Concerns raised over Iran town unrest

A joint statement by the Arab Commission for Human Rights in Paris and International Justice Organisation in The Hague has expressed concerns about the unrest in al-Ahwaz town in southwestern Iran.

    Iran denies planning to change Khuzestan's ethnic composition

    Clashes broke out last Friday between ethnic Arabs in al-Ahwaz town in Khuzestan province and Iranian security forces, leaving five people dead and many injured.

    The confrontations had been sparked by a forged letter attributed to former vice-president Muhammad Ali Abtahi calling for modifications to the ethnic composition of Khuzestan. 
      
    The commission says it has not received reports confirming the restoration of stability in the Arab dominated oil-rich Iranian province, and heavy security measures are still being applied in what is known locally as the Arab misery belt.

    Aljazeera.net received a copy of the statement in which the commission said

    it had received reports of heavy casualties from the province's hospitals and called on the Iranian government to give up using guns to respond to peaceful demonstrations.

    The statement, which was issued in Paris and The Hague, demanded immediate release of all political prisoners in Khuzestan, and that the Iranian government respect minorities' right to speak.

    Government denial

    The Iranian authorities have made clear that they have no intention of changing the ethnic balance of the province in favour of non-Arab Iranians. 

    Arabs form a majority in the oil-rich region, but only 3% of the 66 million people in Iran

    Tehran promised to release more than 300 detainees arrested during the bloody clashes that took place on the 80th anniversary of Iran's annexation of the province. 

    Arabs form a majority in the oil-rich region, but only 3% of the 66 million people in Iran.

    Foreign involvement

    Ghulam Rida Shariati, an official in Khuzestan province, told Iranian TV Al-Alam that foreign parties played a role in igniting the unrest.

    He warned that such ethnic tensions might jeopardise national unity, especially since Iran is about to hold presidential elections this year.

    He said that order and security were restored in the region, and the government was making great efforts to calm the people down.

    Al-Ahwaz town is situated on both banks of the Karun river near the Iran-Iraq border and witnessed bloody battles in the eight-year-war between the two countries.

    Oil was discovered in al-Ahwaz in 1908 and Iran annexed the Iraqi-run region in 1925.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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