Ahwazi: Oral Intervention on Human Rights Situation, 31 July 2006
Agenda Item 4 (a): General Discussion
Thank you very much Mr. Chairman for this opportunity,
More than five million indigenous Ahwazi Arabs live in the south-western region of Iran, near the southern border of Iraq , in the province of Khuzestan or as called by its indigenous name, Al-Ahwaz. Ahwazis constitute an indigenous, ethnic, national and linguistic minority in Iran. Historically, this indigenous Arab community has been marginalized and discriminated against by successive governments in Iran.
Prior to its annexation by the Iranian government in 1925, the region enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and independence and indigenous nomadic tribes lived on this land for thousands of years.
While Ahwazi ancestral lands produces 90% of Irans vast oil revenue, over $60 billion /year, none of this is allocated to the Ahwazis or to their region. They are kept backward, poor and illiterate. The illiteracy rate is 4 times, and unemployment is 6 times, the national average.
The Persian language is forced upon the indigenous Ahwazis and while 3 out of 4 non-indigenous students graduate from high school, only 1 out of 4 Indigenous Ahwazi-Arabs graduate. According to government's own data, 80% of Arab children suffer from malnutrition.
In the past ten years, as directed by the highest levels of government of the Islamic republic of Iran, over 500,000 hectares of indigenous Ahwazi farmers land have been confiscated and given to non-indigenous non-Arab Persian settlers, to the non-indigenous authorities or to the military and the Revolutionary Guards Corp., a scheme designed to break up and change the ethnic makeup of the province. According to Mr. Miloon Kothari, UN OHCHR Special Rapporteur on Housing when you visit Ahwaz  there are thousands of people living with open sewers, no sanitation, no regular access to water, electricity and no gas connections or In Khuzestan, that there is an attempt being made by the government to build new towns and bring in new people from other provinces. For example, there is the new town of Shirinshah where most of the people being brought into that town are people from Yazd province [in central Iran] - non-Arabs or the estimate we received is that between 200,000 - 250,000 Arab people are being displaced from their villages.
After the public hanging of Ali Afrawi (aged 17) and Mehdi Nawaseri (20 years old) in March of this year, the revolutionary court of Ahwaz, on 8 June 2006, sentenced ten political and human rights activists to death. The final execution order was issued on July 27, 2006 and as we speak in the city of Ahwaz preparation is being made (construction cranes are lined up) to publicly hang these men. Their names are as follows:
Yahia Nasseri, Nazem Boraihi, Abdolemam Zaeri, Abdolzahar Holichi, Hamza Sawaeri, Jafar Sawari, Reisan Sawari, Abdolreza Nawaseri, Ali Helfi, and Zamel Bawi.
Also on 28 July 2006, last month 19 others were sentenced to death or long prison sentences including two indigenous women activists. All 29 are being tried in secret without the presence of independent observers. They are accused of being Mohareb or enemies of God, a crime which carries the death sentence. Other charges are destablizing the country, attempt to overthrow the government, possession of home-made bombs, sabotage of oil installations and planting bombs However, to date no evidence has been presented.
Any Ahwazi demands for basic human rights, including education in their mother tongue, sharing of wealth and rights of employment or to protest ethnic cleansing, have often been labeled as "separatist, secessionist, Wahabis or called stooges of foreign countries or danger to security and territorial integrity.
50% of the Ahwazi population suffers from absolute poverty and 80% of the children suffer from malnutrition. Indigenous Ahwazi Arab students drop out of schools at 30% during elementary, 50% during secondary and 70% during high school.
The regime erected dams and diverted the waters of our rivers such as Karun to non-Arab central provinces of Isfahan and Yazd while Khuzestan suffers severely from the shortage of drinking water.
The wives and children of Ahwazis who have opposed the regime and had to flee the country are being kept hostages in Sapidar Prison in Ahwaz. Two-month old Salma was born in prison from her mother Fahima Ismail Badawi (26) on 5 March. Immad and Zeidan, both four years old are also held. Hoda Hawashem (24) with her four year old Ahmed and two year old Osameh and many others remain in the same prison in Ahwaz.
All Khuzestans political, military and security commanders, 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. This marginalization is more acute in a country where the state is the largest employer.
Often, the Iranian government authorities in Khuzestan refuse to register and issue birth identity cards to indigenous Arab newborn babies, who do not assume Persian or Shiite names.
Mr. Chairman, at this time every year, here in Geneva, we bring to the attention of this body the atrocities committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran against the indigenous Ahwazi Arabs in Iran. When can we expect some action from this body? The United Nations remains our only hope. Western countries seem to shy away from this issue due to their economic interests in Irans oil that is located on our homeland. Other countries, China, Japan, India, and others ignore our plight for the same reason.
We therefore appeal to and urge the Special Rapporteur to undertake a fact finding mission to the province of Khuzestan, in the Islamic Republic of Iran to investigate the arrests, detentions, reports of torture and executions of Ahwazi human rights and political activists.
Ahwaz Human Rights Organization