London- Arab activists have warned of unprecedented rise in arrests made by Tehran forces against activists based in the controversial city of Ahwaz.
Arbitrary arrests increased just as the date of presidential and municipal elections scheduled for mid-May neared.
Ahwazi activists accused Iran authorities of launching brutal and unwarranted wave of arrests targeting dozens of civil rights activists. Circumstances and fate of those detained remain undisclosed, activists said.
Coercion and oppression suffered by activists in Ahwaz need to be put to an end, activists said, urging international organizations to intervene.
The start of 2017 witnessed the largest spree of arrests, with Ahwazi sources reporting over 28 activists taken captive on January 30 alone. Arrests were made in northeastern Ahwaz neighborhood, al-Tabook.
All 28 activists are held in unidentified locations, facing an unknown fate.
“Regional and international conditions, internal rifts within the Iranian government, added to a deteriorating economy have forced the regime towards exercising repression and unlawful arrests against all those deemed ‘offenders,’ critics and activists who are considered of non-Persian heritage in order to curb protests in all regions”, human rights activist Abdul-Karim Khalaf told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Ahwaz region, occupied by Iran, currently witnesses mass protests and demonstrations demanding freedom and an end to the Iranian regime’s multifaceted oppression of the Ahwazi people.
Tehran’s transgressions against Arabs in Ahwaz have persisted since Iran first occupied the region by the use of military force. Ahwaz was annexed some nine decades ago.
Ahwazi Arabs are among the most brutally oppressed peoples in the Middle East. The population of the region in the south and southwest of Iran totals around 10 million, with the people united by race, culture and language.
Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA) official website, citing Iranian intelligence sources, said that Tehran’s secret service apprehended three Ahwazis, Mahmoud Habib al Shahtawi, 25, Adnan Abbayat, 24, and Lafth Ghawabish, 26—all of whose fate remains unknown until this very day.
More so, Iranian prosecution issued a six-year imprisonment verdict against Deyaa Hussein al Sari, who had recently returned home from the Netherlands. Sari’s conviction was for allegedly promoting ASMLA activities and anti-regime sentiment.
“Escalated arrests over recent months were a result of rising national awareness among Ahwazi Arabs, especially youth,” Ahwazi Organization for Human Rights Defense Director Saeed Humaidan told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Increased national awareness raised a state of defiance and resistance challenging the colonialist state’s policies and racial discrimination against Arabs– occupying authorities now exert efforts in hopes of inhibiting any decisive uprising through mass arbitrary arrests,” Humaidan added.
“All the more, oppression has only grown fierce under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s “reformist” administration — despite its electoral campaigns and slogans, it proved to lack in planning and preparation to address worsening conditions non-Persians face, such as racial profiling, discrimination, murder, and imprisonment,” Humaidan said.