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...

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.