Mar 12, 2007

Ahwazi: Refugees Arrested In Syria

Calls for diplomatic pressure to be put on Syrian authorities rise, after six Ahwazi Arabs with UN-refugee status, and one Ahwazi man who fled Iran after being given the death sentence, were arrested in Syria.

Below are excerpts from an article published by British Ahwazi Friendship Society:

The Syrian Baathist regime has once again defied international law and arrested six young Ahwazi Arab UNHCR-registered refugees and a seventh Ahwazi who had fled Iran after he was sentenced to death.

British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS) activists learned last week that Iranian security forces have been deployed in Damascus and have maintained a presence outside the UNHCR office in the city. The Iranian regime has reportedly complained that the UNHCR is showing a bias in favour of Ahwazi asylum seekers. BAFS was informed about the arrests on Tuesday [6 March 2007] but waited until the men's lawyers publicly confirmed their names.

The seven who have been arrested by the Syrians in recent days are: Ali Bouzar, Kamal Nawaseri, Afnan bin Yousef Azizi bani Torouf, Salahuddin Sawari, Ahmed Asadi, Sadoun Sa'adi and Jaber Obayat. Ali Bouzar, who had not received UNHCR refugee status but had fled Iran after being sentenced to death, was deported to Iran just 12 hours after his arrest. The rest are registered as refugees with the UNHCR and some were waiting for transfer to other countries, including Australia and the US.

The National Organization for Human Rights in Syria has issued a statement demanding that "the Syrian authorities respect the legal status of those students residing in Syria and stresses its fears and concern that the men will be transferred to Iran, especially as most of the men have the protection of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees. It calls on the UNHCR to expedite the processing of the Ahwazis' refugee files."

BAFS is calling for the UNHCR to evacuate all Ahwazi Arab refugees and asylum seekers from Syria to safe countries in the region, even as a temporary measure while their claims are processed. […]

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has complied with orders from its chief ally, the Islamic Republic of Iran, to detain Ahwazis resident in Damascus despite heightened concerns about the treatment of Ahwazi refugees deported to Iran last May. Last week, Abdul Rasoul Mazrae, one of the Ahwazi refugees currently being tortured in an Iranian prison, will soon face trial, his son has told BAFS. […]

His torturers have ordered him to give a televised confession for crimes he did not commit. If the five young men arrested this week are forcibly returned to Iran, they are likely to meet the same fate.

The UNHCR has repeatedly condemned the treatment of the refugees arrested last May and the violation of international law by the Syrian and Iranian refugees. The latest arrests confirm that both governments are prepared to ignore the Geneva Conventions and UN convenants and conventions they are obliged to obey. […]