Dec 05, 2006

Ahwazi: Syria Returns Refugees to Iran, AI Says

Amnesty International recently issued a statement on four Ahwazi men, including the President of the Ahwazi Liberation Organisation, Mr. al-Mansuri. They are feared to face ill-treatment in an Iranian Prison .

On November 30, Amnesty International issued the following statement on “Iran/Syria: Further information on Forcible return/Fear of torture and ill-treatment/ Possible Death Sentence.”

IRAN/SYRIA Faleh ‘Abdullah al-Mansuri-Nikouseresht (m), aged 60, President of the Ahwazi Liberation Organisation (ALO), Dutch national Rasool Mezrea’ (m), ALO member Taher ‘Ali Mezrea’ (m), aged 40Jamal ‘Obeidawi (m), aged 34, student, Chair of Ahwazi Student Union in Syria.

All four Iranian men named above are now believed to be held in Karoun Prison, in Ahvaz city in Khuzestan. One of them is known to have been previously sentenced to death, and all four are believed to be at risk of the death penalty, as well as torture and ill-treatment.

A former officer in the Iranian armed forces, Faleh ‘Abdullah al-Mansuri (also known by his Persian name, Faleh ‘Abdullah Nikouseresht) is now known to have been sentenced to death in 1988 by a military court, apparently in connection with his activities as a member of the Ahwazi Liberation Organization (ALO). He was reportedly granted temporary leave (morakhassi) to visit his family, and fled the country. He eventually arrived in the Netherlands, where he was recognized as a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and later acquired Dutch nationality. The Dutch and Syrian authorities have confirmed that he was forcibly returned on 16 May from Syria. The other three, also recognized as refugees by the UNHCR, are believed to have been forcibly returned at around the same time, though neither side has confirmed any of the returns. Rasool Mezrea’ and Taher ‘Ali Mezrea’ were reportedly allowed to telephone relatives to say they were in Karoun Prison, but have not yet been allowed family visits.

The family of Taher ‘Ali Mezrea' (his wife and their four children) have been accepted for resettlement in Sweden. However, on 7 October the Syrian authorities reportedly stopped them from boarding a plane to Sweden, without giving any reason.


Much of Iran's Arab community lives in the province of Khuzestan, which borders Iraq. Following mass demonstrations in April 2005, and bombings which took place in Ahvaz city in June and October 2005 and in January 2006, hundreds were arrested; some were reportedly tortured, and at least two men were executed following unfair trials. At least 23 Iranian Arabs are reportedly under sentence of death, having apparently been found mohareb (at enmity with God). Some or all of them have been charged with involvement in the bombings, distributing material against the state and endangering state security.

As a State Party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), Syria has undertaken not to return anyone to a country where they would be at risk of torture or ill-treatment.