Arab Iranian Baxter refugee relatives injured, arrested in high protest death toll, Amnesty claims

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Arab Iranian Baxter refugee relatives injured, arrested in high protest death toll, Amnesty claims

Media Release
Tuesday May 3 2005 7:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"Amnesty International has revealed that several immediate family members of Iranian refugees who have been held in Baxter for years, are amongst those arrested and injured during ethnic clashes in the southern province of Khuzestan," WA Refugee group Project SafeCom spokesman Jack H Smit said this morning.

"The unrest, a direct result of aggressive intentions and steps by the Iranian government to disperse Ahwazi Arab Iranians, a distinct ethnic group who have traditionally lived in Khuzestan and its capital Ahwaz - described by media in the region as a strategy of "ethnic cleansing" has resulted in arrests and detention of hundreds of Ahwazi - and as now suggested, may well have resulted also in 'hundreds' of deaths.

Several items describing the disturbances and also Amnesty's reaction to the events are reprinted below.

"Amnesty's International Secretariat in London says that the death toll as a result of protests and serious disturbances two weeks ago is much higher than initially indicated, a contact has relayed to refugee advocates in Australia.

"The contact, Dr Ewen Macmillan, has written (reprinted below) to Australian refugee support organisations that at the beginning of last week the Amnesty 'body count' stood at 51, but expected "that this is a fraction of those killed and arrested".

Dr MacMillan also reported that first-line bloodrelatives of Iranian Ahwaz Arabs, currently in detention in the Baxter Centre near Port Augusta, were amongst those arrested and also injured.

"There are about ten Ahwaz Arab Iranians in the Baxter detention centre, and up till now the Immigration Minister has denied their refugee status - just two men have been successful in their claims. The men all based their refugee claim on the fact that they live in the Khuzestan province and because they are of a distinct ethnic origin, rather calling themselves Arabs than Iranians.

"Several of the men are now also suffering serious mental illness after having been in detention of several years. Most of the men have claims for assessment before the Minister based on "new country information" or request for the Minister to personally intervene and grant them humanitarian visas.

"The terrible events in and around Ahwaz should serve as a wake-up call for the Minister, who upon her return from international travel this week, should urgently attend to their claims, "preferably before they go mad", Project SafeCom said.

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Dr Ewen Macmillan's letter (part only)

"I have been liaising with Amnesty's International Secretariat, who called me on Sunday. So far we have identified 51 corpses, all but two of them unambiguously Arab from their names and clan affiliations.

"Sixteen of these identifications are confirmed from more than one apparently independent source. These include two children, whose identities have been confirmed by three apparently independent sources, although I only have their age group from one source.

"One source has indicated that seven security personnel have been killed, and another that a third Arab child was killed with his mother. At present, we assume that this is a fraction of those killed and arrested. I expect to compile a list of detainees for Amnesty in the days ahead.

"Violence is widespread, and has spread from Ahwaz to suburbs such as Mallaashiiya and Kuut Sayyid Saalih, and other towns including Sarbandar and Mahshuur. Casualties appear to have been particularly high in Hamiidiiya. Other settlements affected include Khazraj, Kuut Abdallah and Zargaan."

URGENT ACTION Iran: Arbitrary arrest/torture

PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 13/014/2005
18 April 2005

....detained or around the city of Ahvaz, south-western Iran, after protests about the government's supposed plan to disperse or dilute the country's Arab population. They are not known to have been charged, or to have had access to legal representation, their families or any medical treatment.


Khuzestan, Iran: Amnesty International calls for an end...

Public Statement

AI Index: MDE 13/017/2005 (Public)
News Service No: 100
20 April 2005

Khuzestan, Iran: Amnesty International calls for an end to the cycle of violence in Khuzestan and an investigation into the root causes of recent unrest.....

Amnesty International urges the security forces to conduct its operation in full compliance with relevant international standards, including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, whose provisions include, inter alia(4) that "Law enforcement officials, in carrying out their duty, shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. They may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result";

(9) that "Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life"; and that

(11) "Rules and regulations on the use of firearms by law enforcement officials should include guidelines that: ... (e) Provide for warnings to be given, if appropriate, when firearms are to be discharged".

The Arab community in Iran is around 3% of the total whereas Persians are said to account for around 50%. The Arab community mainly lives in the Khuzestan region adjoining Iraq. It is the site of much of Iran's oil resources. Members of Iran's Arab community have a long-standing grievance against successive governments that Arabs have been overlooked in terms of the distribution of resources aimed at social development.


Ahwazi: Human rights groups voice concern over Ahwaz

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Source: British Ahwazi Friendship Society

Amnesty International and the Paris-based Arab Commission for Human Rights (ACHR) have voiced serious concerns over continuing violence and human rights abuses in Iran's Khuzestan province, following a week of unrest.

Following riots over the government's programme of "ethnic restructuring" in the oil-rich province, the ACHR says it has received reports of "heavy casualties" from hospitals and called on the government to desist from using deadly force against unarmed protestors. The commission has also urged the release of all political prisoners and respect for minority groups' right to free speech.

Amnesty also criticised the regime in Tehran, saying: "The cycle of violence in Khuzestan must end to avoid further loss of life, injury, arbitrary arrest and damage to private and state property." It also called on the government to resume water supplies to Arab areas, which had been cut off to punish the Arab population.

Amnesty added: "There have also been reports of excessive use of force, unlawful killing and possibly of extra-judicial executions of protesters following circulation of reports that up to seven police or security officials had been killed by demonstrators and that the security forces are now operating a 'shoot-to-kill' policy.

The organisation echoed many of the sentiments expressed by Ahwaz constituency MP Hamid Zangeneh, who suggested that the government needed to address the root political and economic causes of the unrest, instead of the immediate circumstances around the weekend's events. On Monday, Zangeneh told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA): "Those who have failed in performing their duties within the Islamic Republic of Iran's admistrative provincial system should be identified and duly punished, but more important than that is clarifying the reason why the officials do not heed their responsibilites properly here and there in the Islamic country.

Ahwazi: International Condemnation of Massacre in Ahwaz

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Source: British Ahwazi Friendship Society

The US State Department has added its voice to the growing condemnation of the treatment of Ahwazi Arabs by the Iranian authorities.

State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said the US was "very concerned" by the reports of killings and mass arrests following demonstrations against coercive ethnic "restructuring" of Arabs in Khuzestan at the weekend.

He echoed Amnesty International's call for restraint and respect for human rights and free speech, including the right to freely assemble and demonstrate.

"In our view, this unrest and these arrests involve the denial of rights of minority groups in Iran," said Mr. Ereli. "The suppression of minority rights is obviously to be denounced, and it is not the first time that Iran has practiced this kind of human rights violation, and it's reflected in our human rights report on Iran.

A report published by the State Department in February drew attention to human rights abuses of Ahwazi Arabs, including the closure of two newspapers and the imprisonment and torture of opposition activists. It also criticised Iran for failing to clear landmines in Khuzestan, which were left after the Iran-Iraq War.

Ahwazi: Amnesty appeal for Ahwaz prisoners

Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO)
Source: British Ahwazi Friendship Society

Amnesty International has launched an appeal on behalf of Ahwazi Arabs arrested during demonstrations against ethnic cleansing last weekend.

The human rights organisation stated that Kazem Mojadam, Abdoulghader Hamadi, Mojahed Baldi (or Baladi), Salem Beradea, Nabi Manabi, Hassan Manabi, Sabri Houzedar Sefed and at least 130 others currently in detention were arbitrarily arrested and are at risk of torture.

AI's urgent appeal stated that "They are not known to have been charged, or to have had access to legal representation, their families or any medical treatment.

"There are unconfirmed reports that at least 29 people have been killed in the disturbances, and up to 500 injured," said Amnesty. "The security forces have reportedly sealed off some areas of the city of Ahvaz, and cut their power supply, telephone connections and water. They have reportedly used excessive force, possibly including extrajudicial executions, after demonstrators allegedly killed up to seven police or security officials. Reports allege that they are now operating a 'shoot-to-kill' policy.

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