Iran: Mass Executions of Ahwazi Prisoners an outrage
By Ali Badri, Ahwazi activist, based in Canada
Iran has once again used mass execution as retaliation against innocent Ahwazi Arabs who have refused to give in to the chauvinist state's relentless oppression. Iran has continually engaged in brutal tactics in their dealings with Ahwazis so as to remind all dissenters that the price of resistance is death. The Islamic Republic is not solely responsible for this violent policy; the entire Iranian state – from Shah Reza Pahlavi to the Iranian opposition – is complicit, if not openly supportive, of these types of heinous crimes against Ahwazis.
Today Iran executed 22 Ahwazi activists, including the founder of the Shams al-Janoub Cultural Foundation, to continue waging its state-wide war against all symbols of Ahwazi Arab culture. Muhammad Moemeni Timas Silawi, a prominent Ahwazi Arab and founder of the cultural foundation, was executed, along with his son Nasar, in retaliation for his persistent activism.
Iran had closed the Shams al-Janoub Cultural Foundation in 2005 after arresting its members, including Silawi, and keeping them all in solitary confinement for nine months. Silawi and his son were released at the time, but both continued to be arrested several times throughout the years. On September 28, 2018, Silawi went to inquire about the fate of his son Nasar, who had been detained in retaliatory arrests following the podium attack in Ahwaz. Silawi was subsequently arrested for the final time on this date.
22 detained activists were hung today as a brutal act of retaliation by the Iranian State to show their zero-tolerance policy for any dissent or Arab cultural pride.
Since 2005, when a popular uprising broke out in Ahwaz following the leaking of a regime document revealing details of another regime plan for massive demographic change in the region, the Iranian regime has intensified its already brutal campaign of oppression against Ahwazi dissidents, arresting, torturing and routinely executing human rights campaigners and activists on the flimsiest of pretexts and savagely repressing public protests. As in the 1980s, forced confessions extracted using torture are the norm, being presented as ‘evidence’ at kangaroo trials in the regime’s ‘revolutionary courts’ with these farcical legal proceedings often taking no more than a few minutes; the accused have no access to defense lawyers or any chance to challenge the invariably fabricated charges, which include such specious accusations as “enmity to God.” Although these ludicrous Kafkaesque trials have been repeatedly condemned by human rights organizations worldwide, the regime continues to claim that they represent legitimate legal proceedings. The lack of any evidence against the accused is viewed as a minor triviality by the regime, for which forced confessions extracted under torture are adequate justification for draconian punishments including decades-long prison sentences or execution.
There is ample evidence that the trials of those Ahwazi activists sentenced to decades in prison or to death on false charges fail to meet even the minimum international standards for fair trials, including the use of such “confessions” obtained under torture or other ill-treatment.
Some regime-run television stations like Press TV broadcast the grotesque ‘confessions’ of Ahwazi detainees obviously obtained under duress even before the beginning of their trials, with the prisoners often seen with heavy bruising from beatings and clearly reciting their ‘confessions’ by rote with regime personnel standing over them or just off-camera. Even though this flagrantly disregards the basic right of all defendants to be considered innocent until proven guilty, such forced confessions are viewed as a useful tool by the regime to help influence public opinion, promoting the favourite regime narrative in which the state is valiantly protecting the Iranian populace from the supposed threat of “Arab criminality."
For one example of the relentless brutal persecution of Ahwazis, since 2016 the regime in Tehran has sentenced dozens of Ahwazi dissidents, political activists and human rights campaigners from the regional city of Hamidiyeh to death, often accusing them of involvement in extremist or militant activities, secessionism, ‘enmity to God’ or being a threat to national security; all these are favorite charges for the regime requiring no evidence but a ‘confession’ from the accused, which is generally easily obtained via torture.