Sep 22, 2006

Ahwazi: Paramilitaries Forces Mobilization Downplayed

Local residents have reported an increase in the presence of the regime's group ahead of planned executions

Hardline Majlis member for Ahwaz, Hamid Zanganeh, has downplayed the deployment of Bassij paramilitarist forces on the city's streets.

Local residents of the Ahwaz City, which is experiencing growing unrest from its Ahwazi Arab population, have reported a massive increase in the presence of the mullah regime's vigilante group ahead of the planned execution of 16 political prisoners. Zangeneh claimed there was no security problem, while the Bassij continue to set up check posts in the city's main roads and confiscate satellite dishes. Internet and telecommunications have also been disrupted. The regime appears to be preparing for a complete media blackout, ahead of a clamp-down on protests.

In March, public executions of young Ahwazi Arabs accused of insurgency led to violent rioting. Ahwazi groups expect a new round of executions either this week or after Eid-ul-Fitr (expected around 24 October), which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan (no executions are permitted during Ramadan). Controversy has surrounded the convictions of the 16 men, with one of Iran's leading human rights activists, Emadeddin Baghi, claiming a "grave injustice" had been carried out by the courts. The lawyers for the accused have also protested at the unfair convictions and staged a walk-out during the trials.

Zanganeh has lobbied the government to convict and execute anyone and everyone deemed a "threat to national security", including cultural rights activists. He claimed that failure to take a hard line to quash Ahwazi Arab dissent would be a sign of weakness. The imminent executions are widely believed to have been prompted by Zanganeh's high-profile efforts to persuade the government to kill off all signs of Ahwazi Arab opposition to the regime, including peaceful dissent.