Syria: Fear of forcible return
PUBLIC AI Index: MDE 24/037/2006
15 May 2006
UA 132/06 Fear of forcible return
SYRIA Faleh ‘Abdullah al-Mansuri (m), aged 60, President of the Ahwazi
Liberation Organisation (ALO), Dutch national
Rasool Mezrea’ (m), ALO member
Taher ‘Ali Mezra’ (m), aged 40
Jamal ‘Abdawi (m)
Musa Suwari (m), aged 32, university student
Ahmad ‘Abd al-Jaber Abiat (m), aged 20, student
Jamal Obeidi (m), aged 34, student and Chair of Ahwazi Student Union in
‘Issa Yassin al-Musawi (m), aged 30, university student
The eight Iranian Arab activists named above were arrested in the capital,
Damascus, on 11 May and are held incommunicado at an unknown location, where
they are at risk of torture and of being forcibly returned to Iran, where they
would face persecution and possibly the death penalty. A number of other Arab
activists were reportedly arrested with them, including one man who has already
been returned to Iran.
Most of them men are said to be UN-recognised refugees and one of them, Faleh
‘Abdullah al-Mansuri, is also a Dutch national. They were reportedly arrested
at the house of Rasool Mezrea’, by officers of Political Security.
One other Iranian Arab, Sa’id ‘Awda al-Saki, was arrested at the same time and
has reportedly been returned to Iran. He is at risk of being sentenced to death
because of his activities in defence of the rights of Iran's Arab minority.
Iranian Arabs, known as Ahwazis, live mostly in the Khuzestan region, which
borders Iraq. It is strategically important because it is the site of much of
Iran’s oil reserves. The Arab population do not feel they have benefited as
much from the oil revenue as the Persian population; historically they have
been marginalised and discriminated against, for instance being denied the
right to an education in their own language.
Tension has mounted within the Arab population since April 2005, after it was
alleged that the government planned to disperse the country's Arab population
or to force them to relinquish their Arab identity. Since then, hundreds of
Iranian Arabs have been detained (See UA 91/05, MDE 13/014/2005, 18 April 2005;
UA 222/05, MDE 13/048/2005, 26 August 2005).
Following bomb explosions in Ahwaz City in June and October 2005, which killed
at least 14 people, and explosions at oil installations in September and
October, the cycle of violence intensified, with hundreds of people reportedly
arrested. Further bombings on 24 January 2006, in which at least six people
were killed, were followed by further mass arrests. Two men, Mehdi Nawaseri and
Ali Awdeh Afrawi, were executed in public on 2 March after they were convicted
of involvement in the October bombings. Their executions followed unfair trials
before a Revolutionary Court during which they are believed to have been denied
access to lawyers, and their confessions, along with those of six other men,
were broadcast on television.