April 14, 2006
April 15th became known as "Black Friday" and was followed by days of unrest, in which more than 160 Arab civilians were killed by security forces. During the uprising, the regime lost control over parts of Al-Ahwaz (Khuzestan), an Arab homeland. Since then, security forces including the paramilitary Baseej have led a brutal crack-down on dissent. The regime has attempted to force Ahwazi opposition activists to surrender by kidnapping their wives and young children. The men are accused of "waging war on God", which carries the death penalty.
Over the past year, cultural and religious gatherings and peaceful demonstrations have been met by violent force from Iranian forces who used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse people. Recent reports on Radio Farda suggest that hundreds have been killed over the past year in lynchings and executions by the regime and around 28,000 Ahwazi Arabs have been arrested. Amnesty International says it has received the names of at least 448 Ahwazi Arabs who are reported to have been arrested since April 2005, but believes the true figure may be higher.
The source of unrest and anti-government agitation among Ahwazi Arabs is racial discrimination, land confiscation, state terrorism and high levels of poverty and unemployment, which are the consequences of a government programme of "ethnic restructuring". The programme was outlined in a letter by former Vice President Abtahi which was leaked from the office of the then President Khatami. The letter stated the government's intention to reduce the Arab population in Khuzestan from 70 per cent to 30 per cent through forced
Amnesty International report states: "Frustration and economic deprivation has spilled over in the past year into a cycle of violent protest and repression which seems likely to continue unless the Iranian authorities take the measures necessary to address the social, economic and other grievances that gave rise to the unrest."
Following a visit to Al-Ahwaz in July 2005, UNCHR's Special Rapporteur on Housing, Miloon Kothari, spoke of the forced relocation of Ahwazi Arabs: "We looked in detail in some areas on the issue of compensation and, for example, in Khuzestan the compensation being offered to the Arab villagers who were being displaced is sometimes one fortieth of the market value - and there's nothing they can do about it. It's a fait accompli. That's how it is. And all of these phenomena are continuing. It's something that is happening almost every day."
Amnesty International is calling on the Iranian authorities to
- Release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally;- Review law and practice to ensure that no one is imprisoned as a prisoner of conscience or discriminated against solely on account of their political opinions, race, ethnicity, gender, or language;
- Review as a matter of urgency, through an independent judicial body, the cases of all political prisoners held without trial or convicted after unfair trials, and order the immediate release of all of those against whom there is no evidence that they have committed a recognizably criminal offence;
- Grant all such prisoners prompt and regular access to lawyers of their own choosing and their families and to appropriate medical care if necessary;
- Ensure that all trials, including in capital cases, respect, as a minimum standard, the relevant provisions of the ICCPR;
- Investigate all allegations of torture or ill-treatment promptly and thoroughly. The methods and findings of any such investigation should be made public. Anyone implicated in human rights violations should be brought to justice promptly and fairly and victims of torture and ill-treatment should be granted compensation;
- Take effective measures to eradicate the use of torture, including the full implementation in practice of Iran's own legislation and the ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and complying with its provisions;
- Demonstrate its respect for the inherent right to life by ordering a moratorium on executions;
- Investigate all possible unlawful killings or extra-judicial executions promptly and fairly in accordance with the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extralegal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, and bring to justice, fairly and promptly, any members of the security forces responsible for unlawful killings or other grave violations of human rights.
- End any policy of deliberate, discriminatory land expropriation or population transfer aimed at dispossessing minority populations from their traditional lands;
- Cease any practice of forced evictions: that is evicting people from land or housing without consultation, due process of law, and assurances of adequate alternative accommodation;
- Cease forced internal displacement linked to forced evictions and "land grabbing";
- Take immediate steps towards the elimination of de facto discrimination in the exercise of economic, social and cultural rights such as the rights to education, adequate housing, water and sanitation as well as in access to utilities such as electricity adopting special measures, such as multilingual education, as necessary.