Iranian Ahwazi Arabs on hunger strike over death sentences

Five prisoners have been refusing food since start of March in protest at sentences and ill-treatment, says Amnesty.

Five members of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority sentenced to deathfollowing trials described by activists as grossly unfair are on hunger strike in protest at their conviction and ill-treatment in jail.

The men, Mohammad Ali Amouri, 34, teachers Hashem Sha’bani Amouri, 32, and Hadi Rashidi, 38, and two brothers Sayed Jaber Alboshoka, 27, and Sayed Mokhtar Alboshoka, 25, have refused to take food since the beginning of this month because of the supreme court’s decision to uphold their death sentences, Amnesty International said.

“Their hunger strike is also in protest against their torture and other ill-treatment in Karoun prison and the prison authorities’ refusal to grant them medical treatment for various ailments, including some which may have resulted from earlier torture or other ill-treatment,” Amnesty said in an urgent appeal issued on Tuesday. “They have not been examined by a doctor despite their repeated requests.”

They have all been found guilty of being linked to a terrorist organisation and involvement in shootings that authorities say occurred in and around the town of Ramshir (also known as Khalafabad) in Khuzestan province. But Amnesty has repeatedly warned that their trials were held behind closed doors and no evidence was made public supporting the allegations facing the convicts. Some of the charges against them include vague national security offences such as “enmity against God and corruption on earth”, “gathering and colluding against state security”, and “spreading propaganda against the system”.

Amnesty added: “In an apparent act of retaliation against the hunger strike, prison authorities initially barred all five men from making or receiving phone calls for five days.

“During a visit to the prison on 13 March, the men’s families persuaded them to end their dry hunger strike but all five now remain on a ‘wet’ hunger strike (refusing food).”

Ahwazi Arabs in Iran often face state discrimination in spheres including education, employment politics and culture. In recent years, many members of the community have taken to the streets in protest at the discrimination against them. Groups advocating a separate Arab state have also been demonstrating, but not all protesters have been separatists. Many Ahwazi Arabs have been put to death in recent years in Iran, including Abd al-Rahman Heidarian, Taha Heidarian and Jamshid Heidarian, who were executed in June 2012 after being sentenced to death in an unfair trial.

In February, Justice for Iran, a non-profit human rights organisation,released a thorough report studying the state persecution against the country’s Arab minority of many of its activists, in particular those belonging to the civil group, Al-Hiwar.

The report has highlighted many individual cases of Arab activists, including the cases of Fahimeh Esmaili Badawi, a female activist and her husband, Ali Matourzadeh. Justice for Iran reported: “They were arrested in 2005 when Fahimeh was eight months pregnant. She had to give birth to her baby in a solitary confinement cell while in the presence of interrogators.

“Ali had accepted the false charge of terrorism for the sake of his wife and newborn child. He was executed in 2006. Fahimeh was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She is currently serving her seventh year in prison.”

Source: Guardian

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