Ghazi Heidari

Mr. Ghazi Heidari, an Ahwazi Arab engineer and leading human rights and cultural activist has had his jail term extended by five years to 15 years following allegations that he was involved in leaking a video appeal from Karoun Prison that embarrassed the Iranian regime. Heidari will now spend his jail sentence in Shiraz and is not set for release until 2024. However, friends and relatives fear he will not survive the full term due to the severe ill-treatment and torture he has received.
Heidari was accused of involvement in smuggling a secret appeal by four Ahwazi Arabs before their execution last year. Jawad Heidari, Ghazi's cousin, told ANA (Ahwaz News Agency) that Ghazi was subjected to severe torture by the intelligence service when the video of the executed Arabs leaked. Four of his ribs were fractured, his nails were pulled out and he lost hearing in one ear due to an injury to his head. He is now in a very poor physical condition and is suffering malnutrition as well as severe muscular and joint pain. His relatives said that he needs urgent treatment but the prison authority refuses to allow him to leave prison for appropriate medical attention.

The film he is alleged to have filmed and help smuggle shows the political prisoners addressing UN Special Rapporteur Ahmad Shaheed directly to protest their innocence and condemn the unfair trial that found them guilty of "enmity with God" and "sowing corruption on the earth". Brothers Taha Heidarian (28), Abbas Heidarian (25), Abdul-Rahman Heidarian (23) and Ali Naami Sharifi were accused of murdering a policeman and being members of an armed opposition group, charges they denied.

He was already sentenced to 10 years in prison by Judge Morteza Turk in Branch 1 of the Ahwaz Revolutionary Court in November 2009; the sentence was approved on appeal by Judge Gholamhussein Zatehajam in February 2010. He was convicted for his involvement in peaceful political and cultural activities.

Ahwazi intellectual activist Yousef Azizi Benitorof said: "The engineer Ghazi Heidari was sentenced for 15 years imprisonment because of his support for peaceful political and cultural activities. The intelligence service prefers Ahwazi Arab youths to turn to violence in order to easily crawl among them and execute them on allegations of separatism. Don’t forget Ghazi Heidari, he is a son of the Ahwazi Arab nation in Iran.”

Activists state that Ghazi was never seeking self-glory and was only interested in researching Ahwazi history and raising awareness about Arab identity. They fear that he is being victimised and are preparing to kill him over a video that was merely an appeal to the UN to help save innocent lives.

One activist told ANA: "The intelligence service picked the most peaceful and informative man in the community to slowly murder him and prevent him from fighting injustice from his own cell. We have to help this hero. His activities on ground were equal to all Ahwazi activities across the globe. He is an idol to many who believe in non-violent resistance. Ahwazi people will never seen such brave, dedicated and superior thinker who is prepared to resist and sacrifice himself for freedom. He is the icon for unity because he never underestimated the Ahwazi ability for freedom. He is a noble of hope, believes in his own people and history and is ahead of his generation. He had a plan for any single minute of his life and used these minutes to promote Ahwazi plight. He doesn't understand what depression means, he is proactive and positive."

An initial court hearing had found him not guilty, but the court decided to exercise its authority to sentence him for his alleged contact with activists abroad, which is considered by the regime as being in contact with enemy states. He was accused of having in his possession the Ahwazi Arab literature and tens of electronic books which are considered to be anti-regime, having contact with human rights activists, providing legal document evidence for the United Nations which was considered to be anti-Iranian; sending photos and testaments of executed Ahwazi Arabs to foreign non-governmental organisations, and; preparing and distributing statistics about arrested Ahwazi Arabs.

Ghazi's relatives and supporters are angered that the news of the extension of his prison term was published by the Jonbesheh Rahe Sabs (Green Way Movement), who provided a brief and indifferent report, before his family were even informed. Ahwazi activists have expressed their fury with the insensitivity of the regime's Green movement faction, which has worked to oppose the Ahwazi movement.

Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation