April 19, 2005

At Least 23 Dead in Ahwaz Unrest

New details are emerging on the casualties of this weekend's bloodbath in Khuzestan, in which Iranian security forces fired on unarmed Ahwazi Arabs
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New details are emerging on the casualties of this weekend's bloodbath in Khuzestan, in which Iranian security forces fired on unarmed Ahwazi Arabs.

At least 23 people were killed, 500 injured and 250 arrested in the government's three-day crack-down on Ahwazis demonstrating against the regime. Among the dead were children, including eight-year-old Musa Shamoosi and 13-year-old Ali Sabhani, who were shot down by Iranian soldiers.

According to human rights observers, the Iranian security forces used "helicopter gunships, tear gas canisters and debilitating poison-filled bullets" on Ahwazi civilians.

Several prominent Ahwazi indigenous religious, tribal and community leaders including Haj Ebrahim Ameri and Kazem Mojadam have been arrested, along with most of the leadership of the Islamic Wafagh Party, a legal Iranian political party.

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV has also been banned from Iran and telephone lines have been disconnected, as the regime begins to shut down all lines of communication between Khuzestan and the outside world.

The Ahwazi Arabs were demonstrating against an "ethnic restructuring" programme detailed in a letter leaked from President Khatami's office. The leaked letter - marked "top secret" - has been condemned as a forgery by its author, former Vice President Mohamed Ali Abtahi. But the British Ahwazi Friendship Society has confirmed its authenticity with a former member of Khatami's staff, who verified the official stamps and signatures on the letter as genuine.

In recent years, the Iranian government has confiscated more than 90,000 hectares of indigenous Ahwazi farmland and the inhabitants have been forced to leave their homeland and migrate to non-Arab provinces. There are around 4.5 million Ahwazi Arabs in the province of Khuzestan.

Khuzestan is a highly strategic province, both from a point of its oil wealth and sugar plantations and its proximity to Iraq and Kuwait. The regime wants to Persianise the province to consolidate its geopolitical power at a time of increasing economic and political insecurity.

BAFS Chairman Daniel Brett said: "The letter confirmed what many Ahwazis already knew: that they are being subjected to a campaign of ethnic cleansing sanctioned by President.

"The brutality of the government's response to the demonstration this weekend indicates that they have little regard for the human rights of the indigenous Arabs in the province.

"We call on the international community to recognise the persecution of ethnic Ahwazis, give sanctuary to Ahwazis fleeing the government's ethnic cleansing campaign and to put pressure on the UN to act on Iran's appalling human rights record."

Amnesty International is preparing an urgent action campaign on behalf of prisoners of conscience detained in the demonstration.

The Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) has also compiled a list of those killed whose family permitted publication of their names:

1. Musa Shamoosi (8-years old) resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

2. Nasser Abiat, resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

3. Mehdi Afrawi, resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

4. Ali Sabhani (13-year old), resident of Hamidieh, in Khuzestan, Iran

5. Hadi Sabhani, resident of Hamidieh, in Khuzestan, Iran

6. Nasser Khazraji, resident of Malashoeh, Ahwaz-Khuzestan, Iran

7. Ebrahim Ghazi, , resident of Malashoeh, Ahwaz-Khuzestan, Iran

8. Ali Abiat, resident of Malashoeh, Ahwaz-Khuzestan, Iran

9. Nasser Daghalegheh, resident of kut Dayed Saleh, Khuzestan, Iran

10. Sayed Khalaf Mousawi, resident of Kut Sayed Saleh, Khuzestan, Iran

11. Mehdi Hanoon-Haydari, resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

12. Reza Abiadawi, resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

13. Alam Khazraji, resident of Maleshiah, in Khuzestan, Iran

14. Naji Abiat (20-years old), Ahwaz, Khuzestan

15. Ali Muhammad, resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

16. Abed, Nawasseri, resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

17. Sadegh Nawasseri, resident of Ahwaz City in Khuzestan, Iran

18. Mehdi Abdolhussain, resident of Hamidieh, in Khuzestan, Iran

19. Reza Aboud Hussaini, resident of Hamidieh, in Khuzestan, Iran

20. Mehdi Yazdan-Abiawi, resident of Hamidieh, in Khuzestan, Iran

Source: British Ahwazi Friendship Society

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