On Tuesday 5 November 2019, Dr. Karim Abdian, executive director of Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO), had an exclusive and a private meeting with Dr. Javid Rahman, the United Nations (UN) special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, in Washington DC.


The one-hour pre-arranged meeting lasted about 2 hours in length.

Dr. Abdian was also accompanied by Ms. Sevil Sulimany, a PhD candidate representing the Azerbaijani Turks in Iran.

First, Ms. Sulymani discussed very important issues and concerns about the many human rights violations of Azerbaijani Turks in Iran. Issues such as minimizing the population numbers, anti-Turkish discourse by the regime and Persian intellectuals, the situation of political prisoners and numerous other human rights concerns, including the current situations of Southern Azerbaijani Turks in Iran.

Dr. Rahman had many questions about the human rights situation in the al-Ahwaz province, also referred to as Khuzestan by Iranian officials, as well as the Turks in Iran.

Dr. Abdian provided pertinent explanations on many issues and concerns about the Ahwazi-Arabs and the Azerbaijani-Turks as summarized below:

  1. Thorough explanation about the Iranian penal code, judicial structures and the various Iranian court systems, specifically in the Khuzestan province. Since Ahwazi citizens are not allowed to study in their native Arabic language they lose global citizenry rights. Because of this denial of rights, Ahwazis cannot understand the judge, prosecutor or the police or the guards or any of the court proceedings. The government will not provide translators and discourages them. Therefore, Ahwazi-Arab citizens do not understand the charges against them and is true throughout the due process of law, during court systems, during detention and during integration in or outside the prisons.
  2. Sometimes, Arab citizens bring family members to court to translate for them. Intimidated with fear they often whisper what was said by the judge in the ears of the of the defenders. Although readily available bi-lingual lawyers are not provided. In response to Dr. Rahman’s solicitating for immediate remedy Dr. Abdian suggested there should be an independent and autonomous bi-lingual judicial system established. Additionally, since Arabs are the majority that live in Khuzestan, only bi-lingual Arabic-Farsi employees should be hired including judges, persecutors and lawyers for this reason.
  3. A very lengthy discussion occurred on the in human conditions of the prisons including extreme overcrowding, lack of sanitary procedures in the prison facilities, lack of basic nutrition and unavailability of medicines and basic healthcare were discussed.
  4. AHRO explained the common practice of exiling of imprisoned Ahwazi-Arabs  to remote far away Persian provinces for sentencing.  This practice of sending people to far Persian provinces is done as extreme punishment to deny their family visitation rights. This illegal practice is also used to force assimilation of Arab prisoners into the dominant Persian culture to include language.
  5. Denying Arab students’ and education in their native Arabic language results in widespread  illiteracy or semi-illiteracy among Arab and other non-Persian nationalities.
  6. It was discussed that among Arab women the illiteracy is very high but the regime blames the citizens for the high illiteracy rate. Dr. Abdian explained a very discriminatory practice by the regime to assign non-local and non-indigenous officials such as the governor general in non-Persian provinces . Moreover, usually the deputy governor- general for women is assigned also from the non-local population. In the Arab majority al-Ahwaz or Khuzestan this position has never been filled with an Arab woman from the Arab natives. In all cases, a woman deputy is brought from Tehran and always a Persian spoken woman who cannot speak Arabic and advises Ahwazi Arab women of their right to education which is not understood.
  7. The attack on a Military parade in September 2018 in Ahwaz ,was discussed in detail per Dr. Rahman’s request. It was explained that this operation was very sophisticated well beyond the local Ahwazi’s capabilities. The three attackers who were identified were indeed ISIS members. The attackers admitted and identified themselves as ISIS in a film that was broadcasted hours before the operation. Incidentally, the regime’s official position was that the attackers were ISIS members and days later retaliated against ISIS by bombing and destroying its headquarters in Iraq and Syria which were responsible for the attack. Yet more than 800 Ahwazi people were arrested and charged with planning the attack and have been in detention for over a year!
  8. The names of 30 individuals of the above detainees are sentenced to death and were given to the UN special reporter – the list includes four women.
  9. Also, the chauvinistic policies and the anti-Arab racism by Islamic republic and previous regimes in Iran were explained by AHRO in depth. 
  10. Discussed the media outlets including VOA and BBC Farsi’s anti-Arab racist stance and how they boycotted AHRO and its staff by not covering the human rights violations of the Ahwazi-Arab people.
  11. Discussed the devastation of nearly 300 Ahwazi villages that were totally or partially destroyed during the recent flooding. The villages and their residents are still without any help from the government.
  12. Discussed and submitted the names of imprisoned young Ahwazi volunteers during the floods in Khuzestan – they are still being detained without charges after six months.
  13. Discussed the regime’s illegal implementation postponement of Article 15 of the Constitution that allows study of native languages and allowing media in local native languages for Ahwazi-Arabs, Turks, Kurds, Baloch and Turkmen.
  14. Provided the list of names of recent Ahwazis who were executed in the past two years  and compared the number of executions among other nationalities in Iran illustrating Ahwazi execution is the highest in Iran among all minorities.

Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO
9 Nov 2019