By Rahim Hamid
11 February, 2016
The human rights situation has been worsening quickly in Iran. More than 2,000 people have been hung during Hassan Rouhani’s tenure as President of the regime. This is the biggest scale of executions in the past 25 years. These mass executions will be added to the black pages of the Iranian regime's history of human rights violations since the Iranian revolution in 1979. The large-scale execution of political and ideological prisoners has resulted in Iran being named one of the top countries committing executions per capita during the past few years.
Unlocked from its sanction-based constrictions, Iran is now fully free to underwrite terror and carry out more executions against Ahwazi Arab and throughout the country. Five Ahwazi are facing imminent execution in public. The names of these Ahwazi Arab prisoners are Qais Obeidawi, Hamood Obeidawi, Mohammad Helfi, Mehdi Moarabi and Mehdi Sayahi.
The five men were condemned following a trial filled with heinous violations of the judiciary process by the Revolutionary Court of mullahs in Iran. These prisoners were arrested in April 2015 and on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, were brought in front of television cameras of Press TV by Ministry of Information to make public confessions of about their fictional crimes. Farhad Afsharnya, the regime’s supposed Chief Justice for the AL- Ahwaz region said the execution of the five Arabs was confirmed, it will be ratified by the court and execution will be carried out in public.
These Ahwazi activists were only concerned with advancing cultural and social awareness for the cause of Ahwaz people and were not connected to an armed struggle against the state. The Iranian regime has stepped up its ferocious crackdown against Ahwazis and all none- Persian activists after the tension between Iran and its neighbours heightened as a result of Iran’s involvement in Middle Eastern wars, such as in Syria and Yemen. Similar sentences have been issued in closed rather than public court proceedings, give a substantial reason to conclude that the Iranian judicial system only pay lip service to any idea of due process. Furthermore, it becomes apparent that human rights are overlooked by any president while the judicial system is not independent. These executions might occur anytime soon after Iranian parliamentary election at the end of February.
The Iranian regime’s massive hypocrisy in condemning Saudi Arabia’s questionable human rights record is breathtaking. Any use of the term “moderate” in connection with Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani is ludicrous hyperbole; he is simply the president elected from the list of candidates chosen for the position by the Guardian Council, consisting of 12 Islamic theologians and Jurists, according to the Iranian constitution.
Under the constitution, secular candidates or those who fail to embrace the Islamic Republic’s theocratic hard-line Shiite values are nominally capable of being selected but, in reality, are not.
The parliament or Masjid has little power over the regime’s religious courts to stop or even slow down the rate of executions, with the courts routinely issuing verdicts without even hearing evidence or investigating the charges against accused individuals as might be expected under legal systems elsewhere in the world.
One example of the Iranian regime’s legal system is the common charge of muharebeh or ‘enmity to God,’ routinely used against human rights activists and dissidents, which invariably receives the death penalty, often administered in public by stoning or mass hangings by cranes. Many of those hanged take up to 20 minutes to die slowly and painfully of strangulation. The victims’ bodies are left for some time before being removed as a way of intimidating the public into silence.
Since Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013, over 2,000 Iranians, including women, many of them Ahwazi Arabs, Kurdish and Baluchi Sunnis, have been executed, almost all after ludicrous kangaroo trials in which they were unrepresented and not allowed to submit any evidence in their defence. Recently, six of 33 Sunni men currently on death row were publicly executed in a mass hanging, while another woman was sentenced to death by stoning. This is the “moderate” Iranian regime.
This report sheds light on this failure of the Iranian regime to respect the rights of the Ahwazi Arab people in Al-Ahwaz, the south and south west part of Iran.
Conducted behind closed doors, before biased judges and in the absence of legal representation, the unfair trials of Arabs in the AL-Ahwaz region are part of a long-standing persecution of this oppressed people in Iran.
Despite the fact that this recurring miscarriage of justice is in flagrant violation of the Islamic Republic's constitution, Iran's jails are filled with Ahwazi political prisoners who face brutal punishments, a lifetime in prison or execution.
Over the past decade, hundreds of Ahwazi Arab prisoners ranging from poets, teachers to bloggers and human rights activists have been executed on trumped up charges in kangaroo courts.
Rather than finding reasonable evidence for the commission of a crime, judges generally rely on confessions, which have been drawn out from the accused through physical torture and psychological duress. Meanwhile, friends and relatives of the accused are kept in the dark, often not informed of where their loved one has been imprisoned, or even buried.
As we follow carefully the history of Ahwazi Arab people of repression, violence and capital punishment, we see that they have a long record of systematic crackdown over decades.
Meanwhile, the execution of Ahwazi intellectuals historically has inflicted an irreversible blow to the liberty movement of this occupied nation that has been struggling to achieve its fundamental rights of self- determination for years.
The executions of early leaders of Ahwaz liberation movement in 1963, the oppressive policies of Islamic Republic of Iran against Ahwazi people in every phases of their life, the tragic bloody massacre of Mohammareh city in 1979, and the severe crackdown of popular uprising in 2005 provide ample evidence that the intellectual, Ahwazi public figures, and the political class of this nation repeatedly have been targeted for imprisonment, repression and execution.
The largest popular uprising of Ahwazi people broke out on 9 April 2005 when people from several cities turned out into the streets and protested against the distribution of circular(petition) attributed to Mohammad Ali Abtahi, former vice president-parliamentary legal affairs of the president Mohammad Ali Khatami.
The latter events of popular uprising in April 2005 in Ahwaz which was a nonviolent demonstration against the wicked policy of central government focused on altering the demography of Ahwazi Arab people reminded the nation of the catastrophic massacre when so many people were killed in the course of the widespread peaceful demonstration, so many people massacred in the street by Iranian squad riot forces.
At the time, many civil and cultural activists were executed and many clean-handed and innocent young protesters were killed under tortures, their bodies discovered in Karoon River. These bodies were wrapped up in plastic and their hands were tied up behind their backs by rope. After the massacre, terrible panic and suffocating climate dominated in the region and subsequently, the executions of highly educated, intellectuals, and civil and political activists started again.
Notably, in 2005, dozens of teachers and cultural activists were arrested and after unfair trials and without access to legal representation, they were charged with vague charges such as acting against the national security, enmity with God, corrupting the earth and blasphemy , and then condemned to execution or life imprisonment. As an example, MR. ZamellBawi, who was studying law at senior semester at university and was waiting for his graduation ceremony, was arrested by intelligence security and under physical and psychological tortures was forced to incriminate himself falsely.
After a show trial in revolutionary court in Ahwaz he was sentenced to death and his verdict confirmed by the higher tribunal in Tehran. Additionally six immediate members of his family who were mostly students and cultural activists, were sentenced to life imprisonment and exiled to far- away prisons outside Ahwaz.
In 2005, Ali OudaAfravi , Mehdi HantoushNavaseri, in 2006, Ali Matori, Malik al-Tamimi, Abdullah Soleimani (Kaabi), Abdul Amir Faraj Allah, Mohammad Lazem Kaab, Khalaf DhrabKhazraei , Ali Reza Asakereh, in 2007, QasemSalamat, Majed Albughbish, Razi Zargani, RaisanSawari, AbdolrezaHantoushNavaseri, Muhammed Ali Sawari ,JaafarSawari, in 2008, Hussein Asakereh, Abdul Hussein Al -hareibi, Ahmad Meramzy, ZamellBawi,in 2009, Khalil Kaabi and Said Sadon were sentenced to death on false charges of "enmity against God" and after months of torture in solitary confinement in secret prisons secretly were hanged. It is noteworthy that all these executed people were the educated and the political and cultural activists of the Ahwaz nation and the bodies of these people had not been handed over to their families.
Hashem Shabani, an Ahwazi Arab poet and human rights activist was executed for being enemy of God and threatening national security. In reality, he spoke about against brutal treatment of Ahwazi Arabs, apparently he was campaigning for the Ahwazi people who are oppressed, mocked and treated as third citizens by Iranians. We have to keep in mind that if somebody is an Arab, then they are not the same as being an Iranian Persian because of their ethnic background. There is a cultural bias against Ahwazi Arabs in the mainstream Persian population.
In 2011, the brothers Heydariyan (3 people) along with their friend, Ali Sharifi, were arrested in the wake of civil protests in Ahwaz. According to credible reports, they were charged with enmity with God and at were sentenced to death after confessing under torture. They were denied a fair trial and judicial proceedings and in 2012 were hanged in secret. Ali Chbyshat and Khalid Mousavi were arrested in 2011 and were kept for seven months in solitary confinement by the Intelligence Service without access to lawyers and then convicted to death penalty and hanged in secret.
Because of the severe repression, censorship, lack of freedom of the press and the judicial system's lack of transparency and lack of coverage for any of the non-Persian prisoners, there is no possible way to give exact figures of all the death sentences among non-Persian ethnic groups in Iran. Iran not only has the world's highest execution rates but the executions have mostly been carried out against ethnic groups such as Ahwazis, Kurds and Baluchis who are struggling to achieve their national and linguistic identity and self-determination rights.
There are thousands of underage prisoners who have been executed in Iran. According to the International Covenants on Human Rights, the death penalty is forbidden for people who commit crimes while under eighteen years of age. Waging war against God is one of the leading charges used by the Iranian regime to justify the inhuman executions of ethnic groups in Iran.
Since the 80s, the clerical regime used it as a weapon to suppress many political and ideological opponents. Most executions of prisoners who were accused of "enmity against God" belong to none-Persian ethnic nationalities in Iran, mostly Ahwazi Arab, Baluch, and Kurdish activists.
The regime defies international law by holding all the bodies of the executed prisoners. Hundreds of Ahwazi prisoners’ bodies have been withheld by the Iranian authorities. Many human rights organisations called on the regime authorities to hand over the bodies of the executed political prisoners to their anguished families.
This is a part of the regime’s collective punishment policy against the Ahwazi Arab people, Iran has refused to deliver the bodies of hundreds of Ahwazis executed since 2005 to date under the pretext that their families will hold funerals for them, which will serve as a catalyst for Ahwazi uprising. This reflects the racism of the Iranian regime against Ahwazi Arabs.
Finally one must question the purpose of the regime behind the high number of executions and the human tragedies. In a country where most of fraud and administrative and financial corruption are committed by the regime officials, while the oppressed nations are living in extreme poverty, why is it that these officials have not been prosecuted or executed?
It can be concluded that the executions of non-Persian prisoners have political and security aspects in a bid of the ruling regime in Iran to expand its domination and control over the occupied and oppressed nations of Ahwaz, Kurdistan, Baluchistan and other peoples in the country.
When the Iranian regime learned that its agenda has been failed to put out the peaceful resistance of Ahwazi people the Iranian authorities with the help of their deeply flawed criminal justice system began to prioritize the death penalty of Ahwazi prisoners, amid warnings from the human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International.
Since the Ahwazi uprising, the death sentences and executions are being imposed and carried out on Ahwazi prisoners even more extensively, after procedures that violate human rights standards.
Iranian television stations like Press TV continue to broadcast self-incriminating testimonies of Ahwazi detainees even before the opening of a trial, undermining the fundamental rights of defendants to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
Is it just Ahwazi political prisoners who must be executed for using their pens, the only weapons they raised in the struggle for the rights of the Ahwazi people? Why is it a crime in the Iranian state to write about the lack of basic rights to a decent existence for the Ahwazi people who live below the poverty line, while their land is teeming with natural resources such as oil, natural gas, mining stone and running water? All remain inaccessible to the people of Ahwaz, including the right to clean drinking water.
Where is the justice when the Ahwaz region, the so-called heart of Iran's economy, is considered one of the poorest regions in Iran?
From 2003 to date, the climate in Ahwaz has dramatically deteriorated due to air pollution caused by Iran's industrial activities in Ahwaz. Ahwaz is one of the most polluted areas in Iran and the larger Middle East, and it is an area where there is a visible increase in the number of people dying from pollution related diseases.
One has only to visit the out-patient department in hospitals in the Ahwaz to find them filled with patients suffering from cancer and other pollution related chronic lung diseases. If our political prisoners have established campaigns, it is only because they could not close their eyes and remain silent to the horrific sufferings of their people.
The world is learning slowly that Ahwazi political prisoners are quickly sentenced to death after unjust show-trials where they are charged with "enmity against God", or that they post a risk to national security, or militant activities and secession. The vast majority of Iranians, the pro-Iranian Mullah regime who view themselves as human rights advocates who claim to be distraught over the rivers of blood flowing in Syria and other Arab nations are weeping crocodile tears if they’re honest, having remained silent for decades on the plight of the Ahwazi Arab peoples and other brutally oppressed ethnic groups in Iran who are murderously subjugated and brutalised solely for claiming their lawful rights.
Iran by dominating on the wealth of this nation has increasingly plundered it and as a result of it, the villages and towns of Al-Ahwaz were destroyed day by day. The chauvinist policies of Iranian governments have had to try to completely deny the existence of Ahwazis. In return, when Ahwazis protest at the ongoing oppression, they will be dealt with live fire or arrest and then execution. It seems that execution sentence is the Iran’s last resort to liquidating Ahwazi prisoners.
Rahim Hamid is a freelance journalist and human rights advocate who writes about the plight of his community - the Ahwazi Arabs - and other ethnic groups in Iran.