidence was never presented - if it ever existed - and lawyers lacked confidential access to their client and were probably unable to represent her during the trial. Nazanin was held in insanitary conditions and in solitary confinement, unable to communicate with her family, including her young daughter.

Nazanin is suffering the fate faced by all political dissidents and religious minorities who are perceived to be a threat to the regime. It is by virtue of her British citizenship that this kangaroo court gave her just five years imprisonment. Most jail sentences are lengthy and often defendants are sentenced to death.

Nazanin's supporters should not be complacent. Often a trial will be followed by further trials, lengthier sentences and even the death penalty, sometimes based on forced confessions - shown on Press TV - following weeks of torture, including broken bones and rape (male and female prisoners are targeted). Prisoners are also subjected to indiscriminate beatings by guards, deprivation of food, refusal of medical care, diseases that are epidemic in insanitary conditions and lack of access to toilets. Her life remains in serious danger so long as she is on Iranian soil.

The world should act not just on behalf of this innocent journalist who was simply travelling to Iran to meet her relatives. Her security can only be guaranteed by international action against the Islamic Revolutionary Court system, which perpetuates human rights abuse and falls well short of the basic international judicial standards.

The international community needs to take a stand on behalf of all victims of this institution of the most grotesque injustice. It cannot simply make an exception of Nazanin's case and forget about the thousands of others who suffer in the dungeons of prisons like Evin.

For example, the case of Fahima Ismaili Badawi, an Ahwazi Arab woman who has been imprisoned for over a decade. She was sentenced to 15 years by the Revolutionary Court on spurious charges in relation to her executed husband Ali Matourizadeh's political activities. She gave birth to their baby girl Salma soon after her imprisonment.

In 2010, she was forced to confess to various crimes against national security on Iran's English language channel Press TV, possibly motivated by her desire to leave prison and be reunited with her daughter. Her efforts have so far failed to bring her closer to freedom or Salma. In June, reports emerged that she had been beaten unconscious by guards and appeared to have sustained minor brain damage. She has a further five years to go before she completes her sentence.

Nazanin and Fahima do not know each other, but are sisters in oppression and persecution and represent just two of the thousands and thousands of victims of the Revolutionary Court system.

This week, a relative of two Ahwazi Arab brothers executed on the orders of the Revolutionary Courts called for the arrest of two judges involved in ordering the death sentence. There is no doubt that any conviction in this system is unsafe and that all Revolutionary Court judges should be placed under international sanctions and arrest warrants be issued.

It is very easy to find these religious judges. When on holiday, they can be found in Dubai's red light district sleeping with prostitutes and snorting cocaine - "crimes" for which these disgusting hypocrites sentence others to death.

Alarming Suicide Rate Among Ahwazi Arabs

Poverty is driving suicide among Ahwazi Arabs to alarming levels.

Ahmad Shojaee, the head of forensic science in Iran, claimed that in the past year 4,055 people committed suicide across Iran with the highest rates in Ahwazi Arab and Kurdish areas.

While the rate is relatively low by world standards, some regions have very high rates of suicide that coincide with high rates of poverty. Hanging is the cause of most suicides, but self-immolation, drug overdose and poisoning are increasingly common. The common method of suicide differs between regions.

Among Ahwazi Arabs who committed suicide were Mehdi Afravi (pictured), who lay on a railway track and was run over by a train. He killed himself after his kiosk was confiscated at Naderi market in Ahwaz.

In an infamous incident in March 2015, Younes Asakareh set himself alight in protest against a police raid on his fruit stand, which destroyed his stock. He later died of his burns.

More recently, a man in Malashiyeh killed his son and daughter before committing suicide due to desperate poverty and were unable to afford basic food. A woman in Ahwaz killed herself after killing her husband due to his unemployment.

In the past month, a man committed suicide in Dar Khoween, which is in the centre of the oil-producing region, after losing his job.

Tehran University sociologist Dr Saeed Moeed Far claims that the highest rates of suicide are in less developed areas such as the Arab-majority Khuzestan province and the Kurdish-majority Ilam province, particularly among women and young men due to the social and economic crisis in these areas. The benefits of industrialisation have largely excluded Ahwazi Arabs when it comes to employment and housing, while they continue to endure the negative health and environmental effects of economic development.

Statistics from Iran's Ministry of Health show that in deprived areas around 13 people take their lives every day with the average age at 29 years. Men outnumber women by 2.5-4.5 to one. Over a 20 year period, the suicide rate has increased 360 per cent.

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 judges for human rights abuses.

Farzad Farhadi-Rad (left) is the head of the Revolutionary Court in Khuzestan province and cleric Judge Rahmani (right) works in branch 11 of Ahwaz Revolutionary Court. Rahmani ordered the execution of Mehdi Nawaseri and Abdulreza Nawaseri in 2006. Meanwhile, Farhadi-Rad has presided over a judicial system that prevents the accused from accessing legal representation and falling well below international standards of justice.

The relative, who fled to Australia after he served a two year prison sentence is arguing that serious human rights abuses had occurred.

The two brothers were accused of involvement in bomb attacks in Ahwaz. At the time of their prosecution, human rights groups had highlighted the lack of evidence, the secrecy of the trials and the lack of independent and impartial observers.

The lawyers did not have an opportunity to meet with their clients to discuss their case with them, but had to prepare a defence based on the prosecution file presented to them.

Abdolreza Nawaseri was already serving a prison sentence for insurgency at the time of the bomb attacks for which the regime claims he was responsible.

"These men are accused of serious crimes, but they clearly haven't had a fair trial," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch, when the brothers were sentenced. "We always oppose the death penalty, because it is cruel and flawed. But sentencing people to death after such an inadequate trial is especially outrageous."

Executions following dubious trials continue under the direction of the province's revolutionary courts. Recently three Ahwazi Arabs from Hamidiyeh were executed on the orders of Farhadi-Rad on unfounded allegations that they had attacked security personnel.

Below are the photos of the Nawaseri brothers and their death certifications, provided by their exiled relative



Iran's Minorities Pay The Price For UN's Anti-Drugs Campaign

By Daniel Brett

The Iranian government has stepped up its killings of ethnic and religious minorities with Kurds, Ahwazi Arabs, Balochis, Sunnis and Christians among its main targets.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) continuing support for Iran's anti-narcotics campaign has legitimised the use of the death penalty.

Drug trafficking charges are often used as a ruse to execute members of "troublesome" minorities. Meanwhile, the failure of the UNODC to condemn Iran's extensive use of the death penalty for drug convictions has encouraged the regime to step up deadly repression of minorities and contributed to the culture of state terror.

Rouhani the "moderate" butcher of Iran

Under President Rouhani, the rate of executions is far higher than his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2015, executions rose above 1,000, one of the worst years since the 1988 prison massacres when the regime murdered thousands in a purge on the opposition. In terms of executions per capita, Iran is by far the leading enforcer of the death penalty, exceeding China and the US.

Executions, whether for alleged drug offences or political crimes, fall heavily on the country's non-Persian, non-Shia minorities. These population groups are regarded by a predominantly Persian elite of the Shia theocracy as its chief internal threats.

Mass executions are not intended as a punishment for the victims, they are a message to society. They are a calculated statement by a regime that is feeling vulnerable as the forces of change spill over national borders.

Recently, Kurds have been the main victims of the deadly execution campaign. Last month's mass prison execution of Kurds was a response to growing Kurdish militancy. Encouraged by Kurdish gains in Syria and Iraq and facing rising persecution and marginalisation, Iranian Kurds are in open rebellion. In June, Iranian Kurdish peshmerga and Iranian troops fought for several days in some border towns leading to the deaths of eight combatants on each side.

Western appeasement encouraging deadly repression

Iran's increasing use of the death penalty is a consequence of Western foreign policy towards Iran following the Vienna Agreement on Iran's nuclear weapons programme. In spite of rising internal repression, Iran's international rehabilitation has seen Western powers recast President Rouhani as a "moderate".

Europe and the US are putting aside human rights concerns in order to partner with Tehran in security, trade and international law enforcement. They see a stable, compliant dictatorship in Tehran as preferable to a more plural, democratic Iran. Executions serve the objective of bolstering the regime.

While the UN and Western governments issue rote protests against Iran's execution campaigns, their policies have directly contributed to a climate of state terror and systematic execution campaigns against  non-Persian, non-Shia minorities. Ineffective statements that are not backed by action, coupled with appeasement and direct aid to the security services, have encouraged the regime to increase repression against minorities.

Drugs: an excuse for persecution

The majority of those hanged by the Iranian state are prosecuted for drug offences with minority populations grossly over-represented in the execution statistics.

This is particularly the case in the restive Sunni dominated ethnic Balochi areas where drug trafficking is the only means of economic survival amid discrimination and violent persecution. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the male inhabitants of entire ethnic Balochi villages were wiped out under the pretext of the war on drugs. 

In reality, the chief financial beneficiaries of the Afghan drug trade have been the Iranian government's elite Qods Force with its commander now under US sanctions for trafficking heroin for the Taliban. The value of drugs smuggling operations in Iran was valued by the Iranian government at US$3bn in 2014, compared to US$7bn for oil smuggling. The number of drug addicts in Iran is estimated at 2.7 million with impoverished minorities, particularly Balochis and Ahwazi Arabs, often dependent on drugs imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Europe funds killings

Iran’s executions are a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Iran and every EU member state is a party. The ICCPR states that capital punishment should be reserved for only "the most serious crimes" and cannot be granted without a fair trial. Yet, drug trafficking trials last mere minutes and the accused do not get to see their legal representatives.

Even the UNODC admits that its cooperation with countries which use capital punishment "can be perceived as legitimising government actions." Although it advocates "a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support" in such circumstances, it continues to support Iran's anti-narcotics campaign. The UN’s special rapporteur on Iran Ahmad Shaheed has warned that the regime is using UN support to justify its aggressive use of capital punishment.

While the European Union has a policy of opposing the death penalty,  European governments such as France and Germany contribute to Iranian law enforcement against trafficking through UNODC assistance. This has led to accusations by human rights groups such as Reprieve that Western donors to UNODC programmes in Iran are complicit in execution campaigns. 

In spite of these concerns, further European funding is likely for a recentlyagreed US$20mn UNODC programme in Iran, which could see the doubling of EU money spent on drug raids in Iran. Continued aid to Iran's deadly counter-narcotics programme has bolstered execution as a method of social control.

Kurdish backlash

A backlash among the non-Persian, non-Shia minorities is inevitable. The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), which had effectively ended its military operations against Tehran in 1996 following a seven year insurgency, has resumed its armed struggle.

Last month, the KDPI's leader Mustafa Hejri told a panel at the Middle EastResearch Institute (MERI): "As KDPI, what should we do? Should we sit and let the Islamic Republic increase its repressions day after day or should we continue a serious struggle as our people, the youth especially, have asked us to do. Our purpose behind resuming the armed struggle is for our fighters to be inside the cities, boost people’s morale, learn the terrain and encourage them to get involved in this struggle."


Soon, the Iranian Kurds will discover whether the West, which did so much to support Syrian Kurds in their struggle against Daesh, is a genuine ally. 

Deadly Ahwaz Flood Costs Escalate to USD350mn

The floods that hit the Ahwaz region earlier this year and devastated farms and homes have caused IRR10.5 trillion  (USD350mn) of damage, according to the latest estimates by the provincial assistant director of construction and civil engineering.

The situation is worsened by the failure to invest in adequate drainage. Ahwazi farmers complain that corruption by Jahad Nasr Hamzeh, a civil engineering company, meant that only 10% of the IRR220mn of funds dedicated to drainage projects over a 550 hectare region were actually spent. They have had to foot the bill for the destruction of their homes and farms as a result of maladministration and corruption.

Floods also carry a death toll, claiming a record number of lives through drowning this year. According to Khouz News, Khuzestan province has the highest number of deaths through drowning.

In the first three months of this year, 56 people died in the rivers of the province, according to the head of the region's Red Crescent Ali Khoda Dadi. He claimed that the lack of medical equipment and safeguards contributes to the deaths.

Iran's Oil Industry Intensifies, But Ahwazis Are Marginalised

Iran has ramped up its crude oil exports to 2.1mn barrels per day (bpd) in its drive to become OPEC's second biggest oil producer, but indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in the country's main oil producing region continue to suffer extreme poverty.

Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh said he hoped that Iran - currently the third largest OPEC producer - will shortly surpass Iraq's production amid intensified foreign investor interest in the Ahwaz region's oilfields.

Oil export growth is exponential. In 2015, Iran exported around 500,000-600,000bpd and exports reached 1.7mn bpd in March.

However, there are renewed calls among local Majlis (parliament) members and the indigenous Arab population for the development of the oil industry to employ more local workers and redistribute oil revenues to invest in social projects for the poor.

Decline of Iranian oil

Sanctions had cut Iran's oil output by 1mn bpd to 2.7mn bpd, while exports were hampered by restrictions on oil cargo, hull insurance, foreign exchange problems and the refusal of banks to issue lines of credit. The lifting of sanctions in January enabled the regime to trade oil freely on the global markets.

However, the oil industry is in a state of disrepair and productivity of oilfields has declined. The Iranian government has found it difficult to acquire technology, such as gas reinjection, to raise oil flows while the pipeline infrastructure is in a state of decay with frequent breaches.

New contract model

The Ministry of Petroleum is now waiting approval for the new Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) that works around constitutional restrictions that ban foreigners from owning oil assets, but boosts investment. The government hopes that the offers will spur interest. The National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) expects to sign USD25bn in IPC deals with foreign oil companies over coming years.

Russia and China are in line to nab some IPCs, but they are competing with European majors such as BP, Shell, Total and OMV. Russian and Chinese oil officials facilitated illicit oil exports while Iran was under sanctions.

Under the Ahmadinejad administration, the deals were facilitated by UAE-based Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani. However, he failed to transfer much of the oil revenue traded with Russia and China to the Iranian government. In 2013, he was arrested for embezzlement of EUR2.7bn and in March was sentenced to death for "spreading corruption on the earth" - a charge usually used against political opponents of the regime.

Ahwaz: Key to Iran's revival

The Ministry is initially targeting the development of oil and gas fields that straddle the Ahwaz-Iran border, namely Yaran, Azadegan and Yadavaran. Crude production from these fields has risen from 70,000bpd in 2013 to 215,000bpd and there are hopes to reach 300,000bpd by the end of the current Iranian year in March 2017. By the end of the decade, the Ministry hopes to target 700,000bpd.

China is currently the main investor in Ahwaz's oil fields. Production from phase 1 of the Yadavaran field (85,000bpd) has started, while a second phase expansion adding 95,000bpd is being discussed with China's Sinopec. Production was launched from China's CNPC-led North Azadegan field in April. Output is currently at 75,000bpd.

The National Iranian Drilling Company has this month announced the completion of drilling of 20 new wells in the South Azadegan field out of a total 40 planned for the year.

Paranoia over foreign interests

Approval of the IPC model had been expected in December 2015 but has been continually delayed due to internal paranoia. Domestic disagreement centres on fears that the IPC could emulate the 1901 D'Arcy Agreement that led to significant British involvement in Ahwaz's oilfields, facilitated by the local Arab ruler Sheikh Khazaal, the sheikh of Mohammerah (Khorramshahr).

The D'Arcy Agreement formed the basis for the development of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which became BP, and saw much of the wealth taken from Ahwaz for British profits at the expense of Iran.

After seizing power, the Khomeini regime appropriated all oil assets, although many Ahwazis believed that revenues continued to be squandered by an elite - in this case, a domestic cabal instead of foreign companies.

Ahwaz poverty: a consequence of oil production?

Meanwhile, the Arabs inhabitants of the Ahwaz region are suffering levels of poverty comparable to sub-Saharan Africa - a stark contrast to Arabs in nearby Gulf states who enjoy Western standards of living. This is in spite of the region's oil fields containing more oil reserves than Kuwait and the UAE combined.

Growth in the oil industry that marginalises Ahwazi Arabs and destroys the natural environment will create tensions between the indigenous population and foreign investors. Many compare the situation to Nigeria's Delta region, where indigenous populations have suffered deprivation and environmental destruction due to Western oil extraction. This has led to direct conflict between indigenous people and Western oil corporations, notably Shell and Chevron.

Masoud Kanani: The Courage Of Ahwazi Arab Non-Violent Resistance

Ahwazi campaigner Masoud Kanani is running a courageous one-man protest outside the Iranian Drilling Company to demand an end to poverty and environmental destruction.

The 40 year old is camping in a tent in blistering temperatures that regularly exceed 50 Celsius to highlight the destruction of date palm groves. Date palms have been cultivated in the Ahwaz region for thousands of years, but are now being felled or are suffering as a result of environmental problems caused by the oil industry.

Mr Kanani's simple non-violent campaign began with the visit of the oil minister of Ahwaz City this week. He has written his own placards which state "Dear Minister: Listen to our call for bread and breath" and "stop chopping down palm trees".

He claims to represent all those in the region who are unemployed and ill in his campaign to highlight the destruction of the natural environment and lack of job opportunities for the local population.

Members of his family have been taken sick with respiratory problems as a result of oil drilling near his home, prompting him to take action.

Non-violent resistance is the method favoured by many Ahwazis to raise their voice when all political means have failed. Some have resorted to dramatic methods, such as self-immolation, in acts of desperation. However, Mr Kanani's tactic emulates the methods of the Occupy movement in the West and he rejects suicide or use of violence.

Arab Protests Erupt Over Land Confiscation For Sugar Production

Ahwazi Arab farmers this week staged protests against land confiscation for Iran's cash crop sugar plantations.

Holding up copies of their land titles, scores of farmers in the villages of Al-Shemria and Tel-Aswad, which lie between Ahwaz City and Muhammerah (Khorramshahr), stated their opposition to the compulsory acquisition orders by the Iranian government.

The sugar industry has already come under attack from local members of parliament for contributing to the region's growing ecological disaster as well as racial discrimination in employment practices.

Waste water from sugar processing factories is polluting underground aquifers, claimed Abdullah Sameri, Mohammerah (Khorramshahr) representative in the Iranian parliament, at a press conference in July.

Sameri accused the Mirza Kochak Khan sugar factory of failing to abide by its responsibilities and meeting environmental regulations. He claimed that waste water was causing salination of nearby agricultural land and underground water reservoirs, which affected the quality of drinking water and prevented farm productivity. The Mira Kochak Khan sugar company is one of seven sugar agribusiness enterprise development projects and manages 14,000 hectares of land southwest of the Ahwaz-Mohammerah highway.

Iran's sugar growing regions
Ahwazi Arabs also fear that the loss of their land to the sugar industry will lead to poor compensation, while failing to improve employment prospects.

In June 2016, the member of parliament for Falahieh (Shadegan) member Majid Naseri attacked systematic discrimination in sugarcane projects, accusing employers of moving in non-indigenous populations from other provinces.

The plantations were the subject of strong condemnation from UN Special Rapporteur for Adequate Housing, Miloon Kothari, who said following a visit to the region in 2005: "When you visit Ahwaz in terms of the very adverse conditions in the neighbourhoods, there are thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections. I think that the kind of question that arises is, why is that? Why have certain groups not benefited?

"You notice that we drove outside the city about 20 km and we visited the areas where large development projects are coming up - sugar cane plantations and other projects along the river - and the estimate we received is that between 200,000 - 250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages because of these projects...

"There is an attempt being made by the government to build new towns and bring in new people from other provinces. For example, there is the new town of Shirinshah where most of the people being brought into that town are people from Yazd province [in central Iran] - non-Arabs. So the question then is that these people who are being brought there, perhaps for work and lots of incentives, why is it that those jobs are not going to the locals?"

 As a result of his criticism of ethnic discrimination in Iran, the Iranian regime has refused to allow any visits from any UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on Iran Ahmed Shaheed, who has been banned from the country since he was appointed in 2010.