DIMIA Refugee assessment failure evident from ethnic cleansing and killings of Ahwaz Iranians

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130
Web: http://www.safecom.org.au/

DIMIA Refugee assessment failure evident from ethnic cleansing and killings of Ahwaz Iranians

Media Release
Monday April 18 2005 8:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"This weekend's Associated Press reports that describe at least 20 deaths by shooting of Iranian authorities in the area surrounding Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan, and a leaked plan for "ethnic cleansing" of Ahwaz and the province by Iranian authorities, provide powerful support for the refugee claims of about 10 Arab Iranians from Ahwaz and its immediate surroundings," WA Refugee group Project SafeCom said today.

"Just last Friday one of the ten men overdosed on sleeping tablets when his claim for protection was refused, and he was hospitalized in Port Augusta."

"The Iranian men, like most of the other Iranians, have been in Australian detention centres for up to four years, and all of them were initially refused protection - as with all asylum seekers, on the back of just one interview and its ramifications by one Immigration Officer."

"The long road of initial asylum claim interviews, conducted by just one public servant, followed by applications for reviews by the Refugee Review Tribunal - also consisting of just one single person - followed by new, additional claims or requests for Ministerial intervention is a disgrace, and the fact that this already takes years from their lives is in itself a bankrupt system," spokesman Jack Smit said.

"Last week's events in Iran provide powerful evidence that these public servants were seriously wrong, by not believing that the claims of the Ahwaz Iranians based on their ethnicity and area of origin were valid claims," Mr Smit said.

"Like the fifteen asylum seekers from Afghanistan and Iran who were finally, after years of suffering and the Department of Immigration getting it wrong, released last week, the Ahwaz Arab Iranians have always maintained and will always keep maintaining that they are refugees."

"It's time we quickly finalise the continuing suffering of these Iranians and let them out of "the Baxter asylum" with protection visas - but moreover, that the Migration Act undergoes comprehensive changes so we can end needless suffering in an environment that makes you mentally ill."

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Also available for interviews:

Libby Hogarth
Migration Agent, Adelaide
[phone number posted]

Online resources:

Iran's "Bloody Friday" massacre in city of Ahwaz

British Ahwazi Friendship Society
Saturday, April 16, 2005

More than 20 Ahwazi Arab demonstrators were killed, 500 injured and 250 arrested during protests in Ahwaz city (Khuzestan) this weekend.

Demonstrations broke out after the publication of a top secret letter from President Khatami's office, which detailed plans for a programme of ethnic "restructuring" in the Iranian-occupied province of Khuzestan. The letter and an English translation can be be downloaded here: http://www.ahwaz.org.uk/images/ahwaz-khuzestan.pdf

Arabs besieged

State Security Forces were brought in to halt the protests and began shooting at unarmed demonstrators. The authorities also cut off the power, telephone connections and water supplies to the city's Arab districts of Ahwaz. The districts are now besieged by the SSF, which is preventing people from entering or leaving.

President Khatami has reportedly ordered the Intelligence Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council to identify those behind the unrest, alleging that "the hands of foreign agents and enemies of the revolution are at work".

Letter details

The plans outlined in the letter include reducing the Arab population to around one-third of the province's total population through forced migration and eliminating all traces of Arab culture and language, including names of streets and towns. The letter, signed by former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi and written in 1999, suggests a time-frame of 10 years to accomplish the ethnic restructuring programme.

On his personal website (www.webneveshteha.com), Abtahi denied writing the letter saying: "I've never had such a power to issue a directive to change the population." Government officials also claimed the letter was forged.

However, the British Ahwazi Friendship Society (BAFS), which received the letter three weeks ago, gave a copy to a former member of Khatami's staff now living in exile, who has verified its authenticity. BAFS has also obtained video evidence that shows the destruction of Ahwazi Arab homes by the Iranian army and interviews with those who were made homeless. This will be broadcast to Iran via the Al-Ahwaz TV channel. The destruction of houses owned by Ahwazi Arabs appears to be a part of a programme of ethnic cleansing in Khuzestan.

BAFS response

In a statement, the BAFS urged the UN to set up an inquiry into the killings and the problem of human rights abuse in Khuzestan. The BAFS has also called for international solidarity with the Ahwazi people and other ethnic minorities facing similar abuse in Iran.

"Crimes against humanity are being carried out against Ahwazi Arabs and other Iranian minorities," said BAFS Chairman Daniel Brett. "Now we have the irrefutable evidence that President Khatami is directing a policy of ethnic cleansing in Khuzestan. We can prove this letter is genuine and that the orders in Ali Abtahi's letter are being carried out through the use of violent coercion. It is time for the international community to say enough is enough and address this systematic abuse of human rights firmly and decisively."


Demonstration Against Ethnic Cleansing in Iran

Associated Press Report
Ahwaz Studies Center Website
16 April 2005

TEHRAN (AP)--More than 250 people were arrested Friday in southwestern Iran after demonstrations against an alleged plan to decrease the proportion of Arabs in the area became violent, a political activist said.

Mohammad Navaseri said Arab residents of Ahwaz, the capital of Khuzestan province, gathered Friday morning, chanting slogans against alleged government plans to move more non-Arabs in the city.

He said they set fire to banks and police stations in Ahvaz before more than 250 of them were arrested.

Another Ahwaz resident, Yousef Nabitaraf, said protesters smashed the windows of several banks and set at least one police station on fire.

A copy of a letter allegedly signed by former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi outlines a plan for changing the population composition in Ahwaz through relocating non-Arabs to the city to make them the majority population.

The letter was widely circulated in Ahwaz and other cities in Khuzestan, an oil-rich province that borders Iraq and is home to a large Arab population.

Arabs make up about 3% of Iran's population; Persians account for 51% of the population of 69 million. Abtahi has denied writing such a letter, saying it was "illogical. Anyone reading it learns that a decision like that, even if approved by the Supreme Leader or the Supreme National Security Council or the president, can't be implemented in Iran. How could the office of the president issue such an illogical directive and change the population in the vital and important region like Khuzestan?", Abtahi asked on his personal Web site, http://www.webneveshteha.com. "I've never had such a power to issue a directive to change the population" Abtahi wrote.

Government officials were not available for comment.

Journalists in Ahwaz also confirmed that demonstrations had turned violent. "Demonstrations in several districts in Ahwaz turned violent when police tried to disperse the angry crowd," said Hadi Yunesi, editor of Fajr-e-Khuzestan daily, which is based in Ahwaz.

Activist Navaseri said protests in the mainly Arab districts of Dayereh, Khashayar and Kian continued late into the night and authorities responded by cutting off water and power. "These districts have been encircled by security forces and no one can get into or leave them," he said.


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