Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Unknown

About

Nationality: Iran
Religion: Unknown
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: April, 2011
Location: Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Arbitrary execution
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

The news of an unknown person who was killed along with 11 other Arab residents of Khuzestan during the protests of 15 April 2011, quoted from Ms. Shirin Ebadi's letter to Ms. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was published on several websites including Radio Farda (18 April 2011) and BBC (18 April 2011). On the week leading up to the anniversary of the 2005 protests - according to Human Rights Watch - police and Basij forces had set up a series of checkpoints in different cities of Khuzestan, where they intended to arrest several of the Arab activists.

Additional information was collected from several sources including: an announcement from Amnesty international (4/19/2011); an announcement from Human Rights Watch (4/29/2011); the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization; Fars News (04/16/2011) and HRANA (04/16/2011).

The Officials’ Reaction

Iranian judicial and state authorities did not provide a clear explanation about the number or names of those killed during the protests of April 2011 in different areas of the province. Fars news quoted the commander of the Shadegan Police station that one person was killed, and the head of the police station of the Abudi area of Shadegan was injured during clashes with "armed insurgents.” In another response, the temporary leader of Ahvaz Friday prayers, Ayatollah Al-e Kasiri, said that people in Khuzestan are separated from limited anti-revolutionary groups, affiliated with the west (Fars News 04/16/2011). According to the information in Ms. Ebadi’s letter to UN Human Rights Commissioner, security forces used threats to silence the families of those killed and arrested several family members who were interviewed by Arab media.

The Family’s Remarks

No information regarding remarks or reactions by family is available.

A Summary of the Khuzestan Protests

Subsequent to the publication of a letter dated July 24, 1998, ascribed to then-President Khatami’s Chief of Staff, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, demonstrations protesting the letter broke out on Friday, April 15, 2005, first in [the city of] Ahvaz, and then in other cities, such as Mahshahr and Hamidideh, and continued for several days. The letter emphasized the modification of Khuzestan Province’s ethnic Arab population through promotion and encouragement of the migration of non-native populations to the province, [thus] reducing Khuzestan’s Arab population to one third of the total population of the province. Although the government’s spokesperson officially denied [the existence of] this letter on Saturday, April 16, the demonstrations that had been called for by the “Coordination Committee for Popular Protests in Ahvaz”* continued extensively in the coming days. In calling for demonstrations, [the organizers] highlighted various factors, including the central government’s policies in expropriating Arab farmers’ lands for various projects such as sugar cane development, and marginalization of, as well as profound discontent among, Khuzestan’s Arab [population], as a result of the regime’s efforts to obliterate Arab identity.

The demonstrations that had started in Kui-e Alavi (Shelangabad/Da’ereh),, one of [the city of] Ahvaz’s poor neighborhoods, quickly spread to the center of Ahvaz and to the cities of Mahshahr and Hamidieh. Citing Ahvaz News (a regional news organization) and eyewitnesses at the scene, the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization’s bulletin, dated April 15, 2005, stated, “Around three thousand Arab people of Ahvaz have gathered together and started extensive but peaceful demonstrations in Kordovani Street and Square, along with thousands of others in neighborhoods such as Shelangabad, Malashieh, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah, among others. Security forces are attacking the demonstrators, first with tear gas, and are subsequently firing on them in Da’ereh and Malashieh neighborhoods.” The degree of violence resorted to by security and police forces in quashing the demonstrations was such that it led to the death of a number of protestors. Dozens more were injured. Subsequent to these deaths, the intensity and magnitude of the protests increased. In a number of towns, demonstrators proceeded to cut off roads and to occupy government buildings and police posts. These protests continued for ten days in many Arab regions of Khuzestan. Protestors demanded a government apology to the region’s Arabs. Official government sources, quoting the Islamic Republic’s Defense Minister, announced the death toll as standing at three or four. (ISNA, April 19, 2005) Civil society activists, however, declared the number of people killed during these events to be between 50 and 60. Amnesty International stated the number as 29; Human Rights Watch, 50; and the Ahvaz Human Rights Organization, 160. Dozens of others were injured. The Ahvaz General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office announced the arrest and arraignment of 447 individuals. (IRNA, April 25, 2005) Local sources, however, announced the number as being greater than 1200. A number of intellectuals and ethnic leaders were among those arrested. Although the demonstrations subsided after ten days, widespread arrests, multiple bombings, successive executions, and popular protests continued on various occasions, including the anniversary of the events.

Related Protests in the Following Years

In the years since the violent incidents of April 15, 2005, the regime’s forces have continued to violently suppress the peaceful protests of the Arab citizens of Khuzestan Province, whenever they occur, including on the anniversary of the protests. Every year, as April 15th nears, a wave of arrests takes over the entire region. Internet access is cut off, and other means of communication, such as telephones, are tapped and strictly controlled by the security apparatus. Certain cases of death in suspicious circumstances have even been reported by local sources.

On November 4, 2005, after the Eid al-Fitr prayers, Arab citizens of [the city of] Ahvaz started a peaceful march. On the route to Lashgarabad, every time they would reach the homes of those who had perished in the April 15th protests, they would chant local and Arabic slogans as part of the new Eid ceremonies. On their way back, while on the Fifth Bridge of the Karun River, a large number of the protestors were surrounded on both sides of the bridge by Revolutionary Guards, Bassij, and police forces. The attempt by these forces to arrest and severely punish the demonstrators who had been trapped on the bridge led to the escalation of the protests. A large number of the demonstrators were arrested, and some jumped into the Karun River for fear of arrest.

Further, on October 13, 2007, after the Eid al-Fitr prayers, thousands of Arab citizens started peaceful protests in [the town of] Hamidieh, chanting Arabic and epic slogans and songs. (Ahwaz Human Rights Organization) Dozens were beaten and arrested when security and police forces violently intervened in the protests. There are no reports of protestors having been killed on the day of Eid al-Fitr. Somewhat later, after the demonstrations, however, the bodies of 4 citizens were found in the Karun River. According to activists, their hands were tied with plastic handcuffs, and signs of torture were visible on their bodies. (Ahwaz News Agency)

On April 15, 2011, the sixth anniversary of the 2005 protests and shortly after the rise of the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East, demonstrations of “A Day of Anger” were organized (in solidarity with the “Day of Anger” demonstrations in other Arab countries of the region) in the regions of Khuzestan Province’s with predominantly Arab residents. In Hamidieh and Ahvaz, demonstrations were more widespread and were, therefore, violently quashed by security and police forces, resulting in at least twelve dead and more than twenty injured. (Human Rights Defenders) Additionally, hundreds of other Arab citizens were arrested. International human rights organizations condemned the suppression of demonstrations and the ban on news coverage by Iranian authorities, and asked the Islamic Republic authorities to allow journalists and human rights organizations to independently investigate and freely send reports in order to identify the victims of the demonstrations in Ahvaz and other cities of Khuzestan with predominantly Arab residents. (Reporters Without Borders, April 23, 2011, Human Rights Watch, April 29, 2011)

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* The “Committee for Organizing Popular Protests in Ahvaz” was a committee consisting of different political groups, including the “Patriotic Arab Democratic Movement In Ahwaz” and the “Wefaq Party,” and civil and cultural institutions such as the “Amjad Institute” and “Al-Shorouq,” as well as Arab civil activists.  The first critical statement by the “Arab National Democratic Movement of Ahvaz” was issued on April 9, 2005.

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