(Twiglet-Now try saying we don't campaign against anyone else other than lgbt.. We always have highlighted general attacks on everyone's human rights etc. anyway..)
Tehran's secret war against its own people
The persecution of Ahwazi Arabs and the takeover of their land has led
to accusations of 'ethnic cleansing'
The Times – London – 10 October 2006
“NEVER AGAIN” is, I fear, a phrase that we may hear again all too soon
— but too late to warn people, let alone save lives. Under the cover
of secrecy the fundamentalist regime in Tehran is waging a sustained,
bloody campaign of intimidation and persecution against its Arab
minority. These Arabs believe that they are victims of “ethnic
cleansing” by Iran’s Persian majority.
Sixteen Arab rights activists have been sentenced to death, according
to reports in the Iranian media. They were found guilty of insurgency
in secret trials before revolutionary courts. But most of the
defendants were convicted solely on the basis of confessions extracted
under torture. Ten are expected to be hanged in a couple of weeks,
after the end of Ramadan. Amnesty International says that two of those
sentenced to die, Abdolreza Nawaseri and Nazem Bureihi, were in prison
when they were alleged to have been involved in bomb attacks. Three
others — Hamza Sawa- eri, Jafar Sawari and Reisan Sawari — say that
they were nowhere near the Zergan oilfield the day it was bombed.
The death sentences seem designed to silence protests by Iran’s
persecuted ethnic Arabs. They comprise 70 per cent of the population
of the south-west province of Khuzestan, known locally as Ahwaz. Many
Ahwazis believe that the 16 were framed and that their real “crime”
was campaigning against Tehran’s repression and exploitation of their
Further show trials are planned — 50 Ahwazi Arab activists have been
charged with insurgency since last year. They are accused of being
mohareb or enemies of God, which is a capital crime. Other allegations
include sabotage and possession of home-made bombs. No material
evidence has been offered to support the charges. All face possible
Securing information about the impending hangings has been difficult.
The authorities are notoriously secretive, often withholding
information about charges, evidence and sentences. Foreign journalists
are severely restricted and local reporters are intimidated with
threats of imprisonment. Despite this official obfuscation, human
rights groups confirm a new wave of repression against Ahwazi Arabs
who accuse Tehran of “ethnic cleansing” and racism. Ali Afrawi, 17,
and Mehdi Nawaseri, 20, were publicly hanged in March for allegedly
participating in insurgency. Amnesty International condemned their
trial as “unfair”. They were denied access to lawyers. The Ahwazi
Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) says that seven other Arab political
prisoners were secretly executed at around the same time.
Tehran’s latest tactic is to hold Ahwazi children as hostages.
According to Amnesty International, children as young as 2 have been
jailed with their mothers to force their fugitive, political-activist
fathers to surrender to the police. Protests against these abuses are
brutally suppressed. Ahwazi political parties, trade unions and
student groups are illegal. In the past year, 25,000 Ahwazis have been
arrested, 131 executed and 150 have disappeared, reports AHRO. The
bodies of many of those executed have been dumped in a place that the
Government calls lanat abad, the place of the damned. They are buried
in shallow graves; dogs dig up and eat the bodies.
Nearly 250,000 Arabs have been displaced from their villages after the
Iranian Government’s confiscation of more than 200,000 hectares of
farmland for a huge sugar-cane project. Dozens more towns and villages
will be erased, making a possible further 400,000 Ahwazis homeless, by
the creation of a military-industrial security zone, covering more
than 3,000 sq km, along the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which borders
Ironically, the Hezbollah in Lebanon — the supposed embodiment of Arab
resistance in the Middle East — is complicit in the displacement of
Ahwazi Arabs. On confiscated Arab land Tehran has set up training
camps for Hezbollah and for the Badr Brigades, the Iraqi
fundamentalist militia. Badr death squads in Iraq are murdering
Sunnis, unveiled women, gay people, men wearing shorts, barbers,
sellers of alcohol and people listening to Western music.
Tehran has a grand plan to make the Ahwazi a minority in their own
land through “ethnic restructuring”. Financial incentives, such as
zero- interest loans, are given to ethnic Persians to settle in Ahwaz.
New townships are planned, which will house 500,000 non-Arabs.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of displaced Ahwazis eke out a
subsistence existence in shanty towns on the outskirts of Ahwaz city.
Others have been forcibly relocated to poverty-stricken, far-flung
northern regions of Iran.
Ahwaz produces 90 per cent of Iran’s oil and Tehran expropriates all
the revenues. An attempt by Ahwaz MPs to secure the repatriation of
1.5 per cent of these earnings back to the region for welfare projects
was rejected this year. Yet it is the third poorest region of Iran: 80
per cent of the children suffer from malnutrition, and the
unemployment rate of Arabs is more than five times that of Persians.
Arab language newspapers and textbooks have been banned to crush Arab
identity further. In Ahwaz schools, all instruction is in Farsi
(Persian), resulting in a 30 per cent drop-out rate at primary level
and 50 per cent at secondary level. Illiteracy rates among Arabs are
at least four times those of non-Arabs.
Contrary to Tehran’s nationalist propaganda most Ahwazi Arabs just
want a measure of self-government; they are not hellbent on
independence or in league with the CIA or plotting for an American
invasion. Quite the contrary, they fear that Western sabre-rattling
will be used as a pretext by Tehran’s hardliners to crack down
savagely on dissent. Which makes it all the more disturbing that one
of the few bodies with diplomatic muscle — the Arab League, which
professes pan-Arab solidarity — is so silent in the face of Iran’s
persecution of Arabs.