Apr 21, 2005

The Tragic Week of Ahwaz

More than 130 have been killed, 806 injured and 1,700 arrested following a week of unrest in Iran's Arab-dominated province of Khuzestan
The number of victims of state violence in Khuzestan is rising daily, while official reports are under-playing the number of casualties.

Since the uprising began on 16 April, demonstration have spread beyond Ahwaz City and have turned violent. On Wednesday, the State Security Force (SSF) base in Molashieh was attacked and the base's commander and his deputy were killed. Clashes were also reported in Old-Mahshar, where residents set government buildings and cars alight.

Death toll

Human rights organisations have been collating casualty statistics through direct contact with local hospitals and victims' relatives in Khuzestan. A report published by Amnesty International on Tuesday stated "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." By Friday, human rights groups put the figure at over 60, excluding possible deaths in custody or "disappeared". The number of injured is thought to be at least 400, based on figures provided by local hospitals.

Mass arrests

The number arrested is far higher than the amount suggested by the government. The regime claims it arrested over 330 Arabs and had released half of these by the end of the week. Human rights and opposition groups calculated that between 500-1,500 people were detained, some of whom have been transferred to prisons in other provinces. Mosques have also been turned into temporary prisons.

Tribal, community and religious leaders from the Arab community have been rounded up, as well as boys as young as 12. Amnesty International has warned that those held by the regime for interrogation are at risk of torture.

Media blackout

There is a complete media blackout in Khuzestan province. The entrenched international press corp in Tehran is repeating the claims by the regime of single figure casualties and mass demonstrations in Ahwaz declaring allegiance to the Supreme Leader.

However, the movements of foreign journalists and independent monitors are restricted and they are being barred access to Khuzestan. Meanwhile, the region's largest television news network Al-Jazeera has been forced to leave and internet connections have been cut. Telephone lines had been cut and water supplies were halted, but have been restored to many areas.


Source: Ahwaz