14 Feb 2017
Ahwaz human rights conference underline need for global solidarity as protests spread in region following another fatal shooting
Speakers at a conference in Vienna last week sharply condemned Iranian occupation forces’ escalating brutal crackdown against the Ahwazi Arab population. The conference on Friday, entitled ‘Discussing the Iranian State’s Human Rights Violations in Ahwaz’, took place on Friday as protests again spread across Ahwaz following the shooting of another civilian in the city of Falahiyeh by Iranian forces.
Amongst the speakers at the conference, hosted by the Ahwazi Organization for the Defence of Human Rights (AODHR), were a number of Ahwazi human rights campaigners who had survived imprisonment and torture by the Iranian regime for their activism, with other delegates appalled by the harrowing experiences in prison which they recounted. The former prisoners also provided written, photographic and video documentation of the regime’s human rights violations in Ahwaz, the first time that this has been done at such a conference.
The event, which was attended by several prominent Austrian, German and British human rights figures, along with academics and legal experts, was also attended by journalists from Arab newspapers, receiving extensive coverage in regional media, with speakers calling for far greater Arab and global awareness of the cause of Ahwazi freedom.
In his opening address at the conference, AODHR Executive Director Kamil Al Bushokah outlined the most serious violations against the Ahwazi people by the Iranian regime, including ethnic cleansing and displacement, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests. As well as addressing the regime’s human rights abuses, Al-Bushokah also spoke about the devastating environmental impact of the Iranian state’s policies in the region once famed for its bountiful agriculture and fishing, including desertification and the drying up of the regional rivers as the regime dams and diverts the regional waterways to other, non-Arab regions of Iran; this policy is largely seen as part of the regime’s efforts to change the demographic composition of the region by driving Ahwazis away from their ancestral lands.
The delegates also watched a German-language documentary showing some of the Iranian regime’s violations against the Ahwazi people, including graphic footage of executions and torture of Ahwazi detainees by regime personnel.
Another distinguished speaker at the conference, Taher Bomadarah who headed the Human Rights Office at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, spoke about the role of diplomacy and international law in ending human rights abuses, urging international human rights organisations and activists to provide help and support to the Ahwazi people so that they can attain their rights.
Bomadarah also emphasized the crucial need for the international community to put pressure on the Iranian regime to end its damaging and destabilising interference in neighbouring countries, and called on European nations to stand up for human rights and support the Ahwazi Arab people’s aspirations. The former senior UN official further recommended that the UN should send a special envoy or rapporteur to Ahwaz to gather evidence on the human rights abuses there, and that the Arab League should recognise the Ahwazi cause.
Another speaker, the prominent Austrian philosopher and political activist Leo Gabriel, a founding member of the World Social Forum, emphasized the need for a global campaign to gain recognition and support for the Ahwazi people’s right to self-determination. He also underlined the need for the international community to focus its attention on the Iranian regime’s constitution, which is contrary to the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and called for European nations to pay far greater attention to the long-ignored just cause of Ahwazi freedom.
In another speech at the conference, Dr. Khalid Al-Masalama, a lecturer in History at Germany’s Bochum University, stressed the need for Arab nations to support the cause of Ahwazi freedom, as well as the Syrian revolution because the enemy is one and the same – the Iranian regime. Dr. Al-Masalama also underlined the regime’s ties with global terrorism through its support of militias and extremist groups in the Middle East and worldwide.
Meanwhile, in Ahwaz itself, the weekend saw intensifying clashes between Iranian regime forces and protesters in the town of Falahiyeh after demonstrators took to the streets to protest following the apparently random fatal shooting of an unarmed young Ahwazi man, Hassan Al Booghobesh, on Friday. The murder of Al Booghobesh, who was shot in the head by an Iranian security forces member as he walked along a street in the town, is the latest in a spate of killings of civilians across the region by regime security personnel, with other victims including a three-year-old girl, Raghad Abbas Sawari, who was shot dead as she sat in her parents car; both her parents were seriously injured in the attack, which was also unprovoked.
The demonstrations following the latest regime shooting over the weekend turned violent after regime forces refused to return the young man’s body to his family for burial, with angry protesters attacking and setting light to some police stations in Falahiyeh. The regime sent military and security reinforcements to the town in an effort to crush the protests and impose a curfew, with the heavily armed personnel now patrolling the area.
No Iranian or international human rights organisations have issued any statement condemning the latest regime crimes against Ahwazi citizens, with this silence helping to underline the need for greater international awareness of the regime’s brutal injustice towards the Ahwazi people.