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...

Ahwazi Activist Makes Television Appeal For Her "Disappeared" Father

The case of the disappeared Ahwazi Arab citizen Yousef Silavi was highlighted in a recent episode of Nuqtat Nizam (Point of Order) on Al-Arabiya TV.
Silavi's daughter Mona discussed the case of her father's disappearance in 2009 in the political show hosted by journalist Hasan Mo'avez.
Mona Silavi, the spokeswoman for Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz (DSPA), spoke of her activities as a Ahwazi living in Damascus since 2005.
She stated that her father was not politically active or an opponent of the Iranian government, but was being victimised for the political activities of his family outside Iran. The Silavi family is one of the most prominent Arab families involved in establishing Ahwazi Arab cultural centres and played a significant role in preserving and supporting Ahwazi Arab culture, especially during the early years of revolution in 1980's.
Mona Silavi's late uncle Mansour Silawi Ahwazi was one of the founders of DSPA, an Ahwazi federalist opposition party, and this fact was enough for the whole family to be persecuted and placed under surveillance.
Silavi told Mo'avez that her father's disappearance was related to her opposition activities following the April 2005 Ahwazi uprising and her subsequent activism while abroad in Syria, which hosted a significant exiled Ahwazi Arab community. She said: "I was even asked to cooperate with the Iranian government against the Ahwazis in Damascus but I refused as I was a human right activist and was helping Ahwazi refugees who fled Ahwaz due to persecution and injustice."

She said the authorities deny all knowledge of his disappearance, but the evidence suggests he is in custody.
On 8 November 2009, a complaint was filed in the Branch 6 of Ahwaz police. The police claimed to have listed Yousef Silavi as a missing person, but after six months had conducted no investigation. Inquiries were also made at hospitals and morgues and letters were sent to a spiritual leader in Tehran and to the Ahwaz representative in Parliament, but to no avail.
In March 2014, the younger daughter of Yousef Silavi met with Dr. Ahmad Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, and his team in Rome who referred the matter to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance.
By November 2014 his case was reported to a UN working group. One of the Working Group's primary tasks is to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of their family members who are reportedly disappeared. Yousef Silavi's case was considered and forwarded to the Iranian government on 16 October 2014. In transmitting this case, the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group expressed his hope that appropriate investigations would be carried out in order to clarify his fate and whereabouts and to protect his rights.
On 28 April 2016, Amnesty International and Justice for Iran issued an urgent action concerning his whereabouts. However, the Iranian government has ignored all appeals and has refused to comment.

Executions in Iran: 250 Killed in Seven Months

The Iranian authorities have executed 250 people over the past seven months with an average of more than one execution a day, according to Iranian human rights organisations.

The number of executions is down from 700 judicial executions in the first seven months of 2015. The total number of executions in 2015 was at least 966, the highest number for 25 years.

While the number of executions appears to have diminished since the end of international sanctions in January 2016, recent weeks have seen a significant increase. Around 40 people were executed in the first two weeks of the month of Ramadan, from late June to early July.

Most executions are related to drug and murder charges. Those charged with drug offences are often from poor backgrounds. Iran's Anti-Narcotics Law provides mandatory death sentences for a range of drug-related offences, including trafficking more than 5kg of narcotics derived from opium or more than 30g of heroin, morphine, cocaine or their chemical derivatives. According to Amnesty International, this is in direct breach of international law, which restricts the use of the death penalty to only the “most serious crimes” – those involving intentional killing. Drug-related offences do not meet this threshold.

Among those executed were political prisoners, women and juveniles. Many executions are staged in public squares where children witness hangings.

Ahwazi Federalists Seek Political Agreement With Opposition Mujahideen

Ahwazi Arab representatives were among the thousands attending the annual convention of the Iranian opposition Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), which was addressed by Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal among many other international dignitaries.

Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO) delegate Mona Silawi told Al-Arabiya TV: "The conference said that Iran used deception to secure sanctions relief. Opponents of the Iranian government acknowledged that there was no room for reform and revolution is essential to ensure justice for Iranians and peace in the Middle East.

"We discussed the different alternatives that should be considered and that will bring safety and security not only for Iran but for the whole region. This conference was the first time that non-Persian ethnic groups were addressed as an important factor for change and were acknowledged for their role in this struggle.

"For the past 20 years, AHRO has catalogued how the Iranian government systematically ignores the human rights and human right institutions, but at the same time there are dozens of 'human right organizations and NGOs' that are funded by Islamic Republic of Iran which present report on human rights situation of civilians in Arabic countries. Their lobbyists dismiss our reports and accurate records of human rights violation which we receive and gather in an objective matter from inside Ahwaz and from Ahwazi citizens."

Ahwazi rights advocate Dr Karim Abdian, who is a leading member of the non-Persian opposition coalition Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran, told Ahwaz News: "This year was uniquely different, qualitatively and qualitatively. There were over 40 parliamentarian delegations, many more representative of governments, liberation movements and a huge media contingent of media."

While Dr Abdian criticised the MEK and other opposition groups for ignoring the ethnic issue, he claimed there had been a fundamental reorientation of its position. He said: "The MEK’s 'Free Iran' initiative should be commended for prioritising regime change and could constitute a common platform.

"The implementation of this programme needs to be closely studied. For this to happen, the two categories of opposition - the Persian-led opposition groups such as MEK and non-Persian groups such as the NCRI - need to come to some understanding and form a unified Iranian opposition that can seek regional and international support. The MEK is certainly in a position to lead the Persian opposition initially and enter into negotiations with CNFI for a unity platform."

Dr Abdian outlined the goals of CNFI, which would respect Iran's territorial integrity but provide significant autonomy to non-Persian regions. 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 centralised control by a Persian-dominated elite.

He added: "CNFI 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, he cautioned non-Persian separatist groups to be realistic in their demands. He said: "A maximalist demand can postpone this coalition and prolong this regime. I think the gap can be overcome with negotiations."

Tidal Wave of Unemployment: Sanctions Relief Changes Nothing

Protests against unemployment erupted in Mahshahr, Khuzestan last week as indigenous Ahwazi Arabs hit out against discrimination and high levels of inward migration from other provinces.

A group of Ahwazi Arabs gathered in front of the Governor's office to demand jobs in Mahshahr's oil and petrochemicals facilities, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency. They claimed that petrochemicals companies were deliberately privileging non-locals by giving them preferential terms, including housing, to settle in the region and take local jobs.

While statistics show that 6.5 million people are unemployed in Iran, the true level of unemployment and under-employment is far higher. Khuzestan province has among the highest rates of unemployment, even though its industries generate a large proportion of the country's national income.

Unemployment rates in Iran: non-Persian regions worst affected due to discrimination

Bou Ali Sina Disaster: Ahwazi Religious Leader Calls For More Local Workers

Ahwaz's Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Mohsen Haidari has attacked discrimination in employment at the Bou Ali Sina Petrochemicals complex at Bandar Mahshahr which was this month the scene of a major industrial accident.

Haidari, who occupies the most senior religious position in Ahwaz, claimed in his khotba (speech) that 22 managers at the complex were non-locals (non-Arabs) and only four are of local origin (Arabs).

He claimed that the fire that destroyed a paraxylene tower was due to the failure to employ local staff, implying they would be less concerned with the welfare of people in the communities living near the plant.

There is also a lack of indigenous oil experts in the local oil industry with 70% recruited from other areas of Iran, he added.

An ethnic Arab, Haidari has pitted himself against the Iranian government's economic policies by repeatedly attacking discrimination against Arabs in his Friday sermons. In a wide-ranging critique delivered in a sermon in May, he highlighted the impact of land confiscation for sugar cane plantations, the diversion of the River Karoon and rising unemployment caused by discrimination.

Ahwaz Temperatures Exceed 60 Celsius; Dust Storms and Industrial Accidents Surge

With temperatures in Ahwaz topping 63 Celsius last week, concerns are rising over the impact of river diversion on the local environment and the effects on human health.

Damming the Karoun and Karkeh rivers in recent years has contributed to the destruction of the region's wetlands, leading to worsening dust storms and rising temperatures.

Dr Naser Karami, climatologist and associate professor at Norway's Bergen University, blamed the climate problems on the diversion of the Karoun River. He told a recent conference that while global temperatures will rise by an average of 2 Celsius by 2070, in the Ahwaz region the temperature rise could reach 5 Celsius.

Maashour (Mahshahr) was the hottest city in the world last year, reaching 67 Celsius. Last week saw a major explosion of a paraxylene storage facility at the Mahshahr Petrochemicals Complex, which may have been caused by high temperatures. The damage caused by the blaze was estimated at over USD1bn and it will take months before the unit is rebuilt.

Climate change and the dessication of Ahwaz's marshes is causing huge dust storms and worsening the problem of pollution. The Ahwaz population suffers from respiratory problems and high cancer rates due to air and water pollution, earning Ahwaz City the ignominious position as the world's most polluted city, according to WHO.

However, this month the Iranian budget cut the budget to deal with dust storms. The decision was heavily criticised by parliamentary agricultural committee member Abbas Papizadeh, who warned that the dust storms did not just affect Ahwaz but were a national problem as they reached as far as Tehran. He accused the Department of the Environment of failing to pay the wages of workers involved in environmental control.

Largest Number of Prisoners in Khuzestan Province

Official figures show that Khuzestan, where much of Iran's Arab population resides, is the province with Iran's highest number of prisoners.

According to the provincial head of the high court, Farhad Afshar Nia, there are 13,000 prisoners in the province's prisons, representing 6 per cent of the country's total prison population of 213,000. Khuzestan represents around 5 per cent of the country's population.

Afshar Nia confirmed reports by human rights organisations that the province's prisons are over-crowded and called for many prisoners to be released.

He highlighted that thousands of convictions relate to dowry and financial convictions and called for their prison sentences to be suspended. Many of those in debt arrears face punitive fines beyond their ability to pay, leading to imprisonment and the loss of income.

Human rights organisations believe that the true number of prisoners is far higher with many held without charge in secret detention facilities, run by the Ministry of Intelligence and outside the prison service. Political prisoners often disappear for months at a time while they are tortured to extract confessions. When convicted of political crimes, prisoners face the worst prison conditions and often contract diseases while being denied medical attention. Human rights groups have called for political prisoners to be released under amnesty and the closure of secret detention facilities.

Gotvand Dam Rubs Salt Into Ahwaz's Wounds

The livelihoods of thousands of Ahwazi farmers are being threatened by the Gotvand dam.

The Gotvand dam is the biggest dam on the Karoun river and was commissioned during the Ahmadinejad administration. It was built near the Gachsaran salt mine, against the advice of experts, which has increased water salinity and severely affected water quality for agricultural use and drinking, according to Mohammad Ali Bani Hashemi, director of the Water Institute of Tehran, in a recent interview.

The dam was opened in 2012, providing electricity and with water siphoned off for sugarcane plantations. According to officials, by 2013 around 7mn tonnes of salt had built up in the bottomr of the dam's reservoir. Frequent preliminary studies since the 1970s and as late as 2004 showed that the dam would cause environmental devastation, but these were ignored and the dam was authorised.

Ahwazis contend that the decision was made because none of the cabinet of the Ahmadinejad and Rouhani administrations came from the region, in spite of its economic importance due to water, farming and oil resources as well as a sizeable heavy industry base and electricity generation. Instead, ministries are dominated by powerful figures from Isfahan, Kerman and Yazd, provinces that have profited from the exploitation of the Ahwaz region.

Marshlands Near Ahwaz Threatened by Oil Industry

Ahwaz's ancient marshlands are likely to be wiped out by oil well drilling, according to the administrator of Department of Environment in Howayzah, Moussa Modheji.

The unique ecosystem of the Hor al-Azim marsh, west of Ahwaz City, is threatened by severe pollution from waste water from drilling companies operating there, according to a report by the Hamshahri newspaper, quoting Mr Modheji.

The destruction of the Hor al-Azim marsh is one of the main causes of the dust storms that plague Ahwaz and have earned it notoriety as the world's most polluted city, according to WHO.

The deputy director of the Iranian environment agency Mr Motesadi noted recently that the government was engaged in palm planting and marsh restoration to deal with the storms. However, government projects have failed to reverse the destruction of the marshes and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned that the marshlands of southwest of Iran are facing a situation similar to the environmental catastrophes that have affected the Aral Sea and the Amazon. 

Following the fall of Saddam's regime, Iraq began rehabilitating its marshlands on the opposite side of the Shatt al-Arab waterway. In October 2007, the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands announced that the Hawizeh marsh was designated a Wetland of International Significance, and Iraq’s first Ramsar site. However, Iran began diverting water from the Karkheh River and has constructed of a militarized border dyke choking off water flows into Iraq. This has affected progress in marsh rehabilitation and contributed to the environmental crisis in Ahwaz.

Contributions from Saleh Hamid and Sheymah Silavi

Sugar Leaves Muhammerah with a Sour Taste

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

At a recent press conference, 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.

Despite investment in the sugar sector, Iran is suffering from a lack of sugar supply and poor distribution. According to Food Press, the lack of sugar in recent weeks has seen prices reach IRR25,000 (USD0.80) per kg, which is around twice the average price on the global commodity markets. This has forced Iran to rely on imported sugar.

Consequently, the Iranian sugar industry is failing to make the country self-sufficient in sugar, yet has caused severe environmental damage. As well as suffering environmental problems, local sugar producers are failing to employ local Arab workers due to discrimination.

Written by Shima Silavi

Drought Destroys Ancient Date Palm Plantations

One million of palm trees are facing the destruction as a result of drought in Falahiya (Shadegan) in South Ahwaz.

According to the head of Khuzestan MPs in the Iranian Islamic Parliament and Shadegan representative, one million palm trees in the area are in danger of devastation due to drought and lack of irrigation. The 
Shadegan region includes three cities, three districts and 230 villages in the south of Khuzestan.

Borwal News Agency reported that Hojat Al-Islam Naseri Nejad, representative of Shadegan in the parliament, stated: "Unfortunately drainage of northern lands toward Karoon River led the groves of palm trees facing the danger of destroying."

He remarked that Falahiya is suffering from water scarcity for drinking water and agriculture, and some rural regions have not received sufficient drinking water for around two and three months.
MP of Shadegan demanded that an auxiliary channel is built to transfer water from Karoon River to Jarrahi River. In addition to the three million palm trees facing devastation, agriculture, ranching, aquaculture and fishery are valuable natural resources for the city that need immediate attention.

Naseri Nejad pointed out, "The wetlands of Shadegan are pivotal for the development, requiring investment for its effects on health, employment, environment and tourism."

Naseri Nejad, a member of the Energy Committee of the Parliament, mentioned that oil companies' activities in the city and said that the companies must hire native workers to reduce the rate of unemployment among the people of Shadegan. He revealed that the rate of unemployment had reached 42 percent. He also mentioned how people's health is affected by the inappropriate wastewater system.