Country Information Demonstrating the Persecution of Arab Iranian Asylum Seekers

RECENT COUNTRY INFORMATION (2005)

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 24, 20 June 2005
IRREDENTISTS CLAIM RESPONSIBILITY FOR IRAN BOMBINGS.

Three Arab irredentist groups have taken credit for a series of 12 June bombings in Ahvaz, the capital of Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan Province, ISNA reported on 13 June. The groups are the Arab Martyrs of Khuzestan, the Arab People’s Democratic Front, and Afwaj al-Nahdah al-Musallahah Al-Ahwaz (The Armed Renaissance Group of Ahvaz), according to Deputy Governor Rahim Fazilatpur.

Mahmud Ahmad, coordinator of committees of the Democratic Front for the Ahvaz People, denied responsibility for the 12 June bombings, Al-Jazeera satellite TV reported on 12 June. He added, “Certainly the regime knows well that nobody supports it in Ahvaz. It has no supporters, neither in Ahvaz nor in any area where non-Persian ethnic groups live in Iran.”

The four explosions in Ahvaz occurred within 20 minutes of each other, news agencies reported. All the Ahvaz explosions targeted government facilities or officials. Interior Ministry official Mohammad Hussein Motahar said, “Two bombs were hidden in toilets within the building of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and at the Office of Construction and Civil Engineering. The third bomb exploded in front of the house of the governor of Khuzestan Province. All three of these explosions were in the city center of Ahvaz. Another bomb was hidden in the doorway of the house of a [state] radio and television official in Ahvaz. The bomb went off when the door was opened,” Radio Farda reported, citing state television.

State television reported that the bombings killed at least eight people and injured another 70. The Interior Ministry’s Motahar connected the bombings with the unrest that occurred in Khuzestan in mid-April (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 18 and 25 April 2005).

Minister of Intelligence and Security Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi announced on 13 June in Tehran that security forces have tracked down the individuals responsible for the previous day’s bombings, IRNA reported. He said there have been some arrests. He described the Ahvaz bombings as terrorist acts, and he said all of the “terrorists” are under control and that they cannot undermine the presidential election.

Also on 13 June, an anonymous judiciary spokesman said six people were arrested, state television reported. Supreme National Security Council official Ali Aqamohammadi said on 12 June that counterrevolutionaries are behind the bombings in Ahvaz, the Mehr News Agency reported. Referring to the explosion of a stun grenade in Qom a few days earlier, he said, “After the explosion in Qom a few days ago it became clear that several counterrevolutionary groups in Iraq had been dispatched to Iran from the region where the Americans and the British are deployed; some of these terrorists have been arrested.”

The Party of the Arab Al-Ahwazi Movement (aka Hizba al-Nahdah al-Arabi al-Ahwazi) has taken credit for the 12 June bombings in Ahvaz, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society website (ahwaz.org.uk) reported on 13 June. However, British Ahwazi Friendship Society spokesman Nasser Ban-Assad dismissed on 13 June the ability of a small organization to carry out such an attack, ahwaz.org.uk reported. Instead, Ban-Assad said, the Iranian military set up the blasts in order to justify a preelection crackdown and the suppression of Arabs. He dismissed the possibility that the United States or United Kingdom would assist any Arab irredentists militarily. He added that it is unlikely that the Mujahedin Khalq Organization, an Iranian opposition organization based in Iraq, is behind the attacks. Ban-Assad referred dismissively to claims of responsibility for similar attacks in the past made by the Ahvaz Arab Renaissance Party after similar incidents in Iran in the past.

Sabah al-Musawi, who heads the Ahvaz Arab Renaissance Party’s political bureau, said on 12 June that the bombings have nothing to do with the election, Al-Jazeera reported. Nevertheless, he called for an election boycott. Responding to the interviewer’s question about civilian deaths in the bombings, Musawi said, “These people came from outside Ahvaz. These are settlers…. They came to Ahvaz and they must bear the consequences. The regime must bear its responsibilities towards the people it brought as settlers to Ahvaz.” (Bill Samii) [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/ ]

 

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 23, 14 June 2005
BOMBINGS IN IRAN MAY BE CONNECTED WITH MINORITIES AND ELECTION.

On the morning of 12 June, four explosions occurred within 20 minutes of each other in Ahvaz, the capital of Iran’s southwestern Khuzestan Province. This is only the most recent violent incident in a region inhabited by ethnic Arabs who are angry about discrimination (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 18 and 25 April 2005).

Iran’s population of some 69 million people is ethnically and religiously diverse, and the country’s minorities have many legitimate grievances. Politicians have glossed over these issues in the past, but in a new development, candidates for the 17 June presidential election are appealing to minorities. This could reflect a quest for votes, but it could also reflect fallout from democratic developments in Iraq.

All the 12 June explosions in Ahvaz targeted government facilities or officials. Interior Ministry official Mohammad Hussein Motahar said, “Two bombs were hidden in toilets within the building of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and at the Office of Construction and Civil Engineering. The third bomb exploded in front of the house of the governor of Khuzestan Province. All three of these explosions were in the city center of Ahvaz. Another bomb was hidden in the doorway of the house of a [state] radio and television official in Ahvaz. The bomb went off when the door was opened,” Radio Farda reported, citing state television.

State television reported that the bombings killed at least eight people and injured another 70. No one has taken responsibility for the 12 June bombings. The Interior Ministry’s Motahar connected the bombings with the unrest that occurred in Khuzestan in mid-April.

In what might be a related incident, two bombs exploded in Tehran near the Imam Hussein Square on the evening of 12 June. At least two people died in this incident, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

A History Of Ethnic Grievances

Incidents of ethnic unrest in the outlying provinces are not without precedent. Kurds and Azeris in the northwest, Turkmens in the north, and Baluchis in the southeast, as well as the Arabs in the southwest, occasionally demonstrate over perceived injustices. Their complaints cover economic issues — insufficient jobs and underdevelopment that lead to migration to urban centers, and discrimination in getting government jobs. The minorities also note inadequate educational facilities for young people, few publications in their languages, and low-quality local programming by state radio and television. They allude to historical grievances and refer to poor governmental representation. The state response to these incidents varies depending on their scale. Sometimes it resorts to repression — some 360 people were arrested after the April unrest in Ahvaz. In other cases, security forces contain the demonstrations and let people vent their frustration. And occasionally, the central government will dispatch officials to the region to show interest and attempt to mollify the locals.

But until this most recent race, ethnicity has not been a major factor in presidential campaigns. In fact, Guardians Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said in Friday prayer sermons in February and again in March that candidates should not promote ethnic issues (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 4 April 2004).

The candidates, particularly the reformist Mustafa Moin, have disregarded this advice. As he toured Ilam, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, and Kurdistan provinces, Moin said that the Kurdish people deserve to be treated better by the central government, “Eqbal” reported on 8 June. While in Sanandaj he said, “All religious and ethnic groups are entitled to participate at the level of vice president, minister, governor-general, or ambassador.” Moin pledged that his cabinet will include individuals from all the provinces and all the ethnic minorities, including Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmens, “Iran” reported on 7 June. He said minorities’ rights have been ignored so far and he will repair this situation.

The Iraq Effect?

Candidates’ attention to ethnic and religious minorities could reflect the traditional quest for votes in what increasingly appears to be a hard-fought race for the presidency. The candidates may be coming to recognize, furthermore, the fallout from the traditional emphasis on the Persian nature of the state and efforts to eliminate minority interests by emphasizing linguistic, religious, and cultural unity. Minorities are more likely to identify with the state if the state pays attention to them.

Postwar developments in Iraq are probably having a more profound effect. The government in Baghdad includes members of all Iraqi ethnic and religious minorities — Arabs, Kurds, Turkomans, Assyrians, and others. A Kurd is president, his deputies are Sunni and Shi’a Arabs, and a Shi’ite Arab is prime minister. Kurds in the north enjoy a degree of autonomy unimaginable in Iran. The minorities in Iran may not want to appear to support the U.S. role in overthrowing former President Saddam Hussein and bringing democracy to Iraq, but they are certainly aware that minorities to their west have a greater role in government.

Some observers have expressed concern that if the Shi’a majority in Iraq enjoys political power commensurate with its share of the population (about 65 percent), then Iraq could become another Shi’a theocracy. In fact, the political current appears to be flowing in the other direction, and as the 12 June bombings show, the Iranian government ignores this at its own risk. (Bill Samii) [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/]

 

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 21, 30 May 2005
ARAB-IRANIAN SEEKS KHATAMI’S HELP. Jasem Shahidzadeh, who represented Ahvaz in the sixth parliament (2000-2004), has written a letter to President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami in which he calls for attention to the problems faced by ethnic Arabs in the southwest of the country, according to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society website (http://www.ahwaz.org.uk). Shahidzadeh wrote that Arabs’ land is being bought at very low prices or even confiscated, and he added that the government has bulldozed predominantly Arab neighborhoods in Khuzestan Province. He complained that the Iranian government does not allow Arab political parties to compete in elections and bans Arabic-language newspapers and magazines. Ethnic Arabs, therefore, have no way to express themselves nonviolently, he wrote.

Turning to the aftermath of the mid-April unrest in Ahvaz, Shahidzadeh asked the president to secure the release of prisoners. The New York-based Human Rights Watch urged Iran, in a statement on 11 May, to release an Iranian journalist apparently detained for criticizing the government’s fierce response to unrest last month in the southwestern Khuzestan Province.

Yusef Azizi Bani-Taraf was arrested in Tehran on 25 April, after denouncing at a seminar the excessive use of force by security forces and consequent deaths of protestors in Ahvaz. Local residents claim government agents killed at least 50 protestors and arrested as many as 1,200 people, Human Rights Watch reported. Iran has said it detained over 300, and released most of those, while Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani said on 19 April that less than five had died, hrw.org stated.

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern for the condition of protestors detained on 16 and 17 April, the days following the unrest, and the “possible use of torture” on them. One, Sadiq Shoiki, was reportedly tortured so badly that he could no longer “talk, walk, or stand,” Human Rights Watch stated, citing a U.S.-based Iranian rights group and Shoiki’s family, who visited him in prison in Abadan, a town near Ahvaz. Human Rights Watch urged Iran to let independent journalists visit the area. (Bill Samii, Vahid Sepehri)

[http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/]

 

Human Rights Watch

Iran: Reports of Ethnic Violence Suppressed

Journalist Arrested; Others Barred From Visiting Khuzistan Province

(New York, May 11, 2005) The Iranian government should immediately release Yusuf Azizi Banitaraf, an Iranian journalist of Arab descent, and allow independent journalists and human rights monitors to report on a government crackdown on protests in the southern province of Khuzistan, Human Rights Watch said today.

Plainclothes agents arrested Banitaraf, who has written 20 books on ethnic minorities in Iran, in Tehran on April 25 during a press conference held by the nongovernmental Center for the Defense of Human Rights. During this event, Banitaraf publicly criticized the government’s violent suppression of protests by ethnic Iranian-Arabs in Khuzistan’s capital, Ahwaz. He spoke out about the killing of local residents during the protests, which began on April 15. According to government critics, at least 50 people were killed by the government’s security forces.

“The Iranian authorities have again displayed their readiness to silence those who denounce human rights violations,” said Joe Stork Washington director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division. “We have serious allegations the government used excessive lethal force, arbitrary arrests and torture in Khuzistan.”
Protests erupted in Ahwaz on April 15 following publication of a letter allegedly written by Mohammad Ali Abtahi, an advisor to President Mohammad Khatami, which referred to government plans to implement policies that would reduce the proportion of ethnic Arabs in Khuzistan’s population. The province is home to nearly two million Iranians of Arab descent. After security forces tried to disperse the demonstrators and opened fire on them, clashes between protestors and security forces turned violent. The violence spread to other cities and towns in Khuzistan. The next day, Abtahi and other government officials denied the existence of the letter and called it fake.

On April 18, the authorities closed the Tehran bureau of Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network, after its correspondent reported from Ahwaz on the clashes. The government has since banned foreign and Iranian journalists from traveling to Khuzistan.

Following a visit to the region on April 19, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani told the Iranian Students News Agency that the security forces had detained 310 people. He put the number of deaths at “three or four.” However, Ahwaz residents contacted by phone told Human Rights Watch that the government forces killed at least 50 local residents during these clashes. The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization, based in the United States, provided Human Rights Watch with a list of the names of those it claims were killed in the protests, including two boys aged eight and 12.

Residents of Ahwaz told Human Rights Watch that the government has been releasing only two bodies a week to families, even after collecting fees from them. They said that the government initially demanded a payment of 50,000,000 Iranian rials (US $6250) for each body, allegedly to compensate for damages to public buildings sustained during the protests. This amount was later reduced to 15,000,000 rials (US$1875).

Local residents said the government arrested as many as 1200 people on April 16-17, many of them Iranian-Arab professionals, including Kazem Asad, Sadegh Sewikiare, Ghasem Nasserian, Kazem Mojadam, Abdolghader Hamadi, Jaber Naam Yahuri, Mojahed Baldi, Salem Beradea, Nabi Manabi, Reza Bani-Saeed and Abood Bani Saeed.

Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned about the condition of the detainees and possible use of torture.

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization told Human Rights Watch that Sadegh Shoiki, an engineer with the government owned South Fishing Enterprise (Shilat Jonoob), was detained on April 16 and severely tortured “to a point that he cannot talk, walk or stand.” The organization said that this information came from Shoiki’s family, who had visited him in Ahmadabad prison in Abadan.

[http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/05/10/iran10602.htm]

 

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 19, 9 May 2005
ALLEGED RINGLEADER OF SOUTHWESTERN UNREST IDENTIFIED. Minister of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Admiral Ali Shamkhani on 2 May criticized the alleged ringleader of recent unrest in southwestern Iran, state television reported. Shamkhani said a man known as “al-Ahwazi” and his family were members of the Rastakhiz Party under the monarchy. Shamkhani claimed this meant they were agents of SAVAK, the monarchy’s intelligence and security organization. During the Iran-Iraq War, al-Ahwazi was connected with Iraq’s Ba’athist regime, Shamkhani added. The minister dismissed al-Ahwazi’s importance and concluded, “To review the problems of Khuzestan, if we manage to abolish poverty, discrimination, humiliation, and provocation, we will not have any problems in Khuzestan. Khuzestan is the production factory for revolutionary soldiers.”

Parliamentarian Kazem Jalali on 3 May claimed that British Foreign Minister Jack Straw met with an ethnic Arab separatist, Mehr News Agency reported. Jalali said it is inappropriate for British officials to meet with groups that want to overthrow the Iranian government, since Tehran and London have diplomatic relations. Although Straw has denied that such a meeting took place, Jalali said, the legislature knows better. Such accusations should be seen within the context of Great Britain’s historical influence among the Arabs of southern Iran.

Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 3 May in Tehran that the Ministry of Intelligence and Security denies that domestic political groups were involved with the mid-April ethnic unrest in southwestern Khuzestan Province, IRNA reported. Some Iranian conservatives have blamed the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party.

Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi said on 5 May in Tehran that the individuals mainly responsible for the mid-April unrest in the southwestern city of Ahvaz are “Iranians and are mainly affiliated to terrorist groups,” Fars News Agency reported. Yunesi said the purported ringleader – identified previously as “al-Ahwazi” — is a secessionist and insists on calling the body of water between Iran and Saudi Arabia something other than the “Persian Gulf.” Yunesi said initial arrests have been made and more are forthcoming. “They are currently in one of the Western countries under the protection of the spying services, and with their help they provoke the people to cause disturbances and encourage separatism,” Yunesi said.

According to ISNA, Yunesi also said the culprits’ actions reveal their affiliation with the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO). He did not explain this assertion further. The MKO was sponsored by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who also sponsored anti-Iranian Arab and Baluchi secessionist organizations. (Bill Samii) [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/]

 

URGENT ACTION

PUBLIC
AI Index: MDE 13/020/2005

06 May 2005

UA 109/05 Arbitrary arrest/fear of torture and ill-treatment

IRAN Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf (m), writer and journalist
Writer and journalist Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf was arrested on 25 April at 2pm, after he returned from a press conference where he spoke in support of anti-government protestors. Seven or eight members of the security forces in plain clothes came to his home and took him away; they told his wife they had an arrest warrant, but refused to present it. Amnesty International fears he may be tortured to force him to confess.

The officers who detained him reportedly seized his papers, computer and telephone address book, and ransacked the house, in the city of Ahvaz, near the border with Iraq. His wife has reportedly received anonymous telephone threats warning her not to talk to the media.

When he was arrested Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf had just returned to his home from a press conference at the Human Rights Centre in the capital, Tehran, attended by lawyer and human rights defender Shirin Ebadi, who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in defence of human rights in Iran. Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf condemned the security forces’ violent suppression of anti-government demonstrations in the province of Khuzestan.

According to a 1 May report in the daily newspaper Eqbal, Yousuf Bani Toruf was taken to a prison in Ahvaz, and his wife said that he had been charged with “acting against the national security and provoking people.” He is now believed to be held at Evin prison, in Tehran.

Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf apparently managed to telephone his wife on 3 May, and told her that he is scheduled to meet his lawyer, Soleh Nikbakht, on 7 May. Amnesty International is concerned that the authorities may not allow the meeting to go ahead, or may not allow private, confidential discussion.

Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf is a member of the Writers’ Association (Kanoun-e
Nevisandigan). He has written books both in Persian and Arabic and had articles published in the press. For 12 years he worked as a journalist for the Iranian daily paper Hamshahri.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

His arrest comes after unrest which reportedly began on 15 April in the Shalang Abad (also known as Da’ira) area of central Ahvaz. Around 1,000 demonstrators reportedly assembled to protest at the contents of a letter, reports of which had begun to circulate on 9 April, allegedly written in 1999 by an advisor in the office of President Khatami. The letter sets out policies for the reduction of the Arab population of the province of Khuzestan: these include resettling Arabs in other regions of Iran, resettling non-Arabs in the province, and replacing Arabic place names with Persian ones. Government sources, including the letter’s supposed author, have strongly denied that it is genuine. The text, with an English translation, can be found at http://www.ahwaz.org.uk/images/ahwaz-khuzestan.pdf; the supposed author’s denial that he wrote the letter, along with an explanation of the contents, can
be found (in Persian) at http://www.webneveshteha.com/. The security forces appear to have used excessive force in stopping the demonstration. The government has reportedly begun a limited enquiry into the unrest, as has the parliament, but these do not appear to be sufficiently wide-ranging or impartial. At the 25 April press conference Yousuf Azizi Bani Toruf defended the protesters and condemned the heavy-handed approach of the security forces.

[http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE130202005?open&of=ENG-IRN]

 

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 18, 3 May 2005
ALLEGED RINGLEADERS OF ETHNIC UNREST ARRESTED.

Ahvaz prosecutor Iraj Amirkhani said on 24 April that the five people mainly responsible for the 15-18 April unrest in that city have been arrested, Fars News Agency reported. All have criminal records, he said. Of the 330 people arrested in connection with the unrest, 155 have been released.

Khuzestan Province judiciary official Mohsen Purabdullah said the same day that the five ringleaders have confessed, ILNA reported. The Ahwaz Human Rights Organization reported on 24 April that 1,700 people were arrested the week before, and more than 130 were killed and 806 were injured
(http://www.ahwaz.org.uk/2005/04/ahwaz-intifada-intensifies.html).
The organization claimed that Arab demonstrations and state violence continue, that a local natural-gas plant is on fire, and that personnel from Lebanese Hizballah are participating in the repression. Turning to the 22 April solidarity parade in Ahvaz, the organization said people were bussed in from predominantly Persian areas and given Arab clothing to wear.

In the midst of conflicting reports about the restoration of calm in Ahvaz, Iranian authorities arrested Iranian-Arab activist and journalist Yusef Azizi Bani-Taraf at his home in Tehran on 25 April, international news agencies reported. His wife, Salimeh Fotuhi, said, “These agents appeared at our house at about 2 p.m., and after they ransacked the entire apartment, they took away my husband and some boxes filled with documents and manuscripts that they found in his office,” Adnkronos International reported. “The agents said that the arrest warrant was in relation to recent incidents that had taken place in the south of the country.”

On 26 April, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called for Bani-Taraf’s immediate release. “We strongly deplore the arrest of [Bani-Taraf], who was simply expressing his personal opinion in articles and in interviews given to other newspapers,” it said. RSF said Bani-Taraf is being held at an unknown location, but it assumes he is at Evin Prison with other journalists.

On 1 May the English-language “Iran News” reported that Bani-Taraf was transferred to Ahvaz, citing the “Eqbal” daily. His wife said Bani-Taraf is charged with “acting against the national security and provoking people.” (Bill Samii) [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/]

 

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 17, 25 April 2005

 

FALLOUT FROM AHVAZ UNREST COULD LEAD TO TELEVISED CONFESSIONS.

The official Iranian reaction to the 15-18 April unrest in the city of Ahvaz in southwestern Khuzestan Province is following a pattern seen previously in the government’s reaction to July 1999 student riots and its reaction to October 2000 violence in Sistan va Baluchistan (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 12, 19, and 26 July 1999, 23 October, and 6 November 2000). In these and other cases, Tehran has resorted to mass arrests, overwhelming force, blaming foreigners, superficial concern from officials about local problems, and false displays of national unity. This pattern suggests a predictable outcome, which could include show trials and televised confessions, followed by imprisonments.

The riots in and around Ahvaz apparently were triggered by a letter, signed by former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, that called for the forcible relocation of the local Arab population, to be replaced with Persians. Abtahi described the letter as a forgery. Unconfirmed reports cited on 19 April by Radio Farda said 20 people were killed and hundreds injured. The authorities arrested more than 360 people, news agencies reported on 18 and 19 April (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 18 April 2005).

The first official step called for repression and scapegoating. On 18 April, Amnesty International identified seven men who had been arrested and said at least 130 others were detained in the Ahvaz region from 15-18 April. Amnesty International went on to cite “unconfirmed reports” that 29 people were killed and that the authorities have cut off water, power, and telephones in parts of Ahvaz. Amnesty International also claimed that there had been extrajudicial killings.

Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi said at a gathering of district governors in Tehran on 18 April that unspecified enemies and domestic opponents are using many methods, in vain, to undermine the Iranian state, “Aftab-i Yazd” reported on 19 April. He accused “some people” of turning ethnic dissatisfaction into “political demands, as has happened in Khuzestan.” Unnamed opponents are making false allegations about the government, according to Yunesi, and “presenting political problems as intractable.” Certain “people try and get arrested in order to become famous. The Intelligence Ministry… is aware of [their] motives…and will not be trapped,” he said. “We have separatist and suspect moves under observation, and can confidently say, do not worry. The enemy has no power to provoke a crisis in collaboration with domestic opponents.”

Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari said on 20 April that the Intelligence and Security Ministry has identified the parties mainly responsible for the previous week’s unrest, state television reported. He blamed counterrevolutionaries in other countries and irredentist websites. He said a “large number” of people were arrested. Anonymous sources told Mehr News Agency on 20 April that 10 people will be tried as the ringleaders, and 200 of 340 detainees had been released. Ahvaz prosecutor Iraj Amirkhani said on 21 April that most of the detainees were less than 20 years old, the
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported the same day.

The government temporarily banned broadcasts by the Arabic-language satellite-television station Al-Jazeera – popular among local Arabs — accusing it of fanning the unrest, AP reported on 18 April.

Thousands of people were arrested in July 1999, and a 17 July 1999 Intelligence Ministry statement blamed “grouplets” and “counter-revolutionaries.” After a bombing in Sistan va Baluchistan on 17 October 2000, local security officials blamed subservient elements of arrogance” and added that the purpose of the bomb was to distract locals from events in Israel and undermine regional unity. Then came the sudden display of interest in local concerns. Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, who is an ethnic Arab, was dispatched to the Ahvaz area to look into the reasons behind the
unrest. He met with local leaders, stressing that ethnic Arabs are an integral part of the country, but acknowledging that Khuzestan Province suffers from “underdevelopment and war destruction problems,” IRNA reported on 21 April.

This is what happened after the October 2000 explosions in Sistan va Baluchistan. President Khatami gave local representatives the cold shoulder during a 16 October meeting. The bombing occurred on 17 October; within four days, Khatami sent a delegation to investigate locals’ complaints about underdevelopment and drought damage. The next step was a show of strength and enforced unity by the regime.

This occurred on Friday, 22 April, when the regime organized a massive march in Ahvaz. The march is to commemorate Solidarity Week, ISNA reported. Although “Unity Week” is commemorated annually around this time of the year, it is supposed to mark unity between different schools of Islam, and furthermore, the parade is a new feature. It is probably not a coincidence that the visiting Shamkhani said locals have decided to organize a “grand solidarity gathering,” according to IRNA. On 22 March IRNA reported that “hundreds of thousands” participated in the solidarity march.

On 16 July 1999, massive pro-regime rallies were organized in Tehran, Tabriz, and other cities. It is only a matter of time before some of the detainees appear on television to confess that they are working on behalf of foreigners. Iranian state television broadcast the “confession” of student leader Manuchehr Mohammadi on 19 July 1999. He admitted being in touch with Iranian expatriates, and according to the announcer also admitted receiving financial aid from “spies and fugitive Zionist elements” in various U.S. cities.

Mohammadi, as well as other students arrested in July 1999, is still in prison. Young people from Ahvaz may join them soon. (Bill Samii)

[http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/]

 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Public Statement
AI Index: MDE 13/017/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 100
20 April 2005
Khuzestan, Iran: Amnesty International calls for an end to the cycle of violence in Khuzestan and an investigation into the root causes of recent unrest

Amnesty International is today urging Iran’s security forces to exercise restraint in its policing of demonstrations in the province of Khuzestan in order to bring a peaceful end to the disturbances which have left at least 31 dead, hundreds reportedly injured and many hundreds more in detention. In this respect, Amnesty International calls on the Iran’s security forces to abide to international standards of conduct of law enforcement and, in particular, to respect and protect the right to life, freedom from torture and ill-treatment and freedom from arbitrary arrest.

The cycle of violence in Khuzestan must end to avoid further loss of life, injury; arbitrary arrest and damage to private and state property.

In light of reports that water supplies have been cut in areas where unrest has taken place, Amnesty International urges the Khuzestan authorities to ensure that the cutting off of water supplies has not been used as a form of punishment for the unrest, or on discriminatory grounds. Access to clean water is recognised as a human right by the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

The unrest reportedly began on 15 April in the Shalang Abad (also known as Da’ira) area of central Ahvaz, where around 1000 demonstrators had reportedly assembled to protest at the contents of a letter, reports of which began to circulate on 9 April, allegedly written in 1999 by an advisor in the office of President Khatami. The letter, whose authenticity has been strongly denied by the author and other governmental sources, sets out policies for the reduction of the Arab population of the province of Khuzestan, including their transfer to other regions of Iran; the transfer of non-Arabs, including Persians and Turkic-speaking Azeris to the province; the elimination of Arab place names along with their replacement by Persian names.

According to a report in the 17 April 2005 edition of the government-run Persian-language newspaper Iran, 137 people had been arrested to date in connection with the unrest and at least eight injured. Other reports indicate that up to 250 people may have been arrested.

Amnesty International has received unconfirmed information that at least 31 persons have been killed in the disturbances. Ahvazi sources claim that up to 500 people have been injured.There are also reports that the city of Ahvaz has been sealed by the security forces. There have also been reports of excessive use of force, unlawful killing and possibly of extra-judicial executions of protesters following circulation of reports that up to seven police or security officials had been killed by demonstrators and that the security forces are now operating a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy.

Amnesty International urges the security forces to conduct its operation in full compliance with relevant international standards, including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, whose provisions include, inter alia: (4) that “Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result”; (9) that “Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life”; and that (11) “Rules and regulations on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials should include guidelines that: … (e) Provide for warnings to be given, if appropriate, when firearms are to be discharged”.

Amnesty International also calls on the Iranian authorities to promptly set up an independent and impartial investigation into the alleged violations of human rights by the Iranian security forces. Officials suspected of responsibility for human rights violations such as unlawful killings/extrajudicial executions should be suspended from active duty during the investigation. Those suspected to be responsible for such human rights violations should be brought to justice in accordance with fair trial procedures.

Amnesty International also urges the office of the Supreme Leader to convene a broad-based commissionwhich could include representatives of the community, local leaders, parliamentarians, government representatives and interested parties to investigate the root causes of the disturbances and how these were dealt with by the security forces.

Such a commission should determine whether there are any explicit or implicit state policies which result in the economic, social or cultural marginalisation or other forms of violations of rights of members of the Ahvazi Arab community in Iran.

Following reports that at least 31 civilians – including two reportedly under the age of 15 and one possibly a mother carrying a child – have been left dead in the course of these disturbances, the commission should be empowered to make recommendations relating to policing methods deployed by the security forces, leading to the development of a code of conduct. Amnesty International made this specific recommendation to the International Affairs office of the Judiciary in October 2002.

BACKGROUND
The Arab community in Iran is around 3% of the total whereas Persians are said to account for around 50%. The Arab community mainly lives in the Khuzestan region adjoining Iraq. It is the site of much of Iran’s oil resources. Members of Iran’s Arab community have a long-standing grievance against successive governments that Arabs have been overlooked in terms of the distribution of resources aimed at social development.

A copy of the letter which allegedly sparked the unrest, along with an English translation can be found at http://www.ahwaz.org.uk/images/ahwaz-khuzestan.pdf; the author’s denial, in Persian, that he wrote the letter, calling it a forgery, along with an explanation about the contents can be found at http://www.webneveshteha.com. The government and parliament are reportedly commencing enquiries into the unrest.

The unrest reportedly spread to the Kiyan and Malashye areas of Ahvaz and also to Hamidiye, northwest of Ahvaz and Kut ‘Abdallah, south of the city. Reports on Sunday 17 April indicate that the security was being re-imposed in the effected areas.

Amnesty International has collected the names of 54 people who it is alleged were killed in the confrontations. Amnesty International is investigating further the information to confirm the exact identity of those killed and further information surrounding the confrontations.

[http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE130172005?open&of=ENG-IRN]

 

Amnesty International – Urgent Action
URGENT ACTION

Iran: Arbitrary arrest/torture

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE
13/014/2005
18 April 2005
UA 91/05 Arbitrary arrest/torture IRAN

Kazem Mojadam (m)

Abdoulghader Hamadi (m)

Mojahed Baldi (or Baladi) (m)

Salem Beradea (m)

Nabi Manabi (m)

Hassan Manabi (m)

Sabri Houzedar Sefed (m)

 

At least 130 others
The seven men named above, and at least 130 others, all members of Iran’s Arab minority, were arbitrarily detained between 15-18 April, and are at risk of torture. They were detained or around the city of Ahvaz, south-western Iran, after protests about the government’s supposed plan to disperse or dilute the country’s Arab population. They are not known to have been charged, or to have had access to legal representation, their families or any medical treatment.
The demonstrations took place in Khuzestan province, in the city of Ahvaz and the neighbouring towns of Kut ‘Abdallah and Hamidiye. Order is now being restored to the affected areas, according to Iranian press reports of 17 April.
According to a 17 April report in the government-run Persian-language newspaper Iran, 137 people had so far been arrested in connection with the unrest and at least eight injured. Other reports indicate that up to 250 people may have been arrested.

There are unconfirmed reports that at least 29 people have been killed in the disturbances, and up to 500 injured. The security forces have reportedly sealed off some areas of the city of Ahvaz, and cut their power supply, telephone connections and water. They have reportedly used excessive force, possibly including extrajudicial executions, after demonstrators allegedly killed up to seven police or security officials. Reports allege that they are now operating a “shoot-to-kill” policy.

The unrest reportedly began on 15 April in the Shalang Abad (also known as Da’ira) area of central Ahvaz. Around 1,000 demonstrators reportedly assembled to protest at the contents of a letter, reports of which began to circulate on 9 April, allegedly written in 1999 by an advisor in the office of President Khatami. The letter sets out policies for the reduction of the Arab population of the province of Khuzestan, which include resettling Arabs in other regions of Iran, resettling non-Arabs in the province, and replacing Arabic place names with Persian ones. Government sources, including the letter’s supposed author, have strongly denied that it is genuine. The text, with an English translation, can be found at http://www.ahwaz.org.uk/images/ ahwaz-khuzestan.pdf; the supposed author’s denial that he wrote the letter, along with an explanation of the contents, can be found (in Persian) at http://www.webneveshteha.com/. The government has reportedly begun a limited enquiry into the unrest, as has the parliament, but these do not appear to be sufficiently wide-ranging or impartial.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Arab community in Iran makes up around 3% of the total population, with Persians apparently making up around 50%. The Arab community lives mainly lives in the Khuzestan region, which borders Iraq. It is strategically important because it is the site of much of Iran’s oil reserves. The Arab population do not feel they have benefited as much from the oil revenue as the Persian population; historically they have been marginalised and discriminated against, for instance being denied the right to an education in their own language.

Arbitrary mass arrests occur regularly during unrest in Iran. A peaceful demonstration by another ethnic minority group, the Baluchis, was dispersed by the arbitrary use of excessive force in September 2002; Thousands were arbitrarily arrested after student-led demonstrations in July 1999, known as the “18 Tir” demonstrations after the Iranian date. Scores were reportedly ill-treated, and at least seven were tortured (Please see http://web.amnesty.org /library/Index/ENGMDE130282004?open&of=ENG-IRN). Up to 4000 were reportedly arrested in June-July 2003 during demonstrations against the privatisation of universities.

 

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 16, 18 April 2005
ETHNIC UNREST IN SOUTHWEST IRAN SIGNALS BIGGER PROBLEMS.

Rioting ethnic Arabs in the city of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran’s Khuzestan Province clashed with security forces on 15 April. There are conflicting reports on the number of casualties and the reason for the clashes. Regardless of the specifics in this case, all the country’s minorities — Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis, Kurds, or Turkmen — have grievances that relate to the regime’s policies.

If allowed to fester, ethnic problems could have serious repercussions for the regime.
“One person was shot during the unrest but not by our personnel,” a provincial police official, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Colonel Hassan Assad Masjedi, said on 16 April, according to ISNA. “In the past few days, 137 people have been arrested for causing unrest in Ahvaz, and eight people have been injured.”

Al-Arabiyah television reported on 16 April that three Arabs were killed. An anonymous “informed source” cited by Baztab website said “tens” of people were killed and injured. The unrest apparently was caused by outside agitators. On 15 April, Al-Jazeera quoted the irredentist Democratic Popular Movement for the Arab People of Ahvaz (al-Harakah al-Dimuqratiyah al-Sha’biyah li al-Sha’b al-Arabi al-Ahwazi), which demanded an end to what it called the Iranian “occupation” of Khuzestan. The movement accused the Iranian government of wanting to forcibly relocate the province’s Arabs to other parts of the country.

The Baztab website accused Al-Arabiyah and Al-Jazeera of trying to inflame the situation by broadcasting this information. An anonymous provincial official quoted by Baztab attributed the unrest to the appearance on former Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi’s website of a letter that detailed governmental restrictions on the Arab minority (for a translation of the “letter,” go to http://www.ahwaz.org.uk/ images/ahwaz-khuzestan.pdf).

The provincial governor-general, Gholamreza Shariati, also said on 15 April that the unrest is connected with the forged letter attributed to Abtahi, the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported. Government spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh said on 16 April that the alleged letter is a forgery, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported. President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami assigned investigation of the case to Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Supreme National Security Council, his spokesman added.

Abtahi himself denied writing the letter, IRNA reported. “Anyone who reads the letter will realize that such a decision, even if confirmed by the supreme leader or the Supreme National Security Council or the president, cannot be implemented in Iran,” Abtahi wrote on his website. “I have never had the prerogative to order a change of demographic composition.”

The Democratic Popular Movement for the Arab People of Ahvaz, which allegedly contributed to the 15 April unrest, is not the only Arab irredentist organization. The Ahwaz Arab Renaissance Party issued a notice on the AlBasrah.net website (http://www.albasrah.net) in early April that it blew up an oil pipeline from Ahvaz to Tehran. It claimed that this is part of its strategy to stop the Iranian government’s oppression of Ahvaz’s residents. Another irredentist group is the Ahwaz-Arabistan Online Network (http://www.al-ahwaz.com).

There are approximately 2.07 million ethnic Arabs in Iran (3 percent of the total population of 69 million). The irredentist groups allude to historical grievances, and they bemoan inadequate attention to their culture and language by state media. From an economic perspective, they claim they face discrimination in getting jobs, and they say that although much of Iran’s oil wealth comes from Khuzestan Province, an inordinate share of that wealth goes to Tehran and other parts of the country.

Aside from the historical grievances, which are particular to the Arabs in the southwest, these problems are not theirs alone. Baluchis in the southeast complain about forced relocations, underdevelopment and unemployment, inadequate schools, and a lack of Sunni mosques. Kurds in the northwest complain about underdevelopment and the fact that their young people must travel to major cities in other parts of the country to look for work. Azeris complain that their Turkic language is abused by state broadcast media. All of these groups complain of job discrimination, and they complain that not enough of their co-ethnics have high-level jobs in the government.

Unemployment and underemployment are problems all Iranians, not just minorities, are contending with. Officially, unemployment is in the 11-13 percent range, and unofficially, it is in the 25 percent range. And the underdevelopment that groups in the periphery complain about is the direct result of a poorly managed economy that depends on oil revenues to stay afloat.

As the recent unrest in Ahvaz shows, it is unwise to dismiss minority grievances out of hand. The regime can crush dissent when it is localized and relatively small. But if sporadic incidents of ethnic unrest occurred across the country simultaneously, or if such incidents coincided with labor troubles and student demonstrations, then the regime would have its hands full. As recent campaign stops by presidential candidates show, politicians recognize the impact of the ethnic factor. (Bill Samii) [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/]

 

ABC ONLINE NEWS

Monday, April 18, 2005. 4:48pm (AEST)
Riots in southern Iran have prompted several detainees in the Baxter
detention centre in South Australia to ask the Federal Government to review
their applications for refugee status.

A London-based lobby group, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, says the
Iranian Government is forcing Arab Iranians to move out of southern Iran,
in order to secure control of the oil rich area. News reports from Associated Press say at least 20 people have been killed and 500 injured in recent riots.

Migration agent Libby Hogarth says the reports confirm what detainees have
been saying about persecution in the area. “We do have a number of Arab Iranians who have been claiming ever since they came to Australia that they’ve suffered from persecution as Arab Iranians, and that information to date has not been accepted,” she said.

“We’re in the current process of updating the department with new
information and requesting that they be allowed to lodge new applications.”

 

Saturday 16 April 2005, Aljazeera.net

 

Fierce clashes have broken out between Iranian military forces and ethnic Arab Iranians who are calling for an independent state in southern Iran. Sources in the region said at least three ethnic Arabs had been killed and many injured in demonstrations in the southern province of Khuzestan.

The demonstrations were called for by the London-based Popular Democratic Front of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran. More than 250 were reportedly arrested. A representative of the group, speaking to Aljazeera from London, said there were movements within and outside Iran pressing for independence of the region, home to at least three million Iranians of Arab descent.

“The demonstrations to mark 80 years of Iranian occupation were peaceful but the Iranian authorities confronted the people with violent means and military force,” he said.

He said Iranian military units had besieged several ethnically Arab villages after the demonstration. Iranian political activist Muhammad Navaseri said Arab residents of Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, gathered on Friday morning, chanting slogans against alleged government plans to move more non-Arabs in the city.

He said they set fire to banks and police stations in Ahwaz before more than 250 of them were arrested. Another Ahwaz resident, Yusuf Nabitaraf, said protesters smashed the windows of several banks and set at least one police station on fire. There has been no official comment from Tehran.

Accusations of ethnic cleansing

The London-based front said there will be forcible relocation of about 3 million ethnically Arab Iranians from the Ahwaz region to other areas inside the Islamic republic.

“This is a form of ethnic cleansing to ensure Iran’s national security interests,” the group said. A copy of a letter allegedly signed by former vice-president Muhammad Ali Abtahi outlines a plan for changing the population composition in Ahwaz by relocating non-Arabs to the city to make them the majority.

The letter was widely circulated in Ahwaz and other cities in Khuzestan, an oil-rich province that borders Iraq. Arabs make up more than 3% of Iran’s population; Persians account for 51% of the population thought to be more than 70 million.

[http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/5BBF33C0-DAB8-45C3-B690-EC0F2BB70FFC.htm]

 

At least one killed in protest in Iran oil heartland

TEHRAN, April 16 (Reuters) – At least one person died when protesters from Iran’s Arab minority fought security forces in the country’s oil-rich southwest, officials said on Saturday. Arabs rampaged through the streets of the city of Ahvaz in the province of Khuzestan on Friday night, smashing up police cars, banks and government offices, the official IRNA news agency said.

Authorities alleged that the outbreak of ethnic violence came after tensions were whipped up by the distribution of a forged letter which talked of relocating Arabs. “I know definitely that one person died,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani.

Rasul Mousavi, a former parliamentarian for Ahvaz, told Reuters two or three people had been killed. A spokesman for an Arab-Iranian group campaigning for Khuzestan’s independence said three demonstrators had been shot dead by Iranian forces.

“Iranian security forces were using live ammunition as well as tear gas against Ahvazi Arabs, who were fighting with stones,” Mansour Abu Shaker al-Ahwazi, spokesman for the Ahwazian Revolution Information Centre in London, told Reuters in Dubai.

The ISNA student news agency quoted Hasan Asad Masjedi, a security forces commander, saying 137 people had been arrested over the last few days. He said one person had been shot but not by the authorities.

“PART OF IRAN”

Iranian officials were quick to play down any suggestion the fighting could have been part of an independence struggle in Khuzestan, which is home to the biggest oil fields of OPEC’s second-biggest producer country. “Khuzestan has always been part of Iran. Now that elections are close some people are trying to stir ethnic tensions,” Khanjani said.

Iran is very sensitive about any suggestion of ethnic unrest, particularly among Arabs and Kurds. About three percent of Iran’s 67 million people are Arabs. State Governor Fathollah Moin told state television: “This is a trick by the enemies of the nation to damage Iran’s national security.”

Many of Iran’s Arab minority proved their loyalty to Tehran by fighting against Iraq in the 1980-1988 war. Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani is an ethnic Arab.

Iranian officials said ethnic tensions had been whipped up by the distribution of a fake letter, supposedly from President Mohammad Khatami’s adviser Mohammad Ali Abtahi, calling for Arabs to be relocated to north Iran. On his Web site, Abtahi denied writing the letter and said he would never have had the authority to make such an order.

Government Spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh, speaking to IRNA, vowed the Intelligence Ministry and Supreme National Security Council would quickly hunt down those who spread the inflammatory letters. Khuzestan officials said the area was now calm. Guerrillas demanding independence for Khuzestan seized the Iranian embassy in London in 1980, sparking a hostage siege that ended with several deaths.

 

Demonstration Against Ethnic Cleansing in Iran
Associated Press Report

16 April 2005

TEHRAN (AP)–More than 250 people were arrested Friday in southwestern Iran after demonstrations against an alleged plan to decrease the proportion of Arabs in the area became violent, a political activist said.

Mohammad Navaseri said Arab residents of Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, gathered Friday morning, chanting slogans against alleged government plans to move more non-Arabs in the city. He said they set fire to banks and police stations in Ahvaz before more than 250 of them were arrested. Another Ahvaz resident, Yousef Nabitaraf, said protesters smashed the windows of several banks and set at least one police station on fire.

A copy of a letter allegedly signed by former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi outlines a plan for changing the population composition in Ahvaz through relocating non-Arabs to the city to make them the majority population. The letter was widely circulated in Ahvaz and other cities in Khuzestan, an oil-rich province that borders Iraq and is home to a large Arab population.

Arabs make up about 3% of Iran’s population; Persians account for 51% of the population of 69 million. Abtahi has denied writing such a letter, saying it was “illogical. Anyone reading it learns that a decision like that, even if approved by the Supreme Leader or the Supreme National Security Council or the president, can’t be implemented in Iran. How could the office of the president issue such an illogical directive and change the population in the vital and important region like Khuzestan?”, Abtahi asked on his personal Web site, http://www.webneveshteha.com. “I’ve never had such a power to issue a directive to change the population,” Abtahi wrote. Government officials were not available for comment.

Journalists in Ahvaz also confirmed that demonstrations had turned violent. “Demonstrations in several districts in Ahvaz turned violent when police tried to disperse the angry crowd,” said Hadi Yunesi, editor of Fajr-e-Khuzestan daily, which is based in Ahvaz.

Activist Navaseri said protests in the mainly Arab districts of Dayereh, Khashayar and Kian continued late into the night and authorities responded by cutting off water and power. “These districts have been encircled by security forces and no one can get into or leave them,” he said.

RFE/RL Iran Report

Vol. 8, No. 14, 5 April 2005
ETHNIC POLITICS OUT OF BOUNDS IN IRAN.

Iran’s population of some 69 million people is ethnically and religiously diverse. But successive Iranian governments, whether theocratic or monarchic, have stressed the Persian nature of the state and tried to eliminate minority interests by emphasizing linguistic, religious, and cultural unity. It is noteworthy, therefore, that candidates campaigning before the 17 June presidential election are pandering to minority groups.

Conservative frontrunner Ali Larijani said during a 29 March gathering of Sunni Muslims in Aq Qala, Gulistan Province, that all of the country’s ethnic groups are important and praised the country’s Turkmen minority, Fars News Agency reported.

Mohsen Rezai, another conservative candidate, met with tribal leaders in Abadan on 24 March and said, “When I talk about justice I mean that there should be no difference between the provinces or tribes and we should not have first and second class citizens,” Fars News Agency reported. “In order to realize this…we must treat all ethnic groups equally. In fact a change in our view towards ethnic groups is extremely important and the next government must courageously pursue this issue.”

Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi visited Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, in early March. He noted the economic importance of the oil-producing province and said it has been protected by brave young people, “particularly Arab, Lur, and the tribes of Khuzestan,” “Aftab-i Yazd” reported on 13 March. Susangerd parliamentarian Jasem Jadari told Karrubi there is propaganda suggesting “various ethnic groups living in Khuzestan have excessive and unreasonable expectations.” But local people only want their constitutionally guaranteed rights, he said.

The majority of Iranians are Persians who practice Shi’a Islam, but the country also includes Shi’a-practicing Azeris and Arabs, as well as Baluchi, Kurdish, and Turkmen minorities that practice Sunni Islam..…

The Iranian government stresses national unity, and Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi frequently claims that foreign elements are trying to stir up sectarian differences (see “RFE/RL Iran Report,” 20 December 2004). He most often makes this claim about the southeast, where many Baluchis live. Furthermore, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati cautioned presidential candidates not to promote ethnic issues in his last two Friday prayer sermons in Tehran. On 23 February Jannati said Iran’s survival depends on the unity of all ethnic and religious groups, state radio
reported. He advised candidates not to discuss issues “in certain areas” because “ethnic sensitivities will be provoked and this will result in discord.”

The next month Jannati warned that the United States is determined to exploit rifts, and in Lebanon and Iraq it has “fanned the flames” of ethnic and religious differences, state radio reported on 18 March. “The same plots are hatched against Iran,” he said. “Some of the prospective candidates are raising such problems in order to win votes.”

As secretary of the Guardians Council, Jannati plays a major role in vetting prospective candidates for elected office. His warning to the candidates — “The likelihood of them being qualified for such a post is very low indeed” — and his advice to the judiciary to deal with these individuals could have an impact. But it is likely that Jannati’s comments are meant for the reformists, not the conservatives.

Executive-branch spokesman Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, a Kurd who previously served as governor of Kurdistan Province, made some very controversial statements at a 3 March reformist conference on Kurdish issues in the western city of Kermanshah, Fars News Agency reported the next day. “We, [the Kurds] will only take part in the elections and vote if we are guaranteed to have a share in the power.”

Conservatives criticized Ramezanzadeh, pointing out that Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh, Health Minister Masud Pezeshkian, and other prominent officials are Kurds. As a result of this outcry, President Mohammad Khatami reportedly barred Ramezanzadeh from participating in any more election meetings, Fars News Agency reported on 7 March.

Yet one conservative legislator, Alaedin Borujerdi, swam against the tide. He said the Kurds are supporters of the Islamic Republic, Fars News Agency reported on 4 March. But he also noted that “Kurdistan, like several other provinces, needs greater attention, the honorable government must pay greater heed to that province.”

It is not immediately clear why the candidates are focusing on minorities right now. Khatami traveled the country to gather support and encourage voters during his 1997 campaign, and he included minority group members like Ramezanzadeh in his cabinet. The candidates’ appeal to provincial groups is not without precedent, therefore. It is also possible that because candidates do not present very specific platforms during their campaigns, they must appeal to voters in other ways. (Bill Samii)

[http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/]

 

Iran

US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2004
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 28, 2005

 

In general, the Government did not discriminate on the basis of race, disability, language, or social status; however, it discriminated on the basis of religion, sex, and ethnicity. The poorest areas of the country are those inhabited by ethnic minorities, such as by the Baluchis in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, and by Arabs in the southwest. Much of the damage suffered by Khuzistan Province during the 8-year Iran-Iraq war has not been repaired; consequently, the quality of life of the largely Arab local population was degraded. Kurds, Azeris, and Ahvazi Arabs were not allowed to study their languages….

Foreign representatives of the Ahwazi Arabs of Khuzistan, whose numbers could range as high as 4 million or more, claimed that their community in the southwest of the country suffered from discrimination, including the right to study and speak Arabic. In July 2003, authorities reportedly closed two bilingual Arabic/Farsi newspapers and imprisoned scores of political activists. They asserted that the Government ignored their appeals to de-mine the vast stretches of Khuzistan, mined during the Iran-Iraq War. They further stated that many Arabs, both Shi’a and Sunni, have been imprisoned and tortured for criticizing government policies. According to Ahwazi sources, a political activist with the Islamic Wafagh Party, Kazem Mojaddam, was sentenced to 2 years’ imprisonment in November 2003 after his initial arrest in June 2003 on charges of secession and endangering internal security.

Available at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41721.htm
 

 


COUNTRY INFORMATION (2001-2004)

 

The 2003 US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Iranstates, “Foreign representatives of the Ahwazi Arabs of Khuzistan, whose numbers could range as high as 4 million or more, claimed that their community in the southwest of the country suffered from discrimination, including the right to study and speak Arabic. In July, authorities reportedly closed two bilingual Arabic/Farsi newspapers, and imprisoned scores of political activists. They asserted that the Government has ignored their appeals to de-mine the vast stretches of Khuzistan, mined during the Iran-Iraq War. They further stated that many Arabs, both Shi’a and Sunni, have been imprisoned and tortured for criticizing government policies. According to Ahwazi sources, political activist with the Islamic Wafagh Party, Kazem Mojaddam, was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment in November after his initial arrest in June on charges of secession and endangering internal security. [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27927.htm]

 

The 2002 US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Iran states, “They claimed that the Ahwazis were denied the right to study, speak, publish newspapers, and educate their children in Arabic, and that the use of Arabic names for babies was prohibited except for ordinary Shi’a religious names. They asserted that the Government has ignored their appeals to de-mine the vast stretches of Khuzistan which were mined during the Iran-Iraq War, and that consequently, many people, especially children, continued to be maimed by mines….According to these sources, five Arab-Iranian men have been hanged in the past several years for opposing the Government’s policy of confiscating Arab lands in Khuzistan province.”

[http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18276.htm]

 

The UK Home Office’s Country Report for Iran (October 2003) states, “In general, the Government does not discriminate on the basis of race. Although In some instances, it discriminated on the basis of language, such as with the Kurds, Azeris, and Ahwazi Arabs.

“The Arabs in Iran probably date back to the Arab conquest during the 7th and 8th centuries which brought Islam to Iran. The main factor that differentiates them from Iran’s Persian speaking majority is that they speak one of several dialects of Arabic. At least two million Arabs, mainly Shi’a Muslims, live in Iran, chiefly in Khuzestan and in the south. The Sunni Arabs tend to live on the Gulf coastline. About 40% live in urban areas and the majority of these urban Arabs are unskilled workers. Some urban Arabs and most rural Arabs are tribally organized. These tribal loyalties can have a major impact not only on a societal level but also on political considerations. The rural Arabs of Khuzestan are mostly farmers and fishermen and many of those that live along the Persian Gulf coastal plains are pastoral nomads. These areas contain most of Iran’s oil reserves. Many are employed in the agriculture and oil industries.

Both the urban and rural Arabs of Khuzestan are intermingled with the Persians, Turks and Lurs who also live in the province and often intermarry with them. Despite this, Iranian Arabs are regarded by themselves and by Iran’s other ethnic groups as separate and distinct from non-Arabs.

The Government of Iraq, both before and after Iran’s 1979 revolution, accused Iran of discrimination against its Arab population. Despite this, the Arab population of Khuzestan sided with Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Outside of Khuzestan there is little ethnic solidarity among Iran’s Arabs. The division between Shi’i and Sunni Muslims also hampers ethnic solidarity.

The Arab Political Cultural Organization APCO was formed in 1979. It requested some concessions in April 1979 and was given the green light to form a provincial council with limited autonomy. Unrest occurred afterwards due to the presence of Revolutionary Guards, especially in the Khuzestani city of Khorramshahr. The unrest continued and escalated when the Arabs started bombing oil refineries and pipelines on “Black Wednesday” June 14, 1979. On April 30, 1980, they seized the Iranian embassy in London in order to free 91 Arabs imprisoned in Iran. However attempts to gain autonomy gave way to support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war….

Like every other group, in terms of levels of discrimination, Arabs do not openly express their ethnic identity. However during the February 2000 elections police fired at crowds of demonstrators protesting against alleged ballot rigging in two towns in southwestern Iran, Shush and Shadegan, killing eight and wounding scores more, and there is some evidence of riots in Abadan that have been connected to the fact that Khuzestan as a province has been neglected by the central Government. The riots in Abadan began on Wednesday 5 July 2000 with a peaceful demonstration outside the office of the Governor of Abadan Mr Nazemi, close to Bassij Square, which was formerly Taiib Square. Between 7,000 and 8,000 demonstrators (residents of Abadan) protested from 8 a.m. against the poor quality of the drinking water. The fact that the drinking water contained too much salt was a problem which was known to everyone. The first three hours of the demonstration went by peacefully. Riots then broke out on and around Bassij Square, and the tone of the demonstration became political rather than social. A total of around 300 people were arrested and it was rumoured that a few people were killed.

There have been death sentences, although those convicted had been involved in violent acts such as the bombing of offices and liaisons, etc. As recently as January 2002 five Arab activists were hanged in Ahvaz for arms smuggling. According to the Ahwazian Arab Peoples Democratic and Popular Front, an organisation based in Europe, another five men have recently been condemned to death in Ahvaz, apparently for opposing the Government’s policy of land seizures in the region and on 10 June 2002, according to Amnesty International, a sixteen year old, a member of Iran’s Arab minority, was reportedly detained without charge at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. Detained with other individuals, not specifically Arab, he was held in connection with passport and visa violations, though the arrest may have been politically motivated. Amnesty has expressed concern in terms of possible torture and illegal detention.”

[http://www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/default.asp?PageId=3440]

 

A 2001 report by the United Nation’s Special Representative on the situation of human rights in Iran found, “However, it is also possible to conclude that breaches of human rights are in large part as egregious today as they were five years ago….The equality rights, that is, those of gender and those to which minorities, both ethnic and religious, are entitled are by and large unrecognised…

“In his interim report to the General Assembly, the Special Representative briefly described the Kurdish and Azeri communities in Iran, as well as their historically somewhat tempestuous relationship with the central Government. He also reported the views expressed to him by informants in these communities that they were being denied their rights to cultural autonomy as provided for in article 15 of the Constitution, as well as in relevant international instruments, in particular article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The same views would likely also be expressed by informants in the Baluch community whose condition the Special Representative has discussed before, as well as those in the Arab community.

“In his interim report to the General Assembly, the Special Representative urged the Government to adopt a national minorities policy. It is self‑evident, on the one hand, that certain minorities are among the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the country and, on the other, that most minorities are not enjoying the rights set out in article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, nor indeed even the limited rights set out in the Constitution.

“In Iran, the status of minorities remains a neglected area of human rights. There are some initial glimmers of change, but there is a long way to go in terms of achieving a more forthcoming approach to the concerns of the minorities, both ethnic and religious. The Special Representative urges the Government to address this matter in an open manner, with the full involvement of the minorities themselves.

[http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/0/5aa84c268132911dc1256a0e00541a03/$FILE/G0110218.doc]

 

Another 2001 United Nations report found, “Iranian society has had little experience with civil discourse leading to peaceful change. The treatment of activists and dissidents, particularly by the security forces and the judiciary, displays a fearful intolerance of alternative views. The treatment of such persons, some of whom participated in the struggle against the Shah, is little short of vicious.

“There is a stalemate between the elected and unelected branches of government over important policy and legislative decisions concerning reform. The Iranian people are paying dearly for it. Religious and ethnic minorities continue to face official and societal discrimination and in some cases, persecution. They are becoming more outspoken in their demands, particularly concerning economic and cultural rights.”

[http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/TestFrame/c6d20cd90b8edf57c1256ad4003321f5?Opendocument]

 

On 4 June 2001, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that “Arab tribal and religious leaders from Khuzestan Province issued a statement expressing support for President Mohammad Khatami, “Aftab-i Yazd” reported on 30 May, and expressed the hope that with his victory the equal rights for all members of the Islamic nation and the ethnic minorities’ constitutional rights would be realized.” [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/2001/06/21-040601 .asp]

 

In November 2001 the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board reported, “Information on the discrimination against Arabs in Iran is limited. A 25 August 1994 UPI article reported that the United Nations Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities called on Iran to “stop persecuting” the Arab minority. The Mideast Mirror reported that Iran “oppresses its Sunnite and Arab Shiite minorities” (7 Feb. 1995), while a December 1996 Antisemitism and Xenophobia Today report stated that “as in previous years, Iran’s treatment of Christian, Kurd and Arab minorities was heavily criticized by human rights agencies in 1996.” None of the reports provide additional details.

“According to a September 1997 Human Rights Watch report, Arabs constitute 70 percent of the population of the Iranian province of Khuzestan. The report states that since 1995 more than 180 Iranian Arabs were detained and prosecuted on charges of espionage for Iraq or other Gulf Arab states, and like others held for suspected political offences, were “held in indefinite pre-trial detention without access to lawyers, vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment, and without access to fair judicial processes” (ibid.). The report also stated that Iranian Arabs ‘have grievances over restrictions on their political organizations, on their language and culture, and on their right to participate effectively in decisions affecting the areas in which they live.’” [http://www.irb.gc.ca/cgi-bin/foliocgi.exe/refinfo_e/doc/{@6834}?]

 

On 6 March 2002, Amnesty International released an Urgent Actionnotice stating,Seventeen Kurdish and Arab activists, imprisoned for opposing the Iranian government, have all been sentenced to death and are reportedly at risk of imminent execution. One former Kurdish activist and refugee, who was forcibly returned from Turkey in 1998, and five members of Iran’s Arab minority, have already been hanged, and it is feared that more executions may soon follow.

“Five Arab men were hanged in Ahvaz, southwestern Iran, on 27 January. They had been sentenced to death for arms smuggling. According to the Ahwazian Arab People’s Democratic and Popular Front, an organization based in Europe, another five Arab men have recently been condemned to death in Ahvaz, apparently for opposing the government’s policy of land seizures in the region. They are named as Fadhil Muqaddam, Rahim Sawari, Amir Sa’idi, Hashem Bawi and ‘Abbas Sherhani….

“The Kurds and Arabs are two of Iran’s ethnic minority groups. The Arab
population live mainly in southwestern Iran, and the Kurds in the province of
Kurdistan and neighbouring provinces bordering Iraq and Turkey….The Ahwazian Arab People’s Democratic and Popular Front wrote to Amnesty
International in August 2001 stating that it is ‘committed to non-violent
opposition” to government policies in the Ahvaz region.’”

[http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE130052002?open&of=ENG-IRN]

 

On 19 June 2002, Amnesty International released another Urgent Action stating “Those named above, including sixteen year old Yousuf Torfi, who is a member of Iran’s Arab minority, were reportedly detained without charge on 10 June at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. They were reportedly held in connection with passport and visa violations, though their arrest may have been politically motivated. There are fears for their safety, following reports that Yousuf Torfi is at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

“The detainees are reportedly being held near the airport by the Edare-ye
Amaken, (The Administration of Premises) an organization which is allegedly
responsible for the enforcement of accepted moral codes in companies and other offices. They have reportedly been denied access to their families and legal representation.

“Yousuf Torfi is said to be under ”a great deal of pressure”, leading to fears
that he may be facing ill treatment and possibly torture. Members of his family
have been contacted by an official from Edare-ye Amaken seeking over $US 23 000 in return for his release and in order to insure that he is not imprisoned for 15 years.” [http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE130092002? open&of=ENG-IRN]

 

On 25th November 2002, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that, “Twenty chanting people attacked and beat up Ahvaz parliamentary representative Mohammad Kianush-Rad and two companions when they arrived at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport on 17 November, according to ISNA on 18 November and IRNA on 19 November. Kianush-Rad refused to make a formal complaint against his attackers, saying that, instead, one should complain about those who gave the orders and about those who theorize about the acceptable use of violence. He told ISNA: “I am sorry that a group of ignorant young people, some of whom may even have religious concerns, use the foulest possible expressions when they encounter their opponents. They are doing so because they have been provoked by a closed-minded group that is acting under the pretext of defending our values.” According to IRNA, which was quoting the “Mardom Salari” daily newspaper, police and security personnel who saw the event did not try to intervene.”

[http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/2002/11/43-251102.asp]

 

In December 2002, the Iran Press Service reported, “Violent clashes continued in several cities of the Iranian oil-rich province of Khoozestan Tuesday, with some officials on the government side blaming the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and “rogue elements” for the turbulences.

“Violence erupted after the conservatives-controlled Judiciary in the province ordered the security forces to close down sprawling shops distributing video tapes and cassettes, popular dances and music in Arabic, the dominant language among local populations in this south-western region bordering with Iraq.

“Sources said at least 300 people, most of them young ones, have been detained during street fight with the police and plainclothes men that some believe are Iraqis on the payroll of the Iran-based Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SAIRI).

“‘Closing down clubs, shops selling video cassettes, music and dance and removing satellite antennas does not need to send in a whole army’, complained Mr. Jasem Shadidzadeh, a reformist lawmaker from Ahvaz, who confirmed that most of the detainees are young boys and girls aged between 12 to 18.

“Eyewitnesses said demonstrations are getting more and more political, as the local population, among the poorest of Iranians in this richest region of the nation feeling discriminations, humiliation and insults from the non-Arabs, who form the majority of the blue-collar workers.

“‘Clashes broke out after the judiciary in Khuzestan province ordered the police, without coordinating with the Khuzestan governor’s office and the intelligence ministry, to shut down centres producing and distributing CDs in Ahvaz,’ Shadidzadeh told colleagues and journalists in the Majles.

“Eyewitnesses said the heaviest of the clashes took place in Koot Abdollah, where local people blocked major roads, set fire to banks and buses belonging to the administration while chanting slogans against senior officials and the Islamic Republic, comparing it with the Taleban in Asfghanistan.

“‘The worst clashes have happened in the cities of Ahwaz, Khoram-Shahr and Koot-Abdollah, where youth reacted to brutal attacks from the regime’s forces, using, in some places guns, Cocktail Molotov and stones’, the Los Angeles-based Iranian Student’s Coordination Committee for Democracy reported.

“‘Security forces resorted to violence and used tear gas to stop people, mostly young students. Three hundred students ranging in age from 12 to 18 have been arrested and seven schools have been closed’, Mr. Shahidzadeh further reported about the situation in his constituency.

“‘For about a week, Ahvaz city has been tense. One bank has been burned down and the road from Khorramshahr to Ahvaz has been blocked for two days,’ he added, accusing the leader-controlled Judiciary of seeking to spark a crisis as a pretext for declaring a state of emergency.

“But Local chief prosecutor Amir Abbas Sohrab Beig was also quoted last week as warning that the operation was only the beginning of a major clampdown, which would also target underground alcohol producers and distributors. The raids were also aimed at houses using satellite dishes bringing them hundreds of foreign radio and television channels.

“The Iranian authorities have banned owning satellite antenna following the multiplication of Iranian owned and operated radio and television stations beaming anti-regime programmes and popular dances and music onto Iran.”

[http://www.iran-press-service.com/articles_2002/Dec_2002/khoozestan_ violence_311202.htm]

 

On 6 January 2003, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that “Jasim Shahidzadeh, a parliamentary representative from Iran’s southeastern Khuzestan Province, said on 30 December that he has called on the Interior Ministry to replace police officials in the city of Ahvaz, ISNA reported. Shahidzadeh said that discussions with these officials about unrest in Ahvaz were unproductive. The parliamentary representative described attacks on two villages near Ahvaz, as well as incidents at the local airport. These are not the only such events to take place in and around the city, and they could serve to catalyze further action by the Arab minority in Khuzestan Province.

“About 100 employees of a pipe-producing factory in Khuzestan Province marched in Ahvaz on 31 December to protest nonpayment of wages, ISNA reported. The protesters had not been paid in several months and demanded their arrears. Security personnel immediately appeared and forced the protesters onto waiting buses. According to ISNA, the employees of the Ahvaz company have been having such problems since 1997-1998.

“Some 50 residents of the Kut Abdullah area in Khuzestan Province staged a rally on 28 December, blocking roads and attacking vehicles and banks, “Entekhab” newspaper reported on 31 December. The newspaper did not give a reason for the protest, but it did report that Law Enforcement Forces arrested 21 people.

“Students from Ahvaz’s Shahid Chamran University and from the Medical Science University on 17 and 18 November demonstrated against the death sentence passed by a Hamedan court against Aghajari. The 29 December edition of “Aftab-i Yazd” reported that Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari has been summoned to the parliament to explain why the police did not stop violent attacks against these rallies.

“On the evening of 20 November, about 2,000 people, including clerics and members of the Basij, gathered at the city’s Irshad Mosque to protest against these university demonstrations, according to IRNA on 21 November. The participants chanted “Death to America” and called for a ban on future gatherings at the universities.

“Ahvaz parliamentarian Shahidzadeh said that the Arab-inhabited areas of Khuzestan Province are particularly affected by poverty and social and health problems and that the Law Enforcement Forces’ actions could make locals susceptible to the efforts of foreign provocateurs.”

[http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/2003/01/1-060103.asp]

 

On 25 February 2003, Prima News Agency that two men from Ahwaz had been executed following street clashes the month before. [http://www.prima-news.ru/eng/news/news/2003/2/25/23279.html]

 

The 10 March 2003 edition of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Iran Report stated, “In Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province’s biggest city, the Lajneh Al-Vafaq (Unity Committee) party won all the council seats, as reported on the Iran-i Imruz website on 2 March (http://www.iran-emrooz.de/khabar/ khabar811211.html). An unidentified party official said that, although all the winners are Arabs, they would work for all the city’s residents. Moreover, the official said, they might even choose a non-Arab mayor. Arabs are the predominant inhabitants of Khuzestan, but it also is home to the Bakhtiari, Dezfuli, Lur, Behbehani, and Shushtari tribes. The Islamic Iran Participation Party tried to use ethnic and minority issues in Khuzestan Province during the municipal-council election campaign, “Jomhuri-yi Islami” daily newspaper claimed on 6 March. The hard-line daily warned that using such issues could undermine unity in the province.” [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/2003/03/10-100303.asp]

 

On 3 July 2003, Prima News Agency reported that two men from Ahwaz had been executed.

[http://www.prima-news.ru/eng/news/news/2003/7/3/25222.html]

 

EXPERT TESTIMONY FROM DR EWEN MACMILLAN, PhD

 

 

Curriculum vitae

 

I have collated information on Arab Iranians in London, the U.K., the European Union and across the OECD from numerous sources, both published and unpublished, and am now fluent in the Iranian dialect of Arabic.

 

Since 2000, I have on numerous occasions submitted evidence to appellate courts in the U.K., as well as to CEDOCA, the Belgian asylum review board. The U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Mid­dle East desk has requested copies of testimony I have submitted to the English Immigration Appellate Court, has commended my research in writing, and confirmed subsequently that my report has been distributed to staff at the British Embassy in Tehran.

 

The U.K. Home Office’s Country Information Policy Unit (CIPU) has altered its published report on the human rights of Iran’s Arab minority in response to successful appeals against IND’s refusal of asylum, in which I have provided testimony as expert witness, and to Amnesty International reports to which I have contributed. CIPU also informed me before their last report that the matter of Iran’s discrimination against its Arab citizens was under review.

 

Individual employees of the India Office Library, the Home and Foreign Offices, Amnesty International, the BBC, Wadham College Oxford, and Arab Iranians (in the UK, other EU states and Syria) have all assisted my researches.

 

Discrimination

 

A massive state-owned enterprise to turn the province of Khuzestan into a major sugar-cane grower, inaugurated during former President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s visit to the region in 1993, has involved the requisition of much Arab farmland along the banks of the rivers Karun and Karkheh. Among less credible purposes of this project, slated to cover 84,000 hectares, is the justification of the Iranian name for Arabistan — “Khuzistan” or “Sugar Cane Country”. The name current among the erstwhile majority of the population whose first language is Arabic, “Arabistan” or “Arab Country”, was used in virtually all nineteenth and early twentieth-century literature.

 

The expert testimony of Maria T. O’Shea, Ph.D., (Geopolitics and International Bounda­ries Research Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies), August 5, 1997, (hence­forth O’Shea 1997), page 3, Section II, Discrimination against Arab Iranians, in particu­lar Paragraphs 2 and 3 is relevant:

“2) Arab Iranians are very discriminated against. Their mail may be examined and censored. Innocent activities may be considered as espionage…people have been both imprisoned and executed, having been accused of very tenuous links with activists…To be accused of espionage or collaboration with outside governments is one of the most serious crimes in Iran, with a mandatory death penalty.

“3) It has been well documented that Arab Iranians are discriminated against in employment prospects, even in their home areas. The government prefers to employ outsiders in the sensitive oil installations, due to the activities of the Arab autonomy movement in the early 1980s.”

 

Among the discriminatory practices most resented by Arab and other minority communities in Iran is the official list from which parents are permitted to select names for their children. Strict control is exercised over the naming of children, but policy is more subtle and inconsistent than absolute prohibition of Arabic names.

 

Many names are common to both Arabic and Farsi, for example ‘Manşūr’, including those with religious associations such as ‘Fāţima/Fāteme’, ‘Muħammad/ Mohammad’, ‘عalī’ or ‘عabduzzahrā’/Abdozzahra’. These are not prohibited. Arabic names with strong Iraqi or Arab nationalist associations, such as Saddām, ‘Uday, Fayşal or Khālid are prohibited. However local prohibition of names with more distant historical associations, such as Khālid (the Arab conqueror of Iran in the seventh century), is sometimes reversed by appeals to Tehran, over the heads of provincial authorities in Khuzestan. The local authorities generally refuse names common in Arabic but obscure in Farsi, like Saعd or Rana.

 

The Arab minority is not unique in experiencing this form of discrimination; Iranian Kurds, Azeris, Turkomans and Baluch suffer parallel restrictions. Often the authorities insist on names with strong Persian nationalist — even pre-Islamic — associations, such as Bahrām, Daryūš or Siyāvūš, the equivalent of forcing a Flemish family to name their their son Pepin or their daughter Lutece. Indeed the government may argue that this is not a discriminatory practice, since it applies to all children of minorities. People over thirty years old tend to find such names alien symbols of their subjugation, of which they dispose when they obtain asylum in the UK. Iranian Arabs born since under the Islamic Republic have often accepted the assimilation of Persian culture more than their elders, and may make no attempt to change their Persian names.
Persecution

 

I note that UK adjudicators have allowed the appeals of two other Iranian Arab activists, partly on the basis that they were subjected to instrumental rape in the prisons of Khuzes­tan. The adjudicator’s determination in the successful appeal of Arab Iranian activ­ist of the Democratic Popular Front for the Ahwazian Arab People (Number HX/10722/2001), admitted evidence that this form of torture persists, at least in the prisons of Southwest Iran:

“It was submitted that the most damaging aspect to his credibility is the fact that he did not mention in his interview or his first statement (attached to the SEF) that he had been tortured and raped with a bottle during his last period of detention in 1999. I put against that the medical evidence from University College Hospi­tal…I accept that, as submitted by Ms Webber for the appellant, that it is quite believable that he did not disclose the rape…I find it quite believable that he felt, as submitted, shame at what had happened” (Paragraph 26)

“I accept that the appellant was tortured during his last detention in the manner described in his statement.” (Paragraph 40).

 

The Adjudicator in the appeal of another Arab Iranian activist (HX/50064/2001), acknowledges that the same type of torture was perpetrated on the appellant:

“The appellant was responsible for delivering 200 political leaflets a week. He was caught one night when he was writing on the wall and detained. During this detention the appellant said that he was beaten and sexually assaulted. This has been corroborated as far as it can in the medical reports produced before me.

 

The Democratic Front’s letter of August 22, 2001 to Amnesty International, detailing the violence of Iranian military police against the Arab inhabitants of an Eastern quarter of Ahwaz, the provincial capital of Khuzestan:

“In September 2000, the Sepidar police intervened in a fight between Arabic- and Farsi-speaking schoolchildren of the quarter, imprisoned thirteen of the Arab children for four days, beating them severely, then releasing them. Unrest contin­ued, and the childrens’ families became involved. The police then brought bull-dozers and destroyed the dwellings of an estimated eight hundred Arab families, also during a period of about four days.

 

“The police then seized Abdul Ali Sawari, father of one of the youths imprisoned. Abdul Ali was accused of knocking out the eye of a police sergeant. The police neither tried him, nor adduced any proof that he was responsible for the policeman’s lost eye. They lynched him in the main square of Sepidar. We possess a film of the destruction perpetrated on the quarter, including interviews in Arabic with some of the children abused, and some shots of untouched buildings inhabited by native Farsi-speakers. We would be happy to pass you a copy of this video, if Amnesty considers that it could be useful in documenting the Iranian government’s ruthless oppression of its Arab citizens.”

 

I have a copy of a video showing some of the resultant destruction, and interviews with some of the children who witnessed it.

 

In mid-December 2002, Ahwaz’ chief prosecutor Amir Abbas Sohrab Beig, issued an execu­tive order for the removal of satellite dishes from houses in the Arab quarters of the city. The Iranian Press Service (http://www.iran-press-service.com) noted on January 4, 2003 that he “was also quoted last week as warning that the operation was only the beginning of a major clampdown.”

 

The dishes had been widely used to receive transmissions of Almustakillah, Arab News Network (London-based inde­pendent Arabic stations), Aljazeera from Doha, the Abu Dhabi state network,[1] the BBC’s Arabic and Persian services, Radio Monte Carlo’s Arabic service, and Radio Farda (a US-sponsored Prague radio station in Farsi).

 

The police forcefully entered houses and, since they were unable to carry out the execu­tive order effectively, the Security Forces’ Rapid-Strike Unit 110 was called in on December 21st. With a rifle-butt, a member of the unit killed a woman of the Sawari clan in her house in al-Ahwaz’ Da’ira quarter (Deira, Shelengabaad in Persian). The inhabitants responded by burning down Police Station Number Nine, and two weeks of unrest and stone-throwing have ensued. On January 3rd 2003 in al-Ahwaz’ Sayyid Karim quarter, seven-year old Ahmad Torfi fell to the ground in the melée. A soldier hit the boy with a baton, then picked him up and threw him in the path an oncoming military transport, which crushed him.

 

The 28th December, 2002 edition of Alquds, a London Arabic daily (http://www.alquds.co.uk) cited a report of the 26th, in the Iranian government daily Hamshahri (Tehran): “After this operation, 47 people were sentenced to be whipped.”

 

Historical background

 

Recent instances of the Iranian State’s violent response to the Arab minority’s expression of property rights or communal sentiment must be seen as part of an historical pattern of repression related directly and indirectly to oil production. In support of this view, I cite Nikki Keddie’s summary of Iranian Arab grievances thus on pages 140-1 of Iran and the Muslim World: Resistance and Revolution, (London 1995, henceforth Keddie 1995):

 

“Khuzistan is by far Iran’s greatest oil-producing province, holds its largest refinery (Abadan), and hence is the province Iran would be least likely to put in danger of loss or secession without a great struggle…Both before and after the 1979 revolution, there were some Arabs who demanded autonomy, but owing to demographic changes, that demand may be unrealistic. More possible would be official recogni­tion of the Arabic language along with Persian, a greater place for local Arabs in government, and economic programs for the Arabs, many of whom live in excep­tionally depressed conditions. Though many Arabs work in the oil industry, agri­business, and elsewhere, most hold lower-paying jobs than non-Arabs…

“…Khuzistan is a rich province, but the Arabs have by no means shared proportionally in those riches…”

 

Note that this paragraph contradicts Paragraph 5.111 of the CIPU Iran,: “Attempts to gain autonomy in 1979 gave way to support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war.” On the contrary, it is our opinion that Iran­ian Arabs combined attempts to win autonomy with support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war:

“…Arab autonomist sentiment has been encouraged by Arabs outside Iran, espe­cially by Iraqis, but was effectively suppressed under Pahlavis. After the revolution of 1979, the Arabs, like many ethnic minorities, expected to be permit­ted more autonomy and, like the others, were disappointed. The new Iran­ian government allowed for locally elected councils, but neither in its laws nor in its constitution would it set up ethnic regions or allow much use of local languag­es in education and official bodies. Arab protests occurred and sabotage of oil pipelines was blamed on Arab nationalists. Such events probably encour­aged the Iraqi government to believe that Iran’s Arabs would cross over en masse when they launched their invasion…” (Keddie 1995, p. 141)

 

“Khuzistan is the centre of Iran’s oil industry, and thus a strategically sensitive region. The Iranian government has always taken a very dim view of unrest in this area, and has put down unrest promptly and harshly. Unrest has often been directed at oil installa­tions, thus re-enforcing the Iranian view that the Arab liberation movements are a danger to the Iranian economy.” (O’Shea 1997, Paragraph 3)

 

Dissent emerged when the first revolutionary governor-general (muhafiz) of Khuzistan, Admiral Ahmad Madani, initiated the violent suppression of Arab cultural and political activities in Ahwaz in April 1979, the first time that the new Islamic government had fired on unarmed demonstrators. Dilip Hiro describes this massacre on pages 112-113 of Iran under the Ayatollahs (Routledge 1985, henceforth Hiro):

“On 30 May Arab nationalists staged a demonstration in Khorramshahr. Ahmad Madani, the province’s governor-general, ordered troops to fire on the demonstrators. They killed twenty-one to 110 people. Yet demonstrations went on for two more days. Madani’s actions embarrassed the regime’s leading figures. By using troops’ firepower to disperse unarmed protestors, Madani had done something which the Shah used to do, and which the leaders of the Islamic regime had specifically ruled out.”

 

Aqil Abidi provides an excellent analysis of the Arab spiritual and political leader, Ayatollah Mohammad Tahir Al Shubair Al Khaqani’s proposals, in the first months of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. These included guidelines for the governance of Khuzestan. He describes the subsequent deterioration in relations between local leaders including Ayatollah Khaqani, Admiral Ahmad Madani – the governor of Khuzestan — and the revolutionary government in Tehran, on pp. 199-204 of Iran at the Crossroads, The Dissent Movement (Delhi 1989, henceforth Crossroads). He notes that, after the Khorramshahr massacre and Madani’s resignation as governor of Khuzestan,

“The new Administration activated revolutionary forces and organs such as the Jihad-e Saazendigi and the Revolutionary Court. Thus, active movement for autonomy was contained with an iron hand.” (Crossroads, p.204)

The Security forces arrested Khaqani in 1980, and exiled him to Qom, where he died in circumstances still unexplained in 1985.

 

It is difficult to detect any differences of state security policy, in the province of Khuzistan, between conservative and reformist wings of the national government. Maria O’Shea’s observation, in the year of Sayyed Mohammad Khatami’s initial election, remains requires no modification today (O’Shea 1997, page 4, paragraph 6):

“There is often a conflict in Iran between the attitudes of local government agents, and in particular the Pasdaran or Revolutionary Guards, and any liberal sentiments emanating from Tehran. This can be true especially in minority areas of the country, where the local issues surrounding policing a recalcitrant population cause feelings to run high. Khuzistan was pacified in a very brutal campaign in the 1980s, and local hostility is still high. The local authorities do not aim to rule by consent, nor to be popular.”

 

The US State Department report on Iran finds that the authorities do not permit associations to violate the principles of “sover­eignty and national unity

Amnesty summarizes the four principal sources of armed resistance to the Iranian government in 1999:

“The government continued to face armed opposition from the Iraq-based Peoples’ Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), as well as from the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Arab separatist groups in Khuzistan, and Baluchi groups in Sistan-Baluchistan.”

(www.amnesty_usa.org/ailib/aireport/ ar99/Inde13.htm).

Since 1987, Arab protests have focussed on continuing Iranisation of Khuzistan/Arabistan’s economic functions: senior executives of the Iranian National Oil Corporation in the region are never native Arabic speakers. Some Iranians of Arab origin can however attain high office at national level, if they give sufficiently violent proof of their opposition to regional autonomy. The government has diverted the waters of the River Karun, the principal tributary of the Shatt al-Arab, to quench the thirst of the rapidly growing Persian cities of Yazd and Isfahan. The Iranian government has pursued such infrastructural projects, in the interests of the Farsi-speaking majority, instead of sweeping mines or reconstructing Arab villages destroyed in the Iran-Iraq conflict.

 

Arab opposition activities in Khuzestan

 

Widespread opposition activity in Arabestan/Khuzestan functions usually — but not exclusively — through cells of four or five people who rarely receive orders from any exter­nal hierarchy. Since opposition to government activities clearly carries the risk of long-term imprisonment or execution, no opposition group is able to state its identity in public. This widespread, cellular mode of resistance, and the repression of public state­ments by the Arab opposition, mean that an individual’s affiliation with one opposition organization or another frequently crystallises only when members of individual cells are forced to flee the country. The adjudicator allowed the appeal of Fazel Torefi vs SSHD (HX/50064/2001), by another Arab Iranian activist of the Front, noting in Paragraph 9 of the Determination and Reasons:

“I accepted that this was an organisation that was largely composed of cells, the members of which were not aware of other members.”

Membership of an opposition party in an extremely repressive society has thus a character that differs from opposition membership in a society whose political structures aspire to represent its inhabitants.

 

One consequence of the Iranian security services’ violence towards the Arab minority of Khuzestan has been a shift of the centre of political discourse from the Middle East to the European Union’s northern tier (the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands). However individual Arab Iranians live in most EU member states, and we know of isolated activists in Belgium, Finland and Greece (and beyond the EU, in Norway). Each group’s approaches to political reform and sources of funding differentiate them from each other. However a general movement is discernible towards advocacy of co-existence with the Iranian State, on the basis of liberal, secular governance, and in return for cultural, political and economic rights. The two key concepts of this discourse are self-governance (alHukm adh-dhaati) and self-determination (al-Haqq ‘alaa taghyiir al-masiir, literally ‘the right to change course’).

 

Among the groups based in the EU, Al-jubha d-dīmūqrāţīya š-šaعbīya li-šaعb il-عarabi l-‘aħwāzi (the Democratic Popular Front for the Ahwazian Arab People, henceforth the Democratic Front), should not to be confused with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Ahwaz or the Ahwaz Liberation Front.

 

In London, the Democratic Front Popular Front for the Ahwazian Arab People (henceforth the Democratic Front) was established in 1990 by Mahmoud Mazreh (or Mazrae – Arabic Mazra/a, also known as Abu Bashiir or Abu Bashshaar), a British citizen. The organisation has attracted some followers within Iran, where their activities seem to be limited to the distribution of photocopied flyers and pro-Arab articles and videocassettes published in London and other cities of the EU, and the writing of slogans on walls.

 

Anti-government documents are apparently reduced on photocopiers and smuggled into Iran, frequently by the agency of Kurdish smugglers in Van (Eastern Turkey), who passed them to activists in the Iranian border town of Salmas. The photocopies were then mailed via Iran’s internal postal service (which is not subject to surveillance as intense as that of the external post) to Arab activists in Ahwaz. Videocassettes of the Democratic Front’s activities in London were most frequently smuggled to groups like the Appellant’s by a different route: via Iranian Arabs working in Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates.

 

The Democratic Front certainly had adherents among Arab Iranians detained in Australia by 1999, and I have uncorroborated reports that by 1998/1999 it was established in the US and Canada, as well as several other EU countries, for instance Sweden and Belgium. Marxist members of the Democratic Front rebuffed attempts by other Arab Iranians in the UK to build on a public commitment to non-violence in 2001, and to distance the group from the Ba’thist regime in Iraq. A schism resulted in the foundation of the Mutual Solidarity Party. This dispute was rooted in tribal oppositions going back several generations in Iran, although played out in London.

 

The activities of the Democratic Front, principally in the UK, have been widely attested since 2000, and they own a website (http://www.alahwaz.com). These include two demonstrations organised in front of the Iranian embassy in London, and two in front of UNHCR’s regional office (in the building which, incidentally, also houses the headquarters of the ruling Labour Party). As recently as January 25, 2003, Mr Mazreh has reiterated to me the Front’s commitment to non-violence, although I have been unable to corroborate this or, conversely, to substantiate any connection with violence within Iran.

 

Letters signed by Mr Mazreh in the name of the Democratic Front, and submitted in support of applications for asylum, have been been held by the English Immigration Appellate Court as opportunistic, and their submission in support of appeals against refusal of asylum as self-serving, on at least one occasion. My opinion is that these letters do not distinguish clearly between those who worked for the Democratic Front before leaving Iran, and those whose affiliation post-dates arrival in countries in which they seek asylum.

 

The Democratic Front’s activities outside Iran would nevertheless undoubtedly expose affiliated members to risk of arrest on deportation to Iran. An assertion that the sole or primary activity of the Democratic Front is the issuing of letters in support of claims for asylum would not be correct. I know of Iranian Arab activists who have been detained for eight months without any particular position of responsibility in the opposition.

 

The term Khalq-e Arab is an Arabic-Persian compound that may be translated as ‘the Arab people’ (or ‘nation’ in the Native American sense). The derived adjective ‘khalghi’ commonly describes, in the territory known to Arab Iranians as Arabistan and to the Iranian authorities as the province of Khuzestan, a person sympathetic to Arab autonomy or independence. Both the Iranian State and the Arab inhabitants of Khuzestan regard use of the term as subversive.

 

Government interrogators apply it to Arab activists, among them those whose opposition affiliations are unclear — almost certainly the majority of those arrested. A number of Arab opposition groups, incorporating the term in the Persian versions of their names, emerged during the Islamic Revolution of 1979/1980 (markaz-e farhangii-ye khalq-e /arab-e iiraan — the Cultural Centre of Iran’s Arab People, and two armed groups, sarzamaan-e siyaasii-ye khalq-e /arab — the Arab People’s Political Organisation, and jumbesh-e mardomii-ye khalq-e /arab — the Arab Nation’s Popular Movement[2]).

 

All three groups were suppressed in 1979, during Admiral Ahmad Madani’s violent clamp-down on Arab opposition, and many of their members enlisted with the Iraq-based Liberation Front (see below, this section). No currently active political party or grouping named Khalq Al-/Arab, or with a name containing the term, exists. Use of the term presumably expresses political opinion, not affiliation with a constituted, legitimate political party.

 

The London Arabic daily Azzaman of July 15, 2002 notes on
page 2 that: “Uday, the oldest son of the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussain,
met the Iranian chargé d’affaires, Alii Reza Haghighian, and on the same day
met Taariq Abdulkariim Nima, head of the General Union of Students and
Youth of Ahwaz, which belongs to the Ahwaz Liberation Front, an organization opposing Iran and resident in Iraq.”

 

The Arab Front for the Liberation of Ahwaz (al-jubha l-arabiiya lit-taHriir
al-‘aHwaaz, which I generally refer to as the Liberation Front) has
adherents in the European Union, including the UK. Fluctuating Iraqi
patronage has made it one of the longest lasting and most important Iranian
Arab opposition groups.

 

The Liberation Front was founded on September 23, 1981, in Iraq, and its first director, Sayyid Haadi’ Sayyid Adnaan Nizaariipuur (al-Muusawii), died in 1997 or 1998. He had retired however in 1982, and was succeeded by Mansuur MinaaHii (Abuu Awwaad). Subsequent changes of leadership corresponded to modulations of Iraqi government support for the Liberation Front. The period of closest identification with Iraqi policy was 1983-1986, the first years of HuSayn MaaDii’s leadership. The Liberation Front formed a battalion fighting with the Iraqi army during the Iraq-Iran war.

 

The group lost the bulk of its Iraqi funding however, when the Iraqi security services switched their resources to the more broadly based Mojaahediin-e Khalgh (MEK, ‘Warriors of the People’), which shifted its operations from Paris to Baghdad in 1986. The MEK is a Persian group with few Iranian Arab affiliations. Its roots among Iran’s majority (or largest minority) population made them more useful to Iraqi intelligence than the Liberation Front, and the MEK consequently displaced the Liberation Front in the hierarchy of Iraqi patronage. This shift caused many adherents of the Liberation Front to move on from Iraq, in 1986, to Syria, Canada and the European Union. The Liberation Front however has adherents still in the Iraqi cities of Amara, Kut and Baghdad. Note that the Liberation Front’s current website (http://www.al-ahwaz.com/Ahwaz.htm) suggests that its Iraqi links are by no means dormant.

 

 

Contact details

Ewen Macmillan, Ph. D.

ewen_macmillan@hotmail.com                                                                0044 207 6313 061

 

ADDRESS TO THE DANISH PARLIAMENT BY MR KERIM BANESAYED, JANUARY 2004

 

Mr. President, ladies and gentelmen and distinguished members of the Danish Parliament, good morning and Greetings. On behalf of the Ahwazi Arab people and the Ahwazi Arab nation in Iran, I would like to express our sincere thanks and deep gratitude to the Danish people. Parliament and all political parties that help orgnaize this even. Also our thanks to the members of European Union parliament who are present here. Thank you for the invitation.

 

We dearly value the opportunity provided to us to bring to you and to the world the plight of our oppressed nation. To show the International Community the sufferings and the national persecution of Ahwazi Arabs under the Islamic Republic of Iran. We want to share with you our 78 year history of struggle for freedom, democracy and social justice.

 

Holding this Symposium on the ethnic nationalities in Iran and inviting the Arab and other delegations, is a reflection of political maturity and the respect for human rights. Our delegation will try to bring to your attention the injustice that is being carried out by this and previous regimes.

 

Our nation, the Ahwazi Arab nation lives in the Southwestern part of Iran, which, despite the changing of the name in 1925 to Khuzestan by the Iranian regime, the area is still called Ahwaz or Arabistan by the local Arab inhabitants, as it has been called for the past five centuries.

 

Our area, Al-Ahwaz or Khuzestan is strategically located on the northern tip of the Gulf and the Shatt-al- Arab waterway- Our region contains and sits atop of a vast mineral resources including a reserve of over 40 billion barrels of oil and 210 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which is the second known oil and gas reserves in the world. Our land produces 3-5—5 million barrels of oil per day, or 20% of OPEC’ daily production.

 

The population is estimated to be between 4 and 6 million. The U.S. State Department 2002 Human Rights Report estimates the Ahwazi Arabs in Iran to be over 4 million.

 

Prior to its annexation in April 20, 1925, Arabistan enjoyed full autonomy and independence at various times in its history of 5,000 years. Arabic was taught and spoken as the official language prior to annexation.

 

After the emergence of Reza Shah and by enforcing centralization, he invaded Arabistan with 22,000 soldiers, overthrew the local administration, occupied and destroyed Arabistan’s sovereignty, and subordinated the province to Iran, all against the wishes of its Arab inhabitants and without their direct involvement or a referendum. The state adopted Farsi (Persian) as the official language, which is spoken by less than 40% of the total population. The government shut down the schools and banned Arabic education in the province where about 90% of the people were native Arabic speakers. The Iranian government officially changed the name of the province from Arabistan to Khuzestan in 1936.

 

Our Ahwazi Arab people were put under political, cultural, social and economic subjugation by the past Iranian monarchist and the current clerical regimes for the past 78 years. These regimes stripped Arabs of Ahwaz from their human rights and lowered their status to the ranks of 2nd and 3rd class citizens.

 

In the past 78 years, our nation endured one of the most brutal national persecution and ethnic cleansing, by the monarchist regimes of Pahlevis and the clerical regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

The policies of the Islamic Republic, like its predecessor, are based on the elimination of the national identity of Arabs, and also to some degree, other nationalities such as the Turks, Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen. The aim is “Persianization” or “Farsization”, where everything must be Persian. This policy is based on a supremacist, and a chauvinist ideology, aimed at the elimination of non-Persian cultures, especially the Arabs.

 

Our people have been subjected to the eradication of our national identity, our culture, language, and customs; and faced with forced assimilation and imposition of Persian language and culture on an unprecedented level. Our children are being deprived from the use and study of their mother language and our people are being denied their social and political rights.

 

While our oil resources is being plundered to fund 90% of Iranian economy, Arabs live in abject poverty and do not share the riches of their land- and no part of this oil- zero%- has been allocated to our area or to our people. A common practice between the previous monarchist and the current clerical regimes.

 

Our demands for basic human rights, including education in our mother tongue, have often been labeled as “separatist”, “secessionist” or called “stooges of foreign countries” or “danger to territorial integrity”.

 

The Islamic republic, which is a signatory of the UN Human Rights declaration, does not abide by its international commitment, nor does it respect its own constitution, which under sections 15 and 19, allows for the use of regional and ethnic languages and cultures.

 

There exist a cultural and a linguistic aparthied in Iran where a dominant minority rules in every respect of life, political, social, cultural economical etc. The UN human rights and other international laws are very clear in this regards.

 

The Islamic Republic government continues the forced resettlement policy to force the Arab population out of Khuzusistan by providing economic incentives and enticements to re-settle non- Arab population on the expropriated Arab farmlands. This policy is intended to dilute or de-populate the towns and villages of Khuzestan from Arabs.

 

This is clearly against the basic tents of UN Human Rights declaration which states “…According to the Human Rights Watch 2003 LANDMINE MONITOR Report “Millions of Land mines remaining from the Iran-Iraq war in the province of Khuzestan, kills and maims Arab inhabitants of Khuzestan in southwestern Iran every day, especially shepards and children……” H.R.Watch Monitor Reports says “Khuzesatn is the most (landmine) infested area” in Iran according to Colonel Amir Mohamadi, Iranian ground forces second-in command.

 

Note: The UN donor nations contributed $1.7 billion to Mine Action from 1992-2202 for the elimination of land mines. The Danish government contributed $73 million during this period and $10.7 in 2002 alone. Iran received a large amount through UNDP. Iranian Government must be accountable to the Danish people’s generosity. Iran did not accept a ban on landmines, obstained from voting on every mine ban in the UN General assembly since 1996 and didn’t attend any Mine Ban Treaty meetings in 2002 and 2003. We think the Iranian government deliberately ignores the land-mines problem as it helps its policy of forcing Arabs from their homes and lands.

 

While the illiteracy rate among the general non-Arab population in Iran is about 30%, this rate among Arab men in Khuzestan is over 60 and among Arab women is even higher. The number of Arab university students in the University of Chamran in Ahwaz, the provincial capital of Arab Khuzestan, is 2,000 students out of 30,000, or less than 7%, in a an area where over 70% are Arabs.

 

The Arab-populated border cities destroyed during the Iran-Iraq war have largely been untouched, while hundreds of hectares every month in Tehran are being flowered and landscaped for beatifications. Currently, the entire oil revenue flows to Tehran. The regime dammed and diverted the water of our rivers such Karun to non-Arab areas, and it is planning to pipe and sell the waters of Karkhe river that passes through 100% Arab areas of Howizeh and Boustan, to Kuwait- and other Gulf countries- while Khuzestan severely suffers from shortage of drinking waters.

 

The regime does not permit any genuine Arabic newspapers and media in Khuzestan. Now, as in the previous regime, governor general of Khuzestan, all other province’s political, military and security commanders and officers, mayors and all high and mid-level government officials of Khuzestan have consistently been appointed from non-Arabs outside of the native Arab population.

 

Often, the Iranian government authorities in the Khuzestan refuse to register and issue birth identity cards to Arab newborn-babies, who do not assume Persian or Shiite names. Names of cities, towns, villages, rivers and other geographical landmarks were changed from Arabic to Persian during the previous Pahalavi regimes. These historical Arabic names existed for centuries. The regime refuses to consent to the Ahwazi Arabs’ request to change the names of these landmarks back to their historical Arabic names.

 

This regime, like the previous one in Iran, prevents any public mention of the Ahwazi Arab minority population. It has imposed a silence and news blockades in the national and international media against the existence of Arabs in Iran.

 

Iranian government in the past 2 years has intensified its campaign of repression against Arab freedom fighters, human rights and political activists and students in Khuzestan. It has executed many and imprisoned thousands of Arabs. In the last 18 months, it executed Fadhil Muqaddam, Rahim Sawari, Amir Sa’idi, Hashem Bawi and Abbas Sherhani.

 

During the past six months, security forces arrested and imprisoned Mr. Kazem Mojadam, the deputy chairman of “Islamic Wafagh Party” in the provincial city of Ahwaz, and arrested members of the “Arab House” in Tehran. Although “Islamic Wafagh” is a legal grassroots party officially registered in Iran. “Arab House” is also a legal social-cultural club and a gathering place for Ahwazi and Khuzestani Arabs living in Tehran.

 

The regime refuses to release thousands of Arab political prisoners many whom have been in prison for over 20 years, and some are old, ill, frail and over 70 years old. We submit a list of these political prisoners in the Karun prison in Ahwaz to the parliament here.

 

A systematic campaign of hatreds and misrepresentation of Arabs in the media in Iran- is a common denominator of the previous and the current regime.

 

Ladies and gentlemen: Global changes, coupled with the advent of the Internet, and revolution in telecommunications, and emergence of satellite media, brought about a tremendous socio-political reawakening of the Arabs as well as other national and ethnic groups in Iran; and this phenomenon is irreversible.

 

Guiding, leading and the directing this national awakening and the associated energy, will depend upon the treatments and the response of the dominant regime in Tehran to the legitimate demands of Arabs and other oppressed nationalities; and also, by the degree of sensitivity of the International community vis-a-vi, the struggles for the rights of self determination of these nationalities in Iran.

 

All members of our delegation, representing a wide cross section of the Ahwazi Arab society, and indeed, the majority of our movement, believe in non-violence and employment of civic means of struggle. We fully adhere to the universal declarations of human rights and all related international laws and protocols.

 

We are against and reject all forms of terrorism and violence. We struggle for the establishments of a civil society and strengthening the principles of democratic values. We will pursue peaceful resistance, as means and methods of realizing our goals.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Iran as a diverse and multinational state is comprised of six major nationalities including Arabs, Baluchis, Kurds, Persians, Turks and Turkmen and smaller groups of other ethnic/linguistic and tribal groups.

 

The 68 million population is roughly 1/3 Turks, 1/3 Persian and 1/3 Kurds, Arabs, Baloch, Turkmen and others. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of all of these nationalities to decide with equal voice the future of Iran and solve the chronic internal crisis brought about by successive monarchist and clerical dictatorships. The future of Iran as a modern and a progressive state, and a good member of the International community, could be guaranteed only through a voluntary association of all national groups constituting Iran; where they will have the opportunity to develop their respective cultures, languages, histories, economies and homelands, under an appropriate system of political governance, federal, confederal or an equally appropriate system that guarantees and respects the rights of self determination.

 

We Arabs of Ahwaz, desire coexistence with all nationalities in Iran. We advocate a best system of governance that enables and facilitate democracy and social justice. We do not believe in the imposition of one dominant nationality at the expense of others.

 

The struggle of Ahwazi Arabs is part of a larger democratic struggle that is happening throughout Iran. In summery, specific demands of the Ahwazi Arabs of Iran are partially as follows:

• Education and study in the mother tongue.

• Participation and sharing of economic wealth and resources.

• Allocation of some of oil revenues toward the development and progress in Khuzestan.

• Expeditious de-mining of Arab inhabited border areas remaining from the eight year Iran-Iraq war.

• Repair or rebuilding of Arab towns and villages in Khuzestan that were destroyed during the Iran-Iraq War.

• Allow the Arab war refugees to return to their homes in Ahwaz, Abadan, Muhamara (khuramshare) and other cities.

• Allow formation of civil society elements in Khuzestan such as labor unions, formation of Arab political and cultural centers.

• We demand the return of lands or equitable compensation to Arab landowners whose property was forcefully expropriated by the Iranian government.

• We demand safeguarding of the area ecology, and cleaning the drinking water poisoned by run-offs from the “Sugar Cane” project. We demand that the government must stop the proliferation of drugs among Arab youth and combating corruption.

• Release all Arabs and other political prisoners.

• We demand that the Iranian regime reaffirms its commitments and honor its international obligation to protect the human rights of all citizens in accordance with the U.N. and U.E. human rights accords.

• we demand the presence of international lawyers in all political trials against our people especially those charged with so called separatism

 

Ladies and gentlemen; Dear members of the parliament: Our delegation represents the widest cross sections of political, cultural and civic organizations and individuals, including the Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz, American and European chapters of Ahwaz Human Rights Organizations, Ahwazi Arabs for Freedom and Democracy, Ahwaz Studies Center in New York, Ahwazi Arab cultural associations in Germany, UK, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, We urge you to help us stop the annihilation of a nation as big as Denmark.

 

Help us to stop the execution of our people under the guise of “separatists’ and similar bogus charges. We promise you that we will tirelessly pursue our goals and objectives for human rights and democracy and the rights of self determination in a peaceful, civil, and nonviolent way.

 

One more time, we thank you very much for your efforts and applaud your concern for human rights and human dignity.

[http://www.al-ahwaz.com/AhwazRevolution/tazamon_party/30-1-2004-2.pdf]

 

 

Contact details

Kerim Banesayed

Ahwaz Studies Centre

USA

0011 1 703 266 1380

 

COUNTRY INFORMATION (2000 and earlier)

 

In 1994, the United Nations Economic and social council resolved that it was “Shocked by the systematic repression of the Baha’i community and at the situation of the Iranian Kurds and the Arab minority in Iran, and at increasing intolerance towards Christians, including recent murders of Christian religious ministers.”

It further requested “the Secretary-General to continue to keep the Sub-Commission informed of relevant reports and United Nations measures to prevent human rights violations in the Islamic Republic of Iran, including, in particular, those concerning the situation of the Kurds and the Arab minority and the religious freedoms of the Baha’i and Christian communities in Iran;

[http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/TestFrame/c38cb9988ec0f3888025670000511eec?Opendocument]

 

The 1997 Human Rights Watch Report Iran: Religious and Ethnic Minorities: Discrimination in Law and Practice states, “The situation of religious and ethnic minorities is a neglected aspect of the human rights picture in Iran. With the exception of the persecution of the Baha’i religious minority, little has been written about human rights problems experienced by minorities. Yet, as this report shows, ethnic and religious differences underlie some of the most persistent and serious human rights problems in Iran today…

“Despite language in the constitution apparently designed to outlaw discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, clear discrimination exists in the text of the penal and civil codes… This report identifies areas in which the treatment of ethnic minorities has failed to meet the standard of equal treatment under the law for all Iranians regardless of their ethnic origin, set forth in the Iranian constitution and instruments of international law…

“In an atmosphere in which the rule of law is beset by uncertainty and contradictions, vulnerable groups such as religious and ethnic minorities are likely to be among the primary targets of abuse.

“Persian nationalism was strongly pronounced in the official ideology of the Pahlavi dynasty, deposed in 1979, which characterized itself as the heir to 2,500 years of Persian monarchy. It remains an important tool by which the present government claims legitimacy. Many commentators have remarked that the present government is as much Persian nationalist in its policies and pronouncements as it is Islamic.

“While the situation of some religious minorities, notably Baha’is and Evangelical Christians, has been well documented by their supporters outside Iran, the situation of Sunni Muslims and of various ethnic minorities is less well documented. Activists from these communities are less experienced at presenting their concerns and are afraid that if they are identified, they could be subject to reprisals from Iranian government agents. The situations of these minorities are also not well reported in the Iranian media, and independent journalists or observers are rarely permitted to visit the parts of the country in which they live. In addition, sensitive minorities issues have traditionally been neglected by many Iranian researchers. This report relies extensively on interviews with activists from various minorities living in Europe and the U.S. In some cases, Human Rights Watch was able to carry out telephone interviews with individuals in Iran.

“Arabs make up 70 percent of the three million inhabitants of Khuzestan Province in the southwest of Iran, on the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf. Although the great majority of them are Shi’a Muslims, they have grievances against the Persian rulers of contemporary Iran.

“An Arab-Iranian activist stated that in the past two years alone more than 180 Iranian Arabs have been detained and prosecuted on charges of espionage for Iraq or other Gulf Arab states. Like all detainees held for suspected political offenses, they have been held in indefinite pre-trial detention without access to lawyers, vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment, and without access to fair judicial processes.

“Arab activists claim that the attitude of the present government does not differ from that of the previous regime in its efforts to stamp out Arab culture. There is no Arabic-language newspaper dealing with domestic issues in Khuzestan; Arabic newspapers published in Iran are directed at an audience in the Arab world beyond Iran’s borders. Arabic is not taught in elementary schools, and the Arabic teaching in secondary schools focuses exclusively on religious texts. The governor of Khuzestan is not an Arab, and very few high-ranking government officials are from an Arab background. One exception to this is Ali Shamkhani, who in August 1997 was appointed minister of defense by the newly elected president Mohammad Khatami.

“A new irrigation scheme designed to boost sugar cane production in the Caroun River region has led to the expropriation of land from Arab peasants. Iranian Arab activists complain that local people are not being hired to work in the Caroun River Project. Instead, workers are being brought in from outside Khuzestan, and new settlements are being built for them. In February 1997, Iraji Sefati Dezfouli, a parliamentary representative for Abadan, protested about the lack of employment provisions for local people in the Caroun River project.”

The report recommended that “The government should remove all obstacles to language instruction and to the publication and dissemination of newspapers and books in minority languages; the government should ensure that there is no discrimination against ethnic minorities in their access to higher education and to positions of authority in public life; ethnic minorities should be given an effective voice in their own affairs, including the right to form peaceful political organizations and to vote for elected representatives of their own choice and no one should be subject to persecution for the non-violent advocacy of the rights or interests of minority religious or ethnic groups. [http://www.hrw.org/reports/1997/iran/]

 

Amnesty International’s Report on Iran for 1999 stated, “The government continued to face armed opposition from the Iraq-based People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (pmoi), as well as from the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (kdpi), Arab separatist groups in Khuzestan, and Baluchi groups in Sistan-Baluchistan…. Political prisoners serving long prison terms after unfair trials included: supporters of the pmoi; members of the Mohajerin movement (followers of Dr ‘Ali Shari’ati); members of leftist organizations such as the Tudeh party, Peykar and factions of the Organization of the People’s Fedaiyan of Iran; supporters of Kurdish groups such as Komala and the kdpi; and supporters of other groups representing ethnic minorities such as Baluchis and Arabs.” [http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar99/mde13.htm]

 

This repeated statements made in Amnesty International’s 1998 and 1997 reports, available at [http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar98/mde13.htm] and [http://www.amnesty.org/ailib/aireport/ar97/MDE13.htm].

 

 

In September 2000, a report to the United Nations General Assembly stated, “The status of ethnic and religious minorities remains largely unaddressed. The alienation of some minority ethnic groups by the Government’s tacit policy of assimilation continues to grow.

“Equality rights have seen little progress. Women and minorities remain seriously disadvantaged in law and in practice.…The basic international statement of the rights of a minority is contained in article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which establishes the rights of ethnic, religious linguistic minorities to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion or to use their own language…

“In the Special Representative’s view, the articulation of a minorities policy in the Islamic Republic of Iran is long overdue. Without going over the uneasy and sometimes violent relationships that most minorities have had with the central Government dating from the nineteenth century, it is self-evident today that certain minorities are among the poorest and most disadvantaged peoples in the country.

“It is also clear that most minorities are not enjoying the rights set out in article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The history of such treatment can perhaps be partly attributed to strategic circumstances but that cannot today stand as a justification for disregarding the rights clearly articulated in article 27 of the Covenant, as well as indeed to a limited extent in the Iranian Constitution itself.

“The rights of minorities, both ethnic and religious, remain another area largely neglected by the Government. The Special Representative urges the Government to:…Extend to all religious and ethnic minority groups the cultural rights articulated in the Constitution.”

[http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/TestFrame/6c3cf24a3cc9839bc125697d004a517f?Opendocument]

 

The 2000 US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Iran states, “…the 1995 Press Law prohibits the publishing of a broad and ill-defined category of subjects, including material…”promoting subjects that might damage the foundation of the Islamic Republic.” Generally prohibited topics include…advocating rights or autonomy for ethnic minorities….The Government discriminates against religious and ethnic minorities.

“Mohammed Chehrangi, an advocate for the cultural rights of Azeris, was arrested in December 1999….The Government does not use forced exile, but many dissidents and ethnic and religious minorities leave the country due to a perception of threat from the Government.”

[http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/nea/786.htm]

 

This repeated statements in the 1999 report, available at http://www.state. gov/www/global/human_rights/1999_hrp_report/iran.html and the 1998 report, available at http://www.state.gov/www/global/human_rights/1998_hrp_report/ iran.html. The 1998 report included the statement, “Exiles and human rights monitors allege that many of those executed for criminal offenses, primarily narcotics charges, are actually political dissidents. A November 1995 law criminalized dissent and applied the death penalty to offenses such as “attempts against the security of the State, outrage against high-ranking Iranian officials, and insults against the memory of Imam Khomeini and against the Leader of the Islamic Republic.” President Khatami advocated allowing criticism of the Government on several occasions throughout the year, but offered no official protection to critics. In June the daily newspaper Hamshahri reported the public hanging of four men in Ahvaz, in southern Iran, for “insulting” Supreme Leader Khamenei, and “armed robbery.”

 

In 2000, A. William Samii, a senior regional analyst with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, published “The Nation and Its Minorities: Ethnicity, Unity, and State Policy in Iran” in Comparative Studies Of South Asia, Africa And The Middle East (Vol.20, Nos.1&2) [128-137]

“The Iranian constitution has specific provisions guaranteeing equal rights to minorities. They have the right to their specific religious practices, as well as the right to use their languages in the mass media and in education. The constitution also grants the minorities a modicum of legal and administrative autonomy in regions where they are the majority. These constitutional provisions have little meaning in reality, and the state is pursuing policies of religious, linguistic, and cultural unity at the expense of minority rights.

“A comprehensive analysis involving participants from the National Intelligence Council in the United States, non-governmental institutions, academia, and the private sector, predicts that internal conflicts stemming from ethnic or religious disputes might increase in the next fifteen years.“Responding to emerging and dynamic religious and ethnic groups,” according to the analysis, will be an important challenge for states between now and 2015.

“Iran is clearly one of the countries that must come to terms with ethnic diversity if its territorial integrity or, at least, its political stability is to remain unthreatened. The Islamic Republic’s population of roughly 65 million people consists of many religious and ethnolinguistic groups. The largest ethnic group is Persian, which makes up 51 percent of the population. This is followed by Azeris at 24percent, Gilakis and Mazandaranis at eight percent, Kurds at seven percent, and Arabs at three percent…. some of these minorities welcomed the 1978-79 Islamic revolution and what they hoped would be greater autonomy.

“What they encountered instead was a system that frowned on anything distinctive to an ethnic minority — be it language, religion, culture, or even territorial identification. Minority demands were ignored out of concern that the state would disintegrate and also because the revolutionaries believed that the purpose of the revolution was to create an Islamic state with a Shia leadership. In some cases, the state crushed the resulting ethnic insurgencies.

“Currently, the state downplays factors that are distinctive to minority groups, and instead emphasizes the preservation of “unity.” In the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the highest-ranking political and religious figure in Iran, “The noble nation gives priority unity over factors which might divide it.” In line with its concept of unity, the state promotes the image that there are no ethnic problems in Iran and all minorities see themselves as part of the Iranian nation-state first and foremost.

“Nevertheless, ethnic groups in Iran militate for the right to use and study their different languages and practice minority religions. As recently as May 2001 writers, intellectuals, and parliamentarians wrote a letter to President Mohammad Khatami in which the criticized insufficient funding for cultural activities is ethnic communities and inattention to ethnic rights. The letter’s signatories also appealed for protection for the country’s ethnic languages and called for an end to discrimination.

“Tehran is clearly sensitive to any possible separatist tendencies and the possible exploitation thereof. The Minister of Intelligence and Security issued a warning about the “enemy’s deceitful use of ethnicity as a tool in conspiracy.” When different minorities do make occasional demands for greater national rights, they are usually ignored. This led a Tehran daily to warn that “the specific lack of attention paid to the civil demands of ethnic groups has also led to their grievances and many frustrations”

“…What this research indicates is that Tehran gives lip service to practical recognition of minority rights. In reality, Iranian state policies now advocate unity, encourage acculturation to a common culture, and promote assimilation. The State, Persian nationalism, and Shia Islam are supposed to be the unifying factors, and this unity is imposed through force when necessary.

“Mounting ethnic grievances in Iran, when combined with unemployment rates estimated to exceed 25 percent and an increasingly young and frustrated population chafing under a lack of political and civil liberties, could erupt into civil unrest in the near future.

A HISTORY OF ETHNIC TENSIONS

“Tension between the Iranian state and the country’s ethnic minorities is not peculiar to the current Reza Shah Pahlavi (1925-41) emphasized Iranian nationalism and was hostile towards the country’s Arabs, Baluchis, Kurds, Turkmen, and Turkic speakers because he saw ethnic and cultural pluralism as a threat to the state. “Such groups were therefore exposed to ruthless coercion to force them to enter the mainstream of Iranian society, accompanied by systematic attacks upon their cultural identities.” Their leaders often died under mysterious circumstances in Tehran….

“…The constitution’s eventual failure to account for ethnic minorities’ demands caused disgruntlement, but around this time there was ethnic unrest in southwestern Khuzestan Province, north-eastern Gorgan Province, and south-eastern Baluchistan, which only underlined the perceived need for strong central authority…

“Information about human rights violations suffered ethnic minorities in Iran is difficult to obtain and verify…. [T]he situations of its ethnic minorities are closely monitored by international support groups. It is difficult to gain access to many areas where the minorities reside, and the Iranian media does not report on sues of ethnic discrimination. But it is obvious that problems do exist. After discussing some of them in March 2000, the UN’s human rights rapporteur for Iran said that he was “forced to conclude that sufficient political will is lacking to put this area onto the government’s priority list.”An Iranian commentator pointed out that in the 21 years since the revolution, “none of the groups in the country — whether small or large — have been able, within the framework of the principles of the law to enjoys their basic citizenship rights.”…

“Ethnicity played a part in some of the provincial parliamentary campaigns in 2000, although the Interior Minister expressed the hope that this would not be the case….In Khuzestan, “[s]ome of the candidates and their supporters [were] involved in inciting nationalist dings and provoking ethnic tendencies among the people to obtain votes.” After the election, an editorial in a reformist daily said that since the new parliament is likely to co-operate with President Khatami’s government, everybody will expect the adoption of ire permitting the “complete realization of the people’s rights, regardless of religion, race, or nationality.”

“It does not seem, however, that the new, reformist-dominated parliament will take any actions that might be oriented towards minorities. One of the leading reformist dailies noted, before it was closed down, it the conditions for minority rights and people’s coexistence are defined in the constitution. To apply federalist solutions in a situation of weak civil society institutions, it suggested, was inappropriate. And in light of Khatami’s calls for patience and his support for acting within a constitutional framework, it does f seem that any changes will come from that direction in the near future.

“The formation of regional groupings — such as the Kurdish or Azerbaijani ones, the North faction (with representatives from Gulistan, Gilan, and Mazandaran Province) or the Assembly of Deputies of the Deprived Regions — within the parliament may help individual provinces. This is not, however, a form of ethnic identification. So it may help Azerbaijanis through numbers, but it will not help the Kurds, Baluchis, Arabs, or Turkmen. Factional differences in the parliament, furthermore, will hinder practical displays of unity within the regional groupings.

“In early 2000, the Expediency Council ratified a general policy on minorities.At that time it was decided to prevent “abuse of tribal and religious minorities that could lead to infiltration of foreigners and thus harming national unity.” To this end, it was determined that “the culture and civilization of Islam and Iran, the Persian language and writing are key factors of solidarity.” The language used in the statements about this policy suggests three things.

“One, the state is aware of minority grievances and demands. Two, the state prefers to blame its difficulties on foreign scapegoats, rather than dealing with them. And three, national unity is more important to the state than minority rights. Yet this kind of policy on minorities and ethnicity is exactly what can be exploited with grave results for Iranian unity.”

[http://www.cssaame.ilstu.edu/issues/v20/Samii.pdf]

 

On 14 February 2000, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported “Of the province’s voters, 95 percent cast their ballots for President Khatami, Yusef Azizi Bani-Taruf wrote in “Asr-i Azadegan” on 18 January. Arabs make up 65 percent of the provincial population, and Khatami rewarded their support by ensuring that more Arabs are in government positions: from 2 out of 120 posts to the current 17. The formation of the Al-Janat al-Wefaq, a small Arab-Iranian society, indicates the related improvement in local self-worth, Bani-Taruf wrote. He added that more needs to be done by the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry, such as permission for the creation of Arabic publications. Local Arabs would not, therefore, have any attraction to so-called “liberation movements” from across the border.

Such ethnic sentiments are taking a divisive turn in Khuzestan, according to other observers. “Some of the candidates and their supporters are involved in inciting nationalist feelings and provoking ethnic tendencies among the people to obtain votes,” reported “Jomhuri-yi Islami” on 3 February. Ethnic sentiments have been a political issue in Khuzestan “in the last couple of years.”

Other problems in Khuzestan make it fertile ground for those wanting to use ethnicity to pursue separatist agendas. “Hundreds” of workers at the Abadan refinery have been demoted so they will voluntarily quit, “thousands” of workers in the steel mill have not received their pay or bonuses, and the “legitimate wages of Khuzestan’s pipe-manufacturing plant have been unpaid for months.” These events have resulted in demonstrations and hunger strikes, “Kar va Kargar” reported on 18 January. “We should not expect workers to continue to bear the problems and say nothing,” the newspaper warned. [http://www.rferl.org/reports/iran-report/2000/02/7-140200.asp]

 

In June 2000, the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board reported, “Nations Without States states that the capital of Arabistan is Ahvaz (Ahwaz) and that 2,977,000 of a total population of 3,165,000 Arabistanis, live in Iran (ibid.). In further information:

Location: Arabistan lies in southwestern Iran, a lowland region forming part of Tigris-Euphrates Valley between the Iraqi border and the Zargos Mountains at the head of the Persian Gulf.

Political Status: Arabistan has no official status; the region called Arabistan by nationalists forms the province of Khuzestan in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Flag: The Arabistani flag, the flag of the national movement, is a vertical tricolor of red, white, and black bearing a centred green, five-pointed star surrounded by a green circle.

People: The Arabistanis are a Semetic Arab people made up of thirty tribal groups that are ethnically and culturally related to the Arab peoples to the west but are not closely related to Iran’s majority Aryan population. The Arabistanis, who speak an Arabic dialect with a marked Farsi (Iranian admixture), are mostly Shia Muslims, adhering to the branch of Islam predominant in Iran, with a Sunni Muslim minority concentrated in the coastal areas. …

The centralization of government, under the Pahlevi dynasty [1925], included the official elimination of the privileges of the Iranian state’s numerous ethnic and religious minorities. In 1928 the inhabitants of Arabistan, again rechristened Khuzestan, came under intense pressure to assimilate, with ethnic clothing outlawed, Arabic language publications banned, and all schools order to teach only in Farsi, Iran’s official language.

The Arab league, founded in 1945, demanded independence for Arabistan, and the province remained one of the focal points of Arab nationalism throughout the 1950s. In 1958 a radical Arab nationalist government took power in neighboring Iraq and drastically increased the outside support for the nascent Arabistani nationalist movement. Exile nationalist organizations, based in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, directed operations in the province, with strikes, demonstrations, and the sabotage of pipelines and oil refineries becoming common practice.

The Iraqi government temporarily suspended overt aid to the national movement following the resolution of a long-standing border dispute with Iran in 1975. However, in 1979 Iraq resumed its support of the Arabistani nationalists following the revolution that brought a radical Islamic government to power in Iran. The Arabistanis, viewed by the new Islamic government as potential agents for rival Iraq, suffered severe suppression even though they had initially supported the revolution. Betrayed by the revolutionary government, the Arabistanis launched a renewed campaign of sabotage.

The Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, citing the harsh treatment of the Arabistanis, declared the 1975 border agreement void and, on the same day, 22 September 1980, launched a military invasion of Iranian Khuzestan. The conflict soon bogged down and became an eight-year war of attrition. By 1988 Arabistan’s cities, ports, and oilfields lay in ruins, but still under Iranian control.

Abandoned by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which turned its attention to nearby Kuwait in 1990, the Arabistanis have looked beyond Iraq to the other Arab states for support. Drawing on Arab sympathy and monetary aid, the Arabistani nationalists compare their situation to that of the people of Palestine, another Arab nation under foreign military rule (ibid., 29-30).

The following references provide partial corroboration of the above. An outline for a first year university course in Comparative Foreign Policy at the University of California – Santa Cruz, states that “Arabistan in the southern part of Iran is almost entirely Arab” (1998). Chaliand (1993) and Lyle (1999) cited on the Website of Adherents.com indicate that approximately 2,000,000 Iranians are Arab and that “most of them live on the Persian Gulf islands or in Khuzistan which has been called Arabistan in various times in Iran’s history” (2000.). An 8 December 1998 Tehran Times article reported that 2.5 million Iranians of Arab origin live in the Province of Khuzestan. Other sources also reported that the war between Iran and Iraq began as an effort by Saddam Hussein to “liberate” Arabs in Khuzistan (Arabistan) (Richman 10 Jan. 1985; van Bruinessen 1992). One source commented that “neither the Arabs of Khuzistan nor the Iranian Kurds rallied to Saddam’s support” (ibid.).

The following is written under a heading entitled “Arabs” within the Iran section of the World Directory of Minorities:

There are probably one million Arabs, mainly Shi’i, living primarily along the Gulf littoral in the province of Khuzistan and more generally in the south. The Arabs of Khuzistan and of southern Iraq form a cultural unit. Many Arabs on the coastline are Sunni, originally from the Arabian Peninsula, and have a history since the sixteenth century of migrating between the east and west sides of the Gulf. They are thus thought of as neither wholly Iranian nor wholly Arab. As a group they are known as Hawila (sing. Huli (m) Huliya (f)). In spite of such factors Iraqi attempts to foment unrest for the Pahlavis and the Islamic republic have been largely unsuccessful. Arabs of Khuzistan demanded autonomy, like the Baluch, Kurds and Turkoman in 1979, but demonstrated their loyalty to the Islamic regime during the Iran-Iraq war 1980-8 (1997, 342).

A december 1998 Tehran Times report discussed the Arabs of Iran:

Majlis deputy from Khuzestan Province, Faramand Hashemi Zadeh, told an Egyptian weekly that the Islamic government in Iran does not differentiate between Arabs and non-Arabs living in Iran. …

In reply to a question as to why the province is not called “Arabistan” instead of “Khuzestan”, Hashemi Zadeh said in Khuzestan “there is no sensitivity at all over the name as some imagine.” “It is certain that since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic does not differentiate between Arabs and non-Arabs,” stressed Hashemi Zadeh who hails from Khuzestan. He said, quoted by IRNA, that the situation in Khuzestan was far better today than under the rule of the Shah, citing as an example the current Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani, who is of Arab origin. Majlis MP said that directors in five municipalities in Khuzestan where the majority was non-Arab Iranians, were Arabs.

Hashemi Zadeh said following the victory of the Islamic Revolution, Iran has given great importance to Arabic all over the country and not only in Khuzestan. Arabic has become the second language after Persian, he said, pointing that Arabic was spoken on the streets in Khuzestan. “If you visit Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan you will find the people speaking about everything in total freedom and without any reservations, unlike in some other countries,” he said (8 Dec. 1998).

Referring to an editor of a Saudi weekly newspaper, Mideast Mirror reported in 1996 his claims that: The best proof of the weakness of sectarian links is the Iranian regime’s attitude to Shiite Arab residents of southwestern Iran, in the area known as Ahvaz (Arabistan). These Shiites are openly maltreated because they are ethnic Arabs, and the area has witnessed anti-government unrest. If Iran maltreats its Shiite Arabs, it is natural that political ties between Tehran and Shiite movements in the Arab world should be prone to change (7 Feb. 1996).

A 21 April 2000 report from the Iraqi newspaper Al-Iraq contains information on a group called the Arab Front for the Liberation of Ahvaz (AFLA) that “organized a ceremony [in Iraq] marking the 75th anniversary of the occupation of Ahvaz and the 19th anniversary of its inception.” The ceremony included speeches by the AFLA secretary general and another on behalf of the Arab Socialist Ba’th Party (ibid.). The latter considered the AFLA inception a historic event in the life of our Arab people in Ahvaz, who have expressed their determination to continue with their quest for resurgence and liberation….

The ceremony was attended by comrades the secretary and members of the Abu-Ja’far al-Mansur Party Branch Command, AFLA cadres, and a crowd of Ahvaz people (ibid.). The AFLA also issued a statement claiming that little attention was paid to Ahvaz needs (ibid.).

On 15 May 2000 RFE/RL Iran Report reported that: A new website, titled Ahwaz, Arabistan (http://www.al-ahwaz.com) appears to be an appeal to Arab nationalist sentiments in Iran. The site refers to entities such as the Arabistan Liberation Movement. A similar theme appears in the Fertile Crescent homepage (http://leb.net/fchp), which refers to “Ahwaz” (rather than “Ahvaz”) as the “easternmost region of the Fertile Crescent. It is currently occupied by Iran.”….This source also reported on “another Iraqi-supported group.…the Democratic Revoultionary Front for Arabistan (a.k.a. Arab Popular Movement in Arabistan), which initiated a hostage siege at the Iranian Embassy in London in April-May 1980.”

[http://www.irb.gc.ca/cgi-bin/foliocgi.exe/refinfo_e/doc/{@6915}?]

 

 

RISK OF REFOULEMENT

 

The country information clearly supports assertions that Arabs are subject to discrimination and persecution in Iran, and that there are currently separatist movements active there. It also shows that Arab Iranians have been executed for their involvement in such activities.

 

The 2001 UNHCR/ACCORD: 7th European Country of Origin Information Seminar stated in its Iran Country report:

Forming or joining an association and ‘acts against state security’

The Penal Code contains a number of vaguely worded articles relating to association and ”national security” which prohibit a range of activities, such as those connected withjournalism or public discourse, which do not amount to recognizable criminal offences. These include Art. 498 and 499 which state that whoever forms or joins a group or association either inside or outside the country which seeks to “disturb the security of the country” will be sentenced to between two and 10 years’ imprisonment. There is no definition of ‘disturb’ or ‘security of the country’ in the Code. Such restrictions need to be clearly set in national law and should be consistent with international standards.

“Art. 500 and 610, addressing national security, are similarly vaguely worded. Art. 500 states that “…anyone who undertakes any form of propaganda (har nahv-e tablighati) against the state…will be sentenced to between three months and one year in prison.” Art. 610 states that where two or more persons gather and collude to be the perpetrators of a crime against internal or external security of the nation, or to facilitate it, where or not they are considered ‘mohareb’, will be imprisoned for between two and five years.

“Art. 183 defines as mohareb: “Anybody who takes up arms to create fear and to deprive the people of freedom and security…” Art. 186 extends this definition: “Any organized group or association that has an armed uprising against the Islamic government, as long as the central leadership of that group is in existence, all its members and followers who know the stands of that group or association or organization and conduct in some way effective activity and efforts to advance its goals, are mohareb, even though they may not be involved in the armed wing…”

[http://www.ecoi.net/pub/mv100_cois2001-irn.pdf]

 

A 1998 report on Iran by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that “The death penalty may be imposed for various offences, including…. where a person is regarded as an opponent of God (Mohareb)….The section of the Iranian criminal code relating to offences against the internal and external security of the Islamic Republic contains a multiplicity of offences for which opponents can be sentenced. [http://www.ecoi.net/pub/mv167_neth-irn0698.pdf]

 

 

[1] Mansour Silawi-Ahwazi is among the most widely viewed Iranian contributors to three of these four networks. His sources in Ahwaz attribute increased militarisation and repression in the province to the security forces’ perception of the consequences of American intervention, in Afghanistan and in the province’s neighbour Iraq.

[2] I am grateful to the Arab Iranian journalist Mansour Silawi-Ahwazi, who does not know the Applicant, for this information.