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Witness Statement of Saied Alboghbaysh

In this witness statement, Saied Alboghbaysh, a co-founder of the al-Hiwar Cultural Institute, discusses his arrest, detention and torture in 2011. Five of the other co-founders of al-Hiwar who were arrested within days of Alboghbaysh are currently on death row in Iran.


 (A scene from Ramshir, the town in Khuzestan Province where the al-Hiwar Cultural Institute was founded)

Name: Saied Alboghbaysh

Place of Birth: Ramshir, Iran

Date of Birth: September 23, 1978

Occupation: Sales director


Interviewing Organization: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)


Date of Interview:  September 25, 2012

Interviewer: IHRDC Staff


This statement was prepared pursuant to an interview with Saied Alboghbaysh. It was approved by Saied Alboghbaysh on July 19, 2013. There are 72 paragraphs in the statement.

The views and opinions of the witness expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Statement

Background

1. My name is Saied Alboghbaysh. I was born in 1978 in Ramshir. I graduated from Allameh Tabatabaee University in Tehran with a degree in Management Studies. After that, I became a sales manager for a private company.

Cultural Activism

2. In 1996, while still in high school in Ramshir[1], I began my activism –which I resumed in college. My two classmates in high school were Mohammad Ali Amouri (who is currently on death row) and Rahman Asakereh (who has been sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment). They are presently awaiting their harsh sentences.

3. I entered university during Mr. Khatami’s presidency in 1997. It was during the same year that I met and started working with Hadi Rashedi. I continued my collaboration with these men even after I moved from Tehran to Ahvaz in 2005.

4. The reason behind increasing my activities during Mr. Khatami’s regime was the more open political milieu of the time. However, my activism was mostly cultural not political. For example, I was active in organizing language classes, or gatherings and forums during festivities, in which plays, hymns and songs, speeches and poetry were practiced.

5. Our main concern was to revive the local Arab culture, because as you know, the instruction of Arabic is banned in those regions.[2] The language is only taught in university as a foreign language. Our aim was to bring people closer to their ancestral roots and culture. Our emphasis was to keep and revive the local culture and we were not concerned with the Arab culture outside of Iran. Our objectives had no political element whatsoever, let alone the Nasserist goals we were later accused of pursuing.[3] We had no non-Iranian goals. Our goal at the time was only to help people safeguard their local culture. We were in no way influenced by any foreign [political] movements, be they Nasserist or Ba’athist.

6. In the year 2000, we decided to establish a cultural institute called al-Hiwar [‘dialogue’] through the National Youth Organization. We advanced quite a bit in this endeavor, to the point where we had submitted our constitution and by the Entefazeh[4] of 2005 we were almost finished with the process. We were expecting our permit. They had given us a provisional permit, which allowed us to proceed with our scientific and cultural activities. But they refused to provide us with the final permit, which forced us to take our complaint to the Ministry of the Interior.

7. During Khatami’s presidency we were able to publish Arabic newspapers in Ahvaz and a number of universities around the country. But they were all banned when Mr. Ahmadinejad succeeded Mr. Khatami.

8. In 2000, we had plans to organize a cultural forum at Amir Kabir University [in Tehran] to introduce the culture of the Arabs of Khuzestan to all Iranians. The Student Affairs [Committee], Cultural Section and Herasat[5] of the university had all agreed. However, two or three hours prior to the forum we were told that the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) had withdrawn permission for the gathering. Instead, we were forced to hold it at the Niavaran Cultural Center.

Political Activism

9. Our political activities began during the municipal council elections to which we had registered five candidates. I am not talking about the Wefaq Party[6] candidates. We had no direct connection with the party. I did, of course, have some friends who belonged to the Wefaq Party, but there was no political affiliation between us.

10. In Ramshir we introduced five candidates all of whom were elected. This was the extent of our political involvement, which was motivated by our desire to use legitimate local organizations to further our cultural goals.

11. Our five candidates all entered the town council. Our aim was to influence the election of the mayor.

 12. The case against us referred back to these activities during the Khatami era. They [the security services] ended up sentencing five of our members to death and two or three of them were sentenced to twenty, five and six years in prison respectively. 

Harassment of Members of the al-Hiwar Cultural Institute during the Khatami Era

13. Things were better during Mr. Khatami’s presidency. In 2003 my friends and I were summoned to appear at the local MOIS office in the city of Ramhormoz, the capital of the county where the town of Ramshir was situated at the time—it has since been separated to form its own administrative unit. I was summoned a day after Rahman Asakereh. My friends were all well-educated.

14. Mr. Rahman Asakereh, for example, was a high school teacher. He has a Masters degree in Social Sciences and was employed by the Ministry of Education [as a teacher]. So was Mr. Hadi Rashedi, who has a Masters degree in Chemistry. He was also a teacher, as was Mr. Hashem Sha’abani, who is also on death row. Sha’abani has a B.A. in Arabic Literature and an M.A. in Political Science. He too was employed by the Ministry of Education. These men were all educators—all employees of the very government that sentenced them to death.

15. In the beginning, in 2003-2004, their interrogations focused on the municipal council. It was our understanding that reports by informants and allies of the MOIS regarding our activities on the council included allegations about us planning to abuse our power for separatist aims.

16. They didn’t harass us as much during the Khatami era. When we were summoned to the local MOIS office they focused on determining the nature of our activities. They asked us questions such as: What is the foundation of your activities: is it ethnic? Is it nationalist? They were determined to make sure that our activities remained purely cultural.

17. Intense suppression began at the outset of Ahmadinejad’s first term. The government banned all Arabic-language newspapers and put a stop to all of the aforementioned cultural activities. 

The Unrest of April 2005 in Ramshir and the Aftermath

18. During the entefazeh not much happened in Ramshir—at least not like in Ahvaz, where there were riots and demonstrations. There were only some low-key activities. Ramshir is a small town of fifty or sixty thousand people. Some activity was taking place. A number of demonstrators crowded the streets and shouted slogans. But I didn’t really take part in the entefazeh.

19. There were also some people who took advantage of the situation and carried out violent acts. For instance, they broke the windows of a local bank. This happens in most riots, but the center of the entefazeh was in Ahwaz and a few other cities like Mahshahr, Shadegan, and Shoush.

20. The entefazeh did not transpire over a day or two. It went on for six or seven months and beyond. This resulted in the government deploying security forces from Khorramshahr, Tehran, Isfahan and other cities to Ahvaz, which was placed under curfew.  This curfew continued for all the years I was there. When I left Ahvaz several months later, the curfew had not yet ended. This meant that if you wanted to go from one area of town to another, you stopped and submitted to searches and questioning at checkpoints every 500-700 meters.

21. Police presence was very evident everywhere. They were mostly armed policemen on motorcycles. I saw them with my own eyes. I believe they belonged to the Special Forces unit of the [national] police force. They wore green helmets and were deployed with the anti-riot forces.

22. In addition, the Revolutionary Guards were also present and operated their own detention centers via its Counterintelligence and Intelligence Divisions.[7] The Revolutionary Guards were a major player in helping the police force and the Intelligence Service during the entefazeh.

The al-Hiwar Cultural Institute’s Activities before April 2005 and the Closure of Ahvazi Arab Organizations and Publications by the Ahmadinejad Government

23. Al-Hiwar worked within the framework of the Iranian Constitution. We never thought to step outside of its boundaries.

24. Our goals were never political. Even our participation in the municipal elections was non-partisan. All our candidates campaigned as independent citizens with no partisan affiliation. Their messages were of a cultural/academic nature.

25. I can still remember the names of the Arabic-language publications of the time. One was Sawt al-Sha’ab (Voice of the Nation), which was published in both Persian and Arabic. On one side it had an equivalent Persian title, and on the other it was titled Sawt al-Sha’ab. There was another newspaper called Aqlam al-Talabeh (Students’ Pen) which was also bilingual. It was published and circulated in Chamran University in Ahvaz. Its editor was Hashem Sha’abani, who has since been sentenced to death. Another was al-Torath (Heritage), which was published and circulated in the University of Esfahan. Its editor was Mohammad Ali Amouri, who has also been sentenced to death. That, too, was banned. During the Ahmadinejad era all of these activities were put to an end.

26. Thereafter, our activities went underground, since after the entefazeh we were issued no permit to carry on with our cultural activities. In truth, after the entefazeh the MOIS completely changed its policies in Khuzestan. All our activities stopped and I was transferred to Ahwaz.

Underground Cultural Activities      

27. Nevertheless we continued some cultural activities in Ahvaz. But they were all carried out secretly, in people’s homes. For example, we would get together with our friends and have study groups.  Sometimes we would gather youths and our teacher friends, like Mr. Asakereh and Mr. Rashedi, together and go over university entrance examination material with them. They would also arrange study groups for the youth.

Arrests of the Founders of the al-Hiwar Cultural Institute

28. In March of 2011 the authorities started to arrest my friends, who had been under suspicion for a long time. Before that they had been summoned to local MOIS offices on many occasions, maybe seven or eight times each. They were no longer sending us written summons by that point: in the past they would send us written summons, but at some point they realized that these summons might be used as evidence against them, so they changed their strategy and called us instead to give us oral summons.  They would just call us up and tell us to be at the Information Department of the MOIS in Amaniyeh, which is in central Ahvaz at a certain time.

29. The practice of periodically summoning us for questioning began in 2003. Between 2003 and 2005 the interrogations happened in either Ramshir or Ramhormoz. But after the 2005 entefazeh they were all sent to Ahvaz [whenever the authorities wanted to question them] and they were interrogated at the MOIS headquarters in Ahvaz. At that point the Ahvaz MOIS office case had taken over responsibility for their following up on them.

30. The shift in tactics for getting us into the MOIS offices for interrogation happened right after Mr. Ahmadinejad’s second term victory in 2009. I believe the last nine times of the 14 or 15 total times that I was summoned were through phone calls.

31. They started arresting people from the organization in early 2011. They arrested four members in February. On February 17, 2011, Mr. Mohammad Ali Amouri and Shahid Amouri were transferred to the custody of Iranian authorities by the Iraqi government. They had previously been imprisoned in Iraq. Then Amir Amouri and Hashem Sha’bani were arrested in their own homes by plainclothes agents [of the MOIS].

32. Then we would receive calls [from friends] informing us that someone else had been arrested. In the beginning we thought these were probably the usual interrogations, where every now and then they would come after us, or send us summons to appear in their offices at such and such time for questioning. But this time it was different.

33. They took all of these detainees to the MOIS office in Ahvaz. On February 25, 2011, the security services arrested Habibollah Rashedi and Hadi Rashedi. Then they arrested me on February 26, 2011. So my arrest took place one or two weeks after the first arrests were made.

34. The authorities sentenced five men [from al-Hiwar] to death: Hadi Rashedi, Hashem Sha’bani, Mohammad Ali Amouri, Mokhtar Alboshoka and Jaber Alboshoka. The latter two are cousins of Kamil Alboshoka, who presently resides in London. The rest were all given prison sentences of five, six, and twenty years’ duration. Some of us, including Habibollah Rashedi, Amir Amouri, the brother of Mohammad Ali Amouri, who is on death row, a few others and me, were all released on bail.

35. I believe that the Arab Spring had a lot to do with these arrests. The arrests were very widespread. They arrested anyone who, in their estimation, ever had the potential to be key actors in practical or intellectual terms. This is my interpretation; as soon as the Arab Spring began, the decision-makers in Iran’s security services became determined to nip any small movement in the bud.

My Arrest

36. I was at home when they arrested me. [My family and I] live in a four-unit apartment building. Although we have a street gate to the apartment, that day they had directly come to the door to our unit and knocked on it. I thought it might be our neighbor. My wife opened the door. As soon as she did this they ordered her to call me. Two were at our door and one was waiting in the car. They were plainclothes agents. None of them looked like they could belong to any of the government forces. Government employees usually have an Islamic look: bearded, rings on their fingers, with the [straight] collars that are popular in the Muslim world. But those three looked very different.

37. They presented no warrants or identification cards. The two men did not step into my apartment and did not search my house. They just announced that I had to go with them. That’s when I realized what was happening. I asked for permission to change my clothes. My wife started to cry. I told her not to worry and reassured her that I was going to be back, like previous times. But I had a feeling this time was different, because all the other times I had gone for questions freely on my own. They never came to my home to take me. I, of course, had a feeling they might come after me…like they went after my friends. But never did I think that it would come to pass like this.  It was ridiculous! Even as I think about it today it seems sadly funny. If you relate this story to someone who lives in a free country they’ll probably laugh.

38. In order to prevent the neighbors from realizing what was happening, they waited to handcuff me until right before I got into the car. They did not bind my ankles, but as soon as I got in the car they blindfolded me. They do not want you to know where they are taking you. Of course, their interrogation center is known to all. Whenever you are asked to report to them, as soon as you walk into the center a soldier blindfolds you. But when they come and get you themselves, you have no idea where you are going.

39. That day the men (in the car) spoke very little. They made no mention of any of the charges against me. They did not use their radio transmitters. They just made small talk. We were on the road for about 45–50 minutes. I couldn’t figure out where they were taking me, because Ahvaz is a very large and disperse city—by length more than by width—and I could not figure out where I was. I have even heard my friends say that the local MOIS office used a detention center built by the Shah’s regime beneath the Karun River.

40. All you know is that you are in a place that is run by the security services. I don’t really know where it was that they took me. All I remember is the sound of a plane flying over us. Whether it was taking off or landing, I could not tell. It made me wonder if we were somewhere close to the city’s airport.[8] 

Interrogation and Torture

41. But you never see anything. Someone leads you down a long, confusing hallway. You have no idea where you are.

42. They were polite when they arrested me, but the disrespectful treatment began during my interrogation. I am not sure if those men [who arrested me] had orders to be respectful or not, but they treated me with politeness. But the very next morning after I got there they blindfolded me and tied my hands and the insults began.

43. The interrogation started on the very first day. I was first put into solitary confinement in a one square meter cell with a height of two meters.  Since I am 1.92 meters tall, you can imagine that this made lying down to sleep impossible for me. They kept me there for three nights. This meant three nights of sleep deprivation. This is how they psychologically tortured us to get the answers they wanted.

44. My first interrogation session was not as bad as the fourth and fifth sessions. It seemed like they wanted to lure me into talking about my years in university and the year I began my activism. They asked me about my relationship with Mohammad Ali Amouri, Rahman Asakereh, Hadi Hashemi and others. Of course I already knew that Mr. Rashedi had been arrested the day before. On my third day there I even saw the names of these detainees written and circled on the bathroom walls. 

45. During my last days there I could hear people being tortured. I could hear my friends. Their (my captors) torture was indeed harsh. The first few times were not so bad. But when during my third interrogation they realized that they can’t get anything out of me, they increased the pressure. Their insults became nastier. They would use profanity and yell: speak you dog, you are worse than a dog, you filth, say yes to whatever I tell you and don’t talk back. At one point he got so angry that he called me an Arab dog.

46. “You Arabs have no sense of dignity,” he added. “You are traitors, you are separatists, if you had any sense of decency you would not have done anything like this.”

At this I got very upset and said that, “We do have dignity. You have seen how we Arabs even kill to protect our honor and keep face. You know well that we are capable of going to extremes to protect our honor.” He then exclaimed, “Now you talk back!?” And then he gave me a slap across the face. This was not the first time I had been slapped. In the morning of that very day—my third there—they struck me with a cable 17-18 times. I was blindfolded and my hands were tied. They put me on the ground and tied my hands to one pole and my feet to another so that I could not move, and then they hit me in the back. My interrogator said: “I will strike you so hard that you learn your lesson. Then I will take you into the other room and wait for you to talk.”

47. But I had nothing to say. They were getting nowhere. But this is how their system works. They put you under immense pressure. The torture does not hurt as much as the mental and psychological pressure. The insults and the put-downs…I believe this is how they operate.

48. They try to destroy your ego. They make you feel so small: “dirty dog, moron, garbage, answer me you garbage, whatever I say is the right way you piece of shit, answer me you garbage, tell me I am right, when I say you are connected to so and so you say yes, never talk back,” etc. The point is that their objective is to destroy your ego and make you feel very very small. They want to break you.

49. Once they feel that they have succeeded, they change strategies and try to convince you that they will help and protect you, if only you cooperate and confess. They kept repeating the following questions: did you have connections with this person? Did you receive anything from this person who lives abroad? Are you in contact with this other person who lives abroad? Towards the end I was losing my patience. I resisted a great deal.

50. They interrogated me every day and the only day they did not torture me was on the fifth day. Why? I don’t know. The other days on the other hand, I was tortured every day up to the last hours of my detention. I was released in the afternoon of the eighth day and that very morning I was being tortured. I was in detention a total of 8 days and 7 nights. At the end when they realized that I didn’t have much to say, especially since I had left Ramshir in 2005 and subsequently had minimal contact with the group, they let me go.

51. But I could clearly hear my friends’ voices as they were being tortured. It seemed like extremely harsh torture beyond what I personally experienced, but I could hear them and could recognize their voices clearly. I recognized Hadi Rashedi’s voice, and also that of Mohammad Ali Amouri. They sounded like something out of a horror movie, the horrible sound that spills out of the gut of a man being tortured. I don’t know why they did not torture me like them, maybe because they actually lived in the city. (Ramshir).  I could actually see traces of their torture tools on the ceiling of my cell. There were hooks hanging from the ceiling. They would put a rope through the hook, hang the detainees and whip them.[9]

52. For instance, Hadi Rashedi was suffering from rheumatic fever and had to receive regular medical checkups. He had been tortured so violently that he fainted and only after that did they finally take him to the doctor. In the detention centers you have no rights. They do not treat you like a human being. They make you feel like an animal. They break you. I believe this is their strategy. They planned it out beforehand to extract confessions from the detainees.

53. I had been under so much pressure that towards the end of my detention I could not hear what my interrogator was saying. His voice sounded like radio waves that would fade in and out. I was broken and felt like a drenched man looking for shelter from the cold and the rain. I thought to myself: might I be freed from this hell one day?

54. They did not threaten my family directly. But they told me that they could harm my family to their hearts’ desire. They told me that for them killing people was easy. You could be walking down the street and be hit by a car and die, as easy as that. They added that they could bring my family and my wife to the detention center and torture them as well. “Do not think that we are not able to do such things. We can do whatever we decide to do. So you better confess.” And whenever I would say that I had no information to share with them, they would remind of me of my wife’s, my father’s and my brothers’ fate, especially that of my youngest brother.

55. So although they did not threaten my family directly, they threatened that they would harm them. But eventually they realized that they could not get anything out of me. I hadn’t lived in Ramshir since 2005, whereas the others were still living there. So they eventually realized that my connection with the rest of the group was minimal.

The Extraction of Confessions

56. The arrests, interrogations and the medieval-style torture they conducted was all aimed at inducing confessions. What they did was to either torture, or put so much pressure on the captive to make him talk. And then they would broadcast the confessions on TV or other media, connecting the accused to this foreign political figure, like [former Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak or that foreign political party.

57. This is how they got Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Sha’bani [to confess] on Pars TV. These two later revealed that they had been put under considerable pressure and that they had been badly tortured. This, I had myself experienced. They belittle and pressure you so much, they deprive you of sleep for three or four nights, they torture you, they hang you from your feet, until you finally cannot take any more and say whatever they want you to say. After an entire week of torture and sleep deprivation they promise to leave you alone if you’ll just repeat what they want you to say.

58. In Hashem Sha’bani’s confession he refers to having connections with Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak. When I think about my resistance, I feel proud of myself. I resisted quite well. I am in very good physical shape and can take the physical pressure, but someone like Hadi Rashedi, with his heart condition and his slight build would break under all of that harsh physical and psychological torture. I’d think that after 2-3 days of extremely harsh torture and horrible sleep deprivation he would give in. If I were in Hadi Rashedi and Hashem Sha’bani’s physical shape, I would have given in. I, too, would have told them that I had close connections with Saddam Hussein and Hossni Mubarak. In truth, towards the end of my detention I too was feeling quite weak.

59. If someone had said, come on, just tell them something and free yourself from this misery, go get some sleep…would I have done it? I kept on telling myself that if I have nothing to confess I should resist. I knew that if I said anything I would end up staying there forever. Confessing to something that I had not done would not end the ordeal. Of course, I was not the only one who was released. Habibollah Rashedi and Amir Amouri were also released, albeit after 16-17 days.

Release

60. I was released on a bail of 150 million Toumans (roughly 1.3 million USD at the time), for which the title to a house in the Kuh Mellat area in Ahvaz owned by my father-in-law was presented. My family and my wife’s family worked hard for my release. They knew where I was, because five or six days after my arrest they had called my wife and informed her.

61. The procedure [for getting a relative out of detention] was not new for us. My cousin had previously been sentenced to five years’ probation on charges of being in contact with foreign elements because he had a few telephone conversations with one of his friends who had left the country from time to time, even though his friend had no criminal or political record and was a graduate of the law school at Tehran’s [prestigious] Allameh Tabatabai University. Before his trial, he was detained at the MOIS office in Ahvaz for about 45 days. They called us after seven or eight days and informed us of his whereabouts. This was how they operated.

Ongoing Harassment after Release

62. Even after my release, I was summoned another 9 or 10 times. At the beginning I was told to report to them every 15-17 days. But in the last 3-4 months they did not summon me as much, to the point where I had become suspicious and started wondering if they were going to arrest me again. I thought they must have some new plans for me, because the case was not closed. My case and the case of all those in Ramshir are still open.

63. To this day they have not been able to charge Habibollah Rashedi, Amir Amouri and me of any crime. I even went to them myself requesting an answer on my status, in order to know whether there was going to be a trial. It was all to no avail. They never give you an answer. They just play with you. It is such a medieval system, such an inhumane system! For instance, you want to see the judge, whom you know is presiding that day. They lie to you and tell you that he is not in.

64. During my last one-and-a-half years in Iran they arrested my cousin and my brother. My cousin’s name is Ebrahim Alboghbaysh.

65. In the end, when I realized that they might come after me again, I went into hiding at a friend’s house on November 3, 2012. I was in Abadan at my father-in-law’s house when a friend called and said that my brother and cousin had been arrested and that the authorities were going to go looking for me at my house. It was about 10 or 11 p.m. when my brother-in-law took me to a friend’s house in Khorramshahr, where I hid for about six days.

Escape from Iran

66. On the November 9, 2012, a friend and I left Khorramshahr for Orumiyeh and the next day we fled through the border to a neighboring village in Turkey with the help of smugglers. For over a month after their arrest, none of my family members was informed about the whereabouts of my brother and cousin.

The Trial of the Founders of the al-Hiwar Institute

67. An example of the charges against Rahman Asakereh is ‘fostering connections with foreign elements.’ The allegations do not make any sense. What do [the charges] ‘enmity against God’ or ‘actions against national security’ mean? Does being a Khuzestani Arab qualify as an act against national security? Or does wanting to speak your own language and asking for your rights qualify as an action against national security?  The government told us we could have cultural activities within the limits of the constitution. Then they gave us the permit to do so. And now they are accusing us of acting against national security for doing what they gave us permission to do in the first place!

68. When the judge issued the original sentences, they weren’t the ones that stand today! In the beginning all those who were sentenced to death were initially given 20 years in prison and those who were sentenced to 20 years, were initially given only two-year sentences.

69. The original sentences were lighter because [the defendants] denied all of the allegations and told the judge that their confessions were extracted under duress. But the MOIS intervened and forced the judge to change his original sentence. It sounds like a movie. It borders on ridiculous!

70. All of the above occurred in Branch Two of the Revolutionary Court of Ahvaz. Sometimes my interrogator would say things like: it doesn’t matter what you tell us, we set things up the way we want, we appoint the judges and we tell them what to do. They sign whatever we put in front of them. We make accidents happen and you can get hit by a car and die, we do what we want! Now, I am not sure if he would say these things because he was inexperienced or because he felt frustrated. 

71. Once they called me and said that it was the Ahvaz MOIS office. Their most canny interrogator [whose voice I recognized] told me that they issue the sentences themselves. He said, “We do things that you don’t even want to think about.” He was trying to threaten me. They would either threaten us with harm to our families, or force the judge to give us harsh sentences, or they would try to entice us with promises of higher education in Europe and financial help, should we decide to cooperate with them. At any rate they were very clear that they could easily and ultimately over-rule the judges’ decisions.

72. When I was in detention I felt that in Iran humanity doesn’t rule. Savagery rules. And the number of cases like ours is in the hundreds. In Ahvaz and in Khuzestan as a whole there are many. So many innocent people have fallen victim to the whims of egocentric leaders. This is the core issue. This is all there is. None of the victims have done anything to deserve the harsh treatment they received. Their only crime is being Arab.



[1] Also known as Khalafieh or Khalafabad among the Ahwazi Arab population of the region. Here the witness uses ‘Ramshir.’

[2] According to Article 16 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Arabic language instruction is compulsory every year in middle school and secondary school. See: http://www.iranchamber.com/government/laws/constitution_ch02.php. The witness is instead referring to the instruction of all classes in the local Arabic dialect of Khuzestan rather than one class of Classical Arabic per school year. 

[3] A form of pan-Arab nationalism espoused by Gamal Abdel Nasser, the President of Egypt from 1952-1971. Nasserism was particularly influential in the late twentieth century. See http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100223499.

[4] Literally “shaking off”, this word is widely known in English as intifada, in respect to the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict In the Ahvazi Arab context it refers to widespread unrest—much of it in the form of peaceful protest, but some of which featured violence—that began on April 15, 2005 and lasted for four days, continuing to simmer over the following months. In recent years the anniversary of the unrest has been the occasion for protests and arrests. See http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/news/inside-iran/1000000288-ongoing-wave-of-arrests-in-khuzestan-families-unaware-of-whereabouts-of-detainees.html.   

[5] A security and intelligence-gathering organization present in all public institutions in Iran, including universities. Herasat officials are widely known to have close links to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS).

[6] A moderate regional party affiliated with the governing reform movement of the time which was shut down in 2006. See http://news.oneindia.in/2006/11/04/iran-bans-arab-party-for-inciting-unrest-1162651003.html.

[8] This brief description matches those from many former detainees of the MOIS detention center in the Chaharshir neighborhood of Ahvaz. See, for example, http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/publications/witness-testimony/1000000292-witness-statement-of-jalel-sherhani.html#.Ue12BGX6Fn8.

[9] It has been reported that the five individuals sentenced to death in the al-Hiwar case were even tortured after their sentences were issued. See http://www.iranhrdc.org/english/news/inside-iran/1000000177-resumption-of-torture-of-Ahvazi-arab-political-prisoners-from-khalafabad-ramshir-in-khuzestan-after-the-imposition-of-death-sentences.html

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Ahwazi Arabs, Executions