Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Amnesty International: Ahwazi Arabs continue to suffer discrimination in law and in practice.

At the time of writing in February 2012, an unfolding wave of repression in [Arabistan] appeared to have resulted at least two deaths in custody and between 50 to 65 arrests in at least three separate locations in the province. Arrests in Shoush, north [Arabistan] appeared to have been brought on by the appearance of anti-election slogans painted on walls while others appeared to be pre-emptory arrests aimed at preventing any gathering of Ahwazi Arabs either on the anniversary of the 14 February demonstrations or on the 15 April anniversary of the “Day of Rage”,  Amnesty International said Monday 28 February 2012 in a new sweeping report.

Scores of members of the Ahwazi Arab minority were reportedly arrested before, during and after demonstrations on 15 April 2011, and at least three people were killed during clashes with the security forces. The demonstrations – called a “Day of Rage” in common with other protests across the Middle East at the time – were marking the sixth anniversary of mass demonstrations during and following which members of the security forces killed dozens of protestors and carried out mass arrests, sparking a cycle of violence and human rights violations, said the 70-page report, released on 28 February 2012. 

At least four Ahwazi Arab men reportedly died in custody between 23 March 2011 and midMay 2011, possibly as a result of torture or other ill-treatment. Others have been hospitalized, apparently as a result of injuries sustained from torture or other ill-treatment. One man, Ejbareh Tamimi, was reportedly arrested at home following the 15 April demonstrations, apparently on suspicion of having been in contact with, and having provided information to, al-Arabiya TV. According to reports received by Amnesty International he died in Sepidar Prison, in Ahwaz, after being tortured in a failed attempt to extract a recorded “confession”, Amnesty international's report said.

At least eight Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, including Hashem Hamidi, said to have been aged only 16, were executed between 5 and 7 May 2011. Three of the eight were reportedly executed in public. The precise charges those reportedly executed were convicted of are unknown to Amnesty International, report said.

"The Iranian authorities have not acknowledged these executions. However, a police colonel said on 21 April 2011 that eight members of a group he described as “the Khalq-e Arab terrorist group” had been arrested by security forces, accused of the killing of three individuals, including a law enforcement official, on 15 April 2011. Ahwazi Arab sources have claimed that the eight were arrested in connection with demonstrations that took place on 15 April 2011 in [Arabistan] province. In either case, they were tried, convicted and executed within three weeks. Amnesty International does not have information concerning most of their trials, although Hashem Hamidi was reportedly tried without the presence of a lawyer in a trial that lasted only about 10 minutes", the rights groups reported today.

Amnesty International also said that "discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds also became enshrined in law, policy and practice..The Iranian authorities have long been suspicious of Iran’s ethnic minorities, including Ahwazi Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Baluch, Kurds and Turkmen, many of which are situated in border areas."

Despite constitutional guarantees of equality, religious and ethnic minorities – which often intersect – face widespread discrimination in law and practice. This includes confiscation of land and property; denial of employment and restrictions on social, cultural and linguistic rights, including adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue and to have it used as a medium of instruction, something the Azerbaijani community has been prominent in demanding in recent years. Members of minority groups may be disadvantaged before the criminal justice system if they are unable to speak Persian, the official language, well. This can particularly impact rural women who are less likely to be well-educated than their urban counterparts. Religious freedoms, such as restrictions on communal prayers for Sunni Muslims, including on building mosques in large cities, are also restricted. At least one Ahl-e Haq shrine was reportedly destroyed in 2011 by Iranian officials, who also blocked attempts by worshippers to rebuild it, the report said. 

Demands by ethnic minority rights activists for greater rights have, for many years, been suppressed, in the context of armed opposition from some groups, particularly from the Ahwazi Arab, Kurdish and Baluch communities. Activists from these communities who advocate for greater respect and protection of the rights of their communities – which face discrimination in law and practice in Iran – risk numerous human rights violations ranging from arbitrary arrest to the death penalty after unfair trial, as well as restrictions on movement and denial of other civil rights. This pattern continues in the context of a wide an generalized suppression of most forms of dissent over government policies, Amnesty International said.

The use of minority languages [including Arabic] in state-controlled workplaces and for teaching in schools remains outlawed.

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