The Arab Contagion in Iran

Anymore it is no surprise to hear that the Iranian government has brutalized its own people; it’s only where it has taken place this time that surprises — or rather among whom. The Arabs of Khuzestan, a minority with historically little influence on public affairs, have been demonstrating for more rights. The contagion has spread even to this group of Arabs. And again Shirin Ebadi is risking her well being by revealing, again, how brutal the Ahmadinejad regime can be.

Here is what Radio Free Europe says:

April 19, 2011
Iran’s Nobel Laureate Ebadi Warns Of Unrest Among Ethnic Arabs In Iran
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has warned the United Nations of the possible spread of unrest in Iran’s Khuzestan Province, home to most of the country’s ethnic Arab minority.

Ebadi sent a letter to UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay in which she describes a deadly crackdown by Iranian security forces last week on a peaceful protest in Khuzestan’s capital, Ahvaz.

The April 15 protest, which some dubbed “Ahvaz Day of Rage,” was aimed at protesting what participants say is discrimination and injustice against ethnic Arabs, who make up about 3 percent of Iran’s population.

The event was reportedly planned with the help of social media sites, including Facebook, by political groups and young people both inside and outside the country who are said to have been inspired by popular uprisings in Arab countries.

Iranian officials have praised street demonstrations across the Arab world as an “Islamic awakening” but themselves have used force against Iranian protesters who have taken to the streets to demonstrate for democracy and human rights.

Deaths, Injuries, And Arrests

Force was also Iranian authorities’ response to the April 15 protest in Ahvaz.

In her letter, Ebadi says that at least 12 people were killed in the clashes, 20 others were injured, and dozens were arrested.

Human rights activists told RFE/RL they have received reports that there were more than 150 arrests, including a number of intellectuals, artists, and women’s rights activists. They said the province has been turned into “a military base” by security forces who have warned activists not to speak to the media.

[For the rest, click on the title above.]
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To the above Sami wrote the following:
I was impressed with how Shirin Ebadi has, at great risk to her own
person, recently spoken out on the Iranian government’s oppression
toward ethnic minorities. Prior to this, I had been under the mistaken
assumption that Ebadi was inclined to avoid adopting any position on
especially sensitive topics such as this, which the Iranian government
probably characterizes as falling under the rubric of ‘national
security’. Maybe even she, as courageous and outspoken as she is, had
to be extremely careful about the statements she made on certain
issues. I developed this opinion after attending an event in April 2007
at Saint Louis University, where Ms. Ebadi was invited to speak. In her
(translated) speech, she was very critical of the Iranian government’s
restrictive domestic policies towards women, but at the same time she
was also defensive of her country’s foreign policy, particularly its
ambitions to develop an independent nuclear energy capacity and
maintain its role as a major power within the region.

While denouncing U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran, she questioned why
her country was considered a state-sponsor of terrorism when it was
U.S.-backed states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which had supported
the Taliban while Iran had fiercely opposed them in the 1990s. The
convenience of this overly simplistic argument made me wonder whether
she was trying to balance her criticism of the Iranian government’s
internal policies by defending its international positions or if she
really did have a different interpretation than most of us have of
Iran’s support for militant proxies like Hamas in Palestine, Hizbullah
in Lebanon, and the Mahdi Army in Iraq. This seemed a bit odd (to me,
anyway).

When it was time for the audience to submit written questions, I’d
hoped to ask a fairly simple question about her stance on the
persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran (apart from
women’s rights in general). From the enthusiasm of the audience in
attendance (many members of the local Iranian community, along with
professors and students from SLU and other local colleges), I could
tell there were probably more questions than she could possibly answer
that day but I was also somewhat disappointed by the quality of the
questions that were asked. The focus seemed to be on the person and not
so much on the issues that she had come to talk about. Could it be that
the more serious questions had been deliberately avoided? Or maybe this
particular audience was not interested in the ‘boring’ stuff I wanted
to hear.

Anyway, I’m glad to learn that I was wrong to have based my assessment
of Ebadi on what I didn’t hear that afternoon. As in the past, she’s
now acting as the moral conscience of the Iranian nation to make
Iranians and others around the world aware of how minorities are being
repressed in Khuzestan. The issue of women’s rights is not a slight
one, and it needs to be forcefully addressed from within by able and
articulate Iranians like Ebadi. However, the perpetration of state
violence against ethnic and religious minorities (Arabs, Kurds,
Baluchis, Sunni Muslims and non-Muslims among others) constitute a more
immediate violation of fundamental human rights that demands to be
condemned by all. It’s truly inspiring to see Shirin Ebadi use her
international prominence to take a stand for the rights of all
Iranians. I must say it is also quite reassuring to have a question
(finally) answered in this way.

Moderate comments for this blog:
http://www.blogger.com/comment-pending.g?blogID=8473844

Posted by Sami to Vital Concerns for the World at 7:56 PM
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One thought on “The Arab Contagion in Iran”

  1. I was impressed with how Shirin Ebadi has, at great risk to her own person, recently spoken out on the Iranian government's oppression toward ethnic minorities. Prior to this, I had been under the mistaken assumption that Ebadi was inclined to avoid adopting any position on especially sensitive topics such as this, which the Iranian government probably characterizes as falling under the rubric of ‘national security’. Maybe even she, as courageous and outspoken as she is, had to be extremely careful about the statements she made on certain issues. I developed this opinion after attending an event in April 2007 at Saint Louis University, where Ms. Ebadi was invited to speak. In her (translated) speech, she was very critical of the Iranian government’s restrictive domestic policies towards women, but at the same time she was also defensive of her country's foreign policy, particularly its ambitions to develop an independent nuclear energy capacity and maintain its role as a major power within the region.

    While denouncing U.S. foreign policy vis-a-vis Iran, she questioned why her country was considered a state-sponsor of terrorism when it was U.S.-backed states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan which had supported the Taliban while Iran had fiercely opposed them in the 1990s. The convenience of this overly simplistic argument made me wonder whether she was trying to balance her criticism of the Iranian government’s internal policies by defending its international positions or if she really did have a different interpretation than most of us have of Iran's support for militant proxies like Hamas in Palestine, Hizbullah in Lebanon, and the Mahdi Army in Iraq. This seemed a bit odd (to me, anyway).

    When it was time for the audience to submit written questions, I'd hoped to ask a fairly simple question about her stance on the persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran (apart from women's rights in general). From the enthusiasm of the audience in attendance (many members of the local Iranian community, along with professors and students from SLU and other local colleges), I could tell there were probably more questions than she could possibly answer that day but I was also somewhat disappointed by the quality of the questions that were asked. The focus seemed to be on the person and not so much on the issues that she had come to talk about. Could it be that the more serious questions had been deliberately avoided? Or maybe this particular audience was not interested in the 'boring' stuff I wanted to hear.

    Anyway, I'm glad to learn that I was wrong to have based my assessment of Ebadi on what I didn't hear that afternoon. As in the past, she's now acting as the moral conscience of the Iranian nation to make Iranians and others around the world aware of how minorities are being repressed in Khuzestan. The issue of women's rights is not a slight one, and it needs to be forcefully addressed from within by able and articulate Iranians like Ebadi. However, the perpetration of state violence against ethnic and religious minorities (Arabs, Kurds, Baluchis, Sunni Muslims and non-Muslims among others) constitute a more immediate violation of fundamental human rights that demands to be condemned by all. It's truly inspiring to see Shirin Ebadi use her international prominence to take a stand for the rights of all Iranians. I must say it is also quite reassuring to have a question (finally) answered in this way.

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