Ahwazis: Arab Group in Iran Faces Persecution
Below is an aricle published on the San Francisco Chronicles which presents the Human Rights violation suffered by Ahwaz People under the Iranian regime.
For decades, the Persian shahs and ayatollahs of
The result, Ahwazi activists say, is the occupation of an Arab homeland in the heart of the Middle East that almost nobody knows about -- an occupation, Ahwazis contend, that has stripped Arabs of more land than is at issue in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.
"They came at me like a pack of wolves," said Abu Tarek, who asks that his family name be withheld out of concern for his safety.
Abu Tarek is a native of the region that borders
"For a year, they blindfolded me, electrocuted my hands, beat my penis and smashed my head against the wall," he said, describing his torture at the hands of Iranian security during 1987, a year before the end of the Iran-Iraq war. "One time, I fell unconscious for two days, and when I woke up, I couldn't see out of my left eye."
Like most Middle Eastern countries,
Khuzestan's oil fields produce about 90 percent of
The government accuses Ahwazi Arabs of plotting foreign invasions with everyone from the CIA to Saddam Hussein.
"The security agents said I was a spy for the Iraqi regime. I told them I didn't want to change the Iranian occupation for an Iraqi one," said Abu Tarek. Six years into his second stint in jail, he escaped earlier this year and fled to
He has not found it.
Abu Tarek may be considered a political refugee by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, and the rulers of
"I thought I'd be protected here in this Arab state. In the past, we used to ask
His fear may be justified -- other Ahwazis have been sent by Syrian authorities to
Dutch citizen Faleh Abdullah Mansuri, the 60-year-old head of the Ahwazi Liberation Organization, the Ahwazis' leading political opposition movement, was arrested by Syrian security in April while he was visiting an Ahwazi friend in
Syrian authorities recently confirmed that Mansuri was deported to
Saeed Saki, a member of the Ahwazi Liberation Organization, had been recognized as a refugee by the U.N. agency. He was living in
Three other Ahwazis -- Abdullah Abdel Hamid, whose family has resettled in Norway; Jamal Obaidy, a university student; and Taher Mazra, whose family was prevented from leaving Syria for Sweden last month -- were arrested in April, and are believed to be in a Damascus prison and facing extradition to Iran.
Laurens Jolles, acting representative of the U.N. refugee commission in
A source at the Iranian embassy in
Before its annexation in 1925 by the British-backed shah of
A quarter million have been displaced by the state seizure of more than 750 square miles of land for use in a huge sugar-cane project, while an additional 400,000 Ahwazis are set to be made homeless in the creation of a military-industrial complex along the Shatt al-Arab waterway, which borders Iraq. In December,
Discriminated against in education and access to health care, Ahwazis are banned from speaking Arabic, and many students drop out of school early rather than receive an education only in Farsi. The result has been soaring unemployment and abject poverty: 80 percent of Ahwazi children are malnourished, according to the governor of Dashte-Azadegan, a district of Khuzestan.
Many Ahwazi towns were decimated in the Iran-Iraq war, and the government has made almost no effort to rebuild them. The land is riddled with millions of land mines left over from that war, which continue to kill or maim Ahwazi farmers. Chemical weapons used by the Iraqi military on Arab-majority cities have led to heart disease two decades later and continue to poison Ahwazi fetus, according to the British Ahwazi Friendship Society, an activist organization.
Since the Ahwazi intifada, or uprising, began in April 2005,
The two-month campaign of civil unrest culminated in a bomb attack on an oil installation east of Ahvaz, prompting Tehran to call on Hezbollah to help quell demonstrations and strikes, said Abu Hisham, another Ahwazi fugitive in Damascus. He also asked that his family name be withheld for his safety.
Hezbollah, a militant Islamist movement based in
The Badr Brigade, the militia of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in
Abu Hisham said he fled Khuzestan in 2000 after seeing his brother and most of his friends arrested. He, too, now lives alone and in hiding in
For Abu Tarek, however, it feels like the time for hope is running out.
"I am afraid. I feel like a bird trapped inside a cage, waiting to be slaughtered. I know I will spend the rest of my life without my family," he said, the tears welling up in his one good eye.
"The best friend to me these long years has been sadness. All I ask is this: Do we have a land of our own, and will we ever be allowed to rest in peace on this land?"