Archive for the ‘Middle East Issues’ Category

_87939070_87939069Written by Rahim Hamid, Ahwazi Arab writer 

It seems the Italian authorities thought they had to cover up all the nudes in a museum for President Rouhani’s visit. Europe allegedly despises the veiling of ordinary Muslim women, but hypocritically covers up statues to appease the Iranian Islamic leaders – censoring classical art is all about oil.

The West’s silence with respect to Iranian terrorism and Tehran’s interference in the affairs of others is a strong contributing reason for all that is happening and will happen in this region. The West’s double standards in defining terrorism and what it means to counter it have now become overt to all.

Khamenei, the main backer of Assad, continues to support the Syrian dictator, responsible for a war that has killed over 250,000 people and displaced more than half of the country’s population.

The major powers, especially the United States, look to the region through a different lens than the Arabs and other regional nations do. It appears that immediate economic, political and military interests are the main drives for the involvement of the Western countries in the Middle East, and no other considerations, such as human rights and long-term implications seem to be of any importance at the current juncture.

Iran rejoiced and welcomed Barack Obama’s victory in the presidential election in 2009. The Iranian pro regime masses at that time translated Obama’s name into Persian to read; “He is with us.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (2nd L), Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (2nd R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) wait with others ahead of a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne on March 26, 2015 during negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool - RTR4UXKJ

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L), U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz (2nd L), Head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation Ali Akbar Salehi (2nd R) and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (R) wait with others ahead of a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne on March 26, 2015 during negotiations on the Iranian nuclear programme. REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool – RTR4UXKJ

Many remained heedless towards the Iranian political readability. But with the progress of time and Obama’s focus on the Iranian nuclear program after failing in all other areas in the region, some began talking about the wager of “Obama” on Iran in the hope that history preserves his legacy after he leaves the presidency in early 2017. In fact, the intent of the Obama administration, all along, has been to empower the Islamic Republic regionally – and they’ve certainly succeeded.

Based on his actions, Obama clearly doesn’t care about the fate of Iran and ordinary citizens who are oppressed by the regime any more than Bush did; he’s better at PR speeches and paying lip service to human rights. He’s naive in that he managed to convince himself and others in his administration that it would be in the interests of the United States to have Tehran as a regional policeman, rather than the United States, and a “partner for peace” for the West, via controlling the region.

Iran’s involvement in the region would enable the US to “pivot to Asia” or otherwise focus on whatever the latest foreign policy trend the policy wonks are recommending. In reality, allowing Iran’s expansionist ambitions is a recipe for endless war. Despite his seemingly idealistic vision, Obama is certainly no anti-establishment guy.

Obama’s primary ‘legacy’ has been to empower fascist demagogues, dictators and totalitarians domestically – such as Trump, who probably genuinely could shoot people and still get more votes, as he claimed – and globally. Proof is his support for the political descendant of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the Castro regime in Cuba, the brutal Islamic State regime, Bashir al-Assad. Obama’s policies have also led to Putin’s Russia increasing their interference and influence around the world.

George W. Bush considered Iran part of the “axis of evil”, and Iran calls the United States “the Great Satan”, today we witness a temporary marriage between “the evil” and “the great Satan”.

Protests against Rouhani's visit in Rome

Protests against Rouhani’s visit in Rome

What brought the region and the world to this point?  How will the face of the region change after Tehran feels emboldened by the loosening of Washington’s grip on the region, giving the green light to the Islamic Republic’s interventions in the internal affairs of Arab countries, and continuous strengthening  of sleeper cells and spy networks, agents of influence, support for terrorism, and instigation of sectarian strife in the region?

The Western States, on the one hand, shake hands with state sponsors of terrorism, and secretly strengthen those bonds with multiple partnerships on various levels, and on the other, these Western states demand that Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia,   fight terrorism and freeze the financing of terrorist organizations, root out support for terrorism in all forms. Hypocritically, these states simultaneously slam and condemn Saudi Arabia for executing terrorists, so long as such condemnations play into the hands of the Islamic Republic.

These two contradictory stands do not mix well. They can work only in the baseless fantasy of Obama’s projected entente with Iran, allegedly aimed at providing the region with security, stability and integrity.

12650191_1529432960690476_931880828_nWith honesty that suits the political landscape and developments around us, we should say without hesitation or shame: the Iranian aggression and projected expansion that targets our nations with the tacit complicity, and the terrible silence of the West cannot be met only with a similar response.

This is the time to respond with firmness and determination in a world that tolerates no weakness or hesitation. Iran has spread its arms and military cells in our countries; it seeks to resuscitate a sinister version of the Persian Empire, create a Shiite Crescent and under the umbrella of Mahdism and other nationalist auspices while harping on the glories of the Sassanid past.

The current regime only understands the language of force. Therefore, we are forced to respond with the same methods. However, no strong response to the Islamic Republic’s expansionist ambitions can be made successfully taking a fitting strategic agenda and a thoughtful decision-making process.

The Islamic Republic correctly reads the West’s capitulatory policy the region as its inability to confront Iranian arrogance. The West’s perceived weakness emboldens the Mullahs to continue in their interventions and to grow and multiply their wicked plans.

The West forgets that the actual power in Iran lies not with Rouhani but with its Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, who is directly responsible for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Iran’s counterpart of the former Soviet KGB, imposing oppressive measures at home and promoting terror across the Middle East.

ShowImageIt is this regime, controlled by the Supreme Leader and the mullahs, that continues to contribute heavily to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and funding Shi’a militias and individual despots such as Assad who have committed mass atrocities against his own citizens.

One could (and should) criticize the mullah regime for being racist and utilizing racism and scapegoating to support centralized power and keep their subjects away from heretical thoughts. Iran has a long history of conquering and subjugating its ethnic and religious minorities.

Ethnic subjugation and oppression precede the Islamic Republic — we need only to take a look at the history of Al-Ahwaz, Iranian Kurdistan, and Baluchistan, not to mention South Azerbaijan. There is no shortage of horrifying stories about activists who have been imprisoned, raped, beaten or tortured.

The hostilities of the Iranian Mullahs towards the Arab Gulf countries is not born of the moment, and the burning of embassies is an accurate reflection of the nature of the Iranian regime. It is an aggressive theocratic Persian cult worship which underlies the structure of the regimes’ ideology.

This doctrine survives only as long as exporting violence can be perpetuated, which itself is achieved via claiming all Arab Shiites as Iranian subjects and their land as Iranian land.

This Iranian exportation of sectarian violence among Arabs and in Arab lands is affected in order to avoid solving Iran’s unsolvable internal problems and to export them outside its borders.

Since 1979, Iran started applying its provocative policies which were vigorously and successfully responded to by Iraq and Iran was forced to retreat inside its borders. With the American destruction of Iraq, however, the Arab world was left wide open to Iranian aggression. Iranian purposes cannot be achieved in a quiet area away from escalation due to its interior economic and political and social problems.

The Iranian people, including ethnic groups, have long suffered and experienced harsh suppression at the hands of the Iranians in power. In order to cover up for Iran’s chronic unsolvable problems, the peculiar Persian cult worship type of Shiism was developed, and exporting it gives the Mullahs respite in their tenuous hold on power inside Iran.

Thus, Iran’s policy was built on interference in Arab affairs and continues to interfere in the internal affairs of the Arabs in the era of monarchists as well as during the revolutionary period of the Mullahs. Both under the Shah and Khomeini, wherever Shiism exists the land is claimed Persian one way or another!!!

This shows that Persian expansion has always come at the expense of the Arab countries and interference in their internal affairs. Most important though is that this aggressive Iranian policy is not the result of a particular system, but is thought rooted in the very foundations of the Persian state that sometimes shows itself in Monarchy apparel and other times dressed in the Islamic Republic guise.

For both the Shah and Khomeini intentionally created an arch and historical enemy for the Persian State, which permeates both old and new Iranian doctrine.

A psychological hostility was established in the center of Iran towards the Arabs which led to the arrogant racist view of the Iranian community members who make up the political and social system and the rest of civil institutions and non-civilian organizations.

img_0045If we investigate a little bit, the monarchic Iranian or Republican culture both rely on racist approaches. Both insist on focusing Iranian education on mobilizing Persians via arrogant racist socially constructed myths in favor of bullying the Arab region, intending to building generations who harbor hatred towards Arabs even among opponents of the regime living in European countries, where we find that the hatred of the Arabs is rooted and ingrained. However, they endured the oppression from their rulers in the Royal era.

Iran is not a state of institutions as it claims, but a state of the militia. Charters and international laws will not deter it but it can be hindered by firm force as Iraq did in 1980 and Saudi Arabia in 2011 in Bahrain, as well as the Gulf-Arab alliance in a decisive storm in 2015, and add to this it is the right time for Arab countries to activate the cause of oppressed peoples in Iran such as Ahwazi Arab people under Iranian occupation and through supporting those people in their claim of right to self-determination.

I am well aware that the decisions to be made are difficult, but the most difficult is the fact that the world respects only those with power, regardless of moral imperative. Thus, we are forced into a Solomonic dilemma of having to launch a decisive storm in alliance with some Arab countries, against a much greater evil in the face of the Iranian regime.

The world has tolerated the status quo for military action approved by the Security Council; this approval would not have been possible if the operations did not originate on the ground and the Arab states did not prove they can take crucial decisions on their own without waiting for the approval of Western or Eastern states. Perhaps this successful model can lead the Iranian regime to shift from an offensive to a defensive position and to retreat to the inside, where it will be forced to face the long overdue retribution in the hands of its own citizens.

That is when the Iranian people will take their stand for freedom from tyranny and religious fundamentalism.  And thus, the region can finally achieve the release from the evil of the Iranian regime. Revolution has not yet come to Iran. Therefore, Iran will be the major root of instability and violence all across the region.

Now the time has come when Arab nations, in order to rid themselves of terrorism, need to set aside their differences and act as a united force to confront Iranian hegemony.

In addition, the Western powers need to reconsider their view of the Middle East and not contribute to conflicts that may be difficult to contain later. The silence of the West to Iranian terrorism and intervention in the affairs of others is the primary reason for the growing instability and violence in the region.

When will the great powers take the actions of which they are capable and prevent the spread of violence in the region?

framing 1

WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

Framing the debate is about using the best language to draw others into one’s worldview. It is based on values and influenced by a set of assumptions about how the world is and how it works.

Most of us in the Free Syria campaign identify with progressive and nurturing values and believe in the Enlightenment idea that “the truth will set us free”. We tend to consider humans as basically rational beings. This means that our belief is that when people are presented with the facts, they will reach the right conclusions. But this is sadly NOT the case! We’ve seen this time and time again, as we become stupefied that people have reacted in the ways they have, with indifference, hypocritically, with hostility and with their insistent clinging to the negation of facts, even ones that cannot be denied or covered up.

That is because we haven’t realised that people don’t react to facts, but they only accept them if they already fit into their personal worldview, if they fit into their “frame”. Knowing what a frame is and how to use it to promote the Syrian freedom struggle is important, so we shall begin with explaining how this mechanism functions. All people are born into a world where language already exists and serves to maintain the dominant social order or the community, creating a common identity through its use. Because of how the human brain works, based on language-based thought, people are strongly “identity-based” and use automatically and adopt without critical thought, the framing of what they know or accept (or adopt) as their personal identity, as individuals in a common group. The identity can be based on factors such as nationality, sex, political leaning, religious or ethnic belonging, being part of a majority or minority in one’s own environment and notions of the “moral order”, a sociological concept that comprises a body of unwritten social values and conventions which serve to maintain societal order. The hierarchical moral order of value to society that is the dominant one in the US, God is above man, man above nature, adults above children, Western culture above non-Western culture, America above other nations, men above women, whites above non-whites, Christians above non-Christians, is perceived, even if we don’t personally adopt it, particularly in the light of American foreign policy following 9/11, as being the values of America and its people, also because many do adopt it. In a multipolar world, even wanting to have an alternative framing, the dominant hegemonic one cannot be simply brushed off, and therefore, a very different framing evolved in the various peace movements, and many of us have adopted the alternative framing as our own, despite the fact that it is not the model in force when we were brought into the world. So we know we are able to reframe, but the world remains basically what it is.

Framing, particularly when it comes from a strong identity that is reinforced by the media and entertainment industry, has a preference for certain words. It is simply enough to hear the word so that an entire value system is conjured up in the listener, the value system behind that word, so we should know who developed those words and what their goals are, and if they fit into our value system. Every value system is going to have its own framing and it is going to use it during debate or when making points in discussion.

Here we come to a first principle for effectively framing an argument: DO NOT USE THEIR LANGUAGE. Their words are going to draw you and your audience into their worldview. If you keep the language of the adversary or their framing and just argue against it you do not win because you are merely reinforcing their existing frame.

Framing confusion!

Framing confusion!

So, it’s important to know what the adversary thinks and why they believe what they do. We have to try to predict what they will say, but also to understand the reasons why they hold these values. That means you have to plot people on a spectrum. It’s not a case of “we are good and they are bad”. Aside from a minority of truly convinced supporters of totalitarian societies and leadership, most of our adversaries got their opinions on Syria based on what we can even consider as “shared values”. Indeed, while it feels impossible that those defending the Assad regime’s crimes, its attacks on the civilian population and destruction of the country have any shared values, it is not as absurd as we might think. The denial of the genocide of the Syrian people is something that many who share common values with us buy into. Most of those who are currently our adversaries in Answer and Stop the War, advocating for staying out of the Syrian situation and letting it run its course without “us” made their first forays into protests shoulder to shoulder with us, against the Iraq war, in struggles for the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and aggression against southern Lebanon. They were our comrades in leftist, progressive and anti-imperialist groups. Like them, we do not accept unilateralism or the violations of the sovereignty of nations. We too adopt the ideas of self-determination of populations. These are some common values that also contained strong and consolidated linguistic framing and slogans such as “not in my name” and “don’t bomb”. The pro-Assad movements co-opted many of these slogans and framing, but they did not adopt the most important frame and slogan, which is our patrimony and our core value, that of “freedom and dignity of the Syrian people”.

There are other common values that the defenders of the regime attempted to co-opt, and we simply cannot allow them to consider the regime as defending the values such as acceptance of diversity, rejection of sectarianism, the co-existence of diverse ethnic and religious groups in a common form of State, the separation of religious and governmental powers, equality of women and men.

CODE-PINK-and-Popular-Resistance-protest-at-Armed-Services-hearing-9-16-14-e1410967258834But there are many other values that are common which have slipped away from the framing of those who once were progressives or, are Progressive Except for Syria, but who have now joined the debate in the defence of Assad. Our framing highlights the principle of protection of the people and of the infrastructure. There is also the idea of the lack of legitimacy of Assad. The idea we have of a revolution that demands the fall of the regime predominates, while our adversaries see the concept of Syrian sovereignty, i.e., the maintenance of the current State apparatus, as the core value. They buy into the view of the Syrian revolution as being just one more “colour revolution”, repeating the Russian framing that it is a form of warfare promoted from Washington and has nothing to do with protests against corrupt leadership or the desire to overthrow a totalitarian authority. Naturally, Russia is against all popular uprisings for their own political reasons, and thus, it is natural that the country that had a revolution as its foundational story, but was actually a new tyranny that still exists in different form today, would promote such a line to maintain their own hegemony. It also stood to reason that persons who wear Che Guevara shirts are unable to recognise an actual revolution when it happens because their fetish about revolution was based on State Capitalism and not true Socialism, and they still follow the dogma of the frames provided by those who promote themselves as the true opposition to American unilateralism.

The protesters in the streets who were shot at, thus in one fell swoop taking away any kind of moral legitimacy of Assad as Syria’s president and driving the country into war, with the soldiers who dissented forming the basis of the Free Syrian Army, were not seen as having their own legitimacy or right to self-determination. They view the Syrian revolution from the previous framing that comes from the post 9/11 policy of the USA, where wars in the Middle East derive from the unilateral American imperialist drive to dominate the area and control the resources. They know the USA lied about basic issues in order to pull the USA into wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. They know they depicted Saddam as an evil man and not the President of a country, so he would have to be fought and the population that died would be “collateral damage”, human blood on the hands of the West. The people who accept this framing do not really care about the facts that make Syria a completely different situation with a totally different scenario. They do not recognise that the people themselves in the Arab Spring were the ones demanding the fall of the regime, not “regime change”, a concept that entails foreign meddling for their own national interest. People who denounce UN Vetos when they are used against actions that defend Palestinians are supportive of them and applaud them when Russia and China use them to prevent actions that defend the Syrian people, protecting Assad from inspections about his chemical weapons, which his supporters first denied, but had to backpedal when Assad admitted having them and a deal was worked out to “hand them over” to the Russians. If there is an imperialist orchestration of the war, facts point out that it is Russia at the conductor’s podium. They aren’t interested, obviously, in overthrowing a regime that serves their interests so well and, but they are interested in providing it with arms to keep it firmly in power.

No-more-war-on-SyriaIn every situation involving a conflict, which we can define as a “story”, there is a crime, a victim, a villain and a hero. The legacy of Iraq plays heavily on the perception of these categories. People are not again willing to be fooled again. They don’t want to be dragged into what they call “oil wars”. Therefore, they don’t want to follow the pattern of the past, but can’t forget it, and the supporters of the regime use this framing to win international support. They don’t want to make Assad another Saddam, they don’t believe he is a true villain, but is instead the victim. His use of chemical weapons was ignored also because consensus in the USA will not “fall for” more frames that include WMDs. Slogans like “Bush lied, millions died” are not going to be forgotten easily. Thus, the crime scenario has changed as well. It is seen by these people not as what evidence and facts show, i.e., a crime against civilians where arbitrary arrest and torture and oppression, that were already the reason for the protests in the first place, were brought to an extreme level and done out in the open because they were framed with a scenario of “self-defence”. The victim shifted from being primarily the Syrian people into the Syrian government, busy defending itself in order to protect its people from foreign intervention and terrorism.

The regime’s justification for openly doing things that international conventions and common ethics do not allow was that they were defending themselves from various nefarious entities. They in fact, didn’t always deny the crimes they were accused of, but downsized them, attempted to put the responsibility for some of them on their opponents and used them in their framing on a continuative basis. The narrative of resistance to the Zionist state was no longer very convincing, as they never lifted a finger to liberate an inch of the occupied Golan, so the villain had to be promoted more fully and was effectively done with those who already have adopted the anti-imperialist narrative and framing. It also roped in the neo-cons and Islamophobes because it claimed that the enemy was more on various fronts, it was the Imperialist West, the Jihadis, Islamic Terrorists, Foreign Agents who trained traitors to overthrow a legitimate government, not respecting the will of the Syrian people to be governed by whoever they wanted, and in this case, by Assad.

Since any narrative functions only when the language can be quickly understood by the listeners, the previous slogans and language of peace movements were used to bolster the power of the regime. Rather than use the language in a reactive way, they used it in an assertive way, with some exceptions such as “Don’t Bomb Syria”. It has worked to depict and sell the war as a heroic struggle of good over evil with Assad and nations outside the unilateral power paradigm fighting those who want to destroy it and make it conform to an evil system. You will see many arguments about it not being in the Rothchilds banking system, about it being part of the Axis of Resistance to Israel, about it being some kind of state with a socialist division of wealth and its refusal to align with Western powers and serve their interests. The regime is depicted as a force against homologation and they are fighting against foreign invasion. The struggle that the regime is fighting is depicted as an existential struggle and he is framed as a good guy… or, if not quite a “good” guy, he’s certainly depicted as the “lesser evil”.

To do this, the regime has to be depicted as “moderate” and opposition to the regime has to be depicted as “extremist”, and the FSA and the many militias that oppose the regime but also oppose the Islamic State and the idea of a Caliphate have been either painted out of the picture, or reframed as belonging to some extremist Jihadi form of warfare that is anti-democratic and against our values that include secularism, pluralism, equality of the sexes, etc. The position and the power of the Islamic State had to be framed as the opposition to the regime, their presence had to be the only one acknowledged, their crimes against minorities had to be highlighted, while the crimes of the regime against the majority had to be ignored for this framing to be complete. The vastness of the regime crimes are nothing, really, if you compare it to what the Islamic State has in store. Thus, if you couldn’t whitewash Assad, you had to at least “admit he was the lesser evil”.

The concept of “lesser evil” should also be rejected as a frame. It somehow seeks to depict all sides as being forces of evil, current or potential, and it allows for the violation of human rights and exceptions to our ethical rules, because there would have to be exceptions made in order for a “greater good”. The violation of basic human rights, arrest of minors, arbitrary arrest of the adult population, disappearances, the suspension of freedom and so forth, have to be tolerated, stretching the moral and ethical standards beyond known acceptable limits. All of these things would never be allowed in democracies such as our own, and if they were, they would be slippery slopes indeed, so people rightfully march in the streets against these violations in their own countries. But when the Syrians marched, their rights did not matter, what mattered was the ideological and dogmatic things activists started to accept as the norm when supporting a “lesser evil” while also believing they were in the right and progressive.

If there are terrorists, it is commonly held that they must be fought and they must not win, by any means necessary, or so goes the narrative. By clumsy or manipulative definition of who the terrorist is, the regime allowed decent human beings to think that it was for a greater good that children and adults are preventively arrested, shot at and their cities even held under siege and arbitrarily bombed, creating what we know of in the West as the “refugee crisis”, but which in fact means that half of the Syrians have been displaced from the country and countless have been killed, arrested and disappeared. The activists in the West who support Assad accept starvation sieges and the suspension of freedom. These people are going to accept forced expulsions and ethnic cleansing of population to be replaced with populations supportive of the regime, because they accept the regime framing of them as “evacuations”: all in the name of their adoption of the “lesser evil” framing, and duly manipulated through the use of the framing they were already using since the Iraq war.

In our framing, rejecting the “lesser evil” framing, we must present the value that any evil is unacceptable. That we operate according to other values and standards and we are not willing to compromise on them. We uphold human life and freedom and we also recognise the manipulative nature of the fallacy of the regime narrative because we witness the effects of his policy. Since he bases his action on a goal of defending his power, but frames it as saving the nation, everything can be sacrifice to preserve the State apparatus as it exists under his control. There never could have been reform, as it would have threatened his power, so the narrative shifted from peaceful protests demanding reform to that of foreign-backed regime change and currently is centred on prevention and defeat of radical Islamic Terrorists.

Protesters use their shoes to hit a defaced poster of Syria's President Bashar Al-Assad during a demonstration to express solidarity with Syria's anti-government protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara June 10, 2011. The words on the poster read: "Murderer. Go away". REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Protesters use their shoes to hit a defaced poster of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad during a demonstration to express solidarity with Syria’s anti-government protesters in front of the Syrian embassy in Ankara June 10, 2011. The words on the poster read: “Murderer. Go away”. REUTERS/Umit Bektas (TURKEY – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The revolution was reframed as external meddling, with a popular framing being that the Islamic forces, (ignoring the fact that they were often actually fighting against the Islamic State) were all terrorists that were “Al Qaeda affiliates” or they were part of the Islamic State. In some cases, the framing was that both Al Qaeda and ISIS were creations of the CIA, so the full spectrum of the opposition was nothing more than a CIA regime change operation. The Syrian regime was thus justified for almost any crime it committed. The systematic and institutionalised security apparatus that had been used to control the population and punish dissent in order to preserve power had been morphed in the framing into being a tool for prevention and containment of Islamic terrorism. In the framing of the anti-imperialists, he became a heroic defender of his country’s autonomy, sovereignty, and a pillar of secularism and pluralism. To those who  never harboured much affection for him, the  War on Terror narrative meant that he was the lesser evil when put next to Jihadi Terrorism, which basically only becomes problematic to them because it is without distinct boundaries, capable of recruitment, uses unconventional and random attacks more often than war on the battlefield, or it occupies rural areas and roads in faraway places in Africa, the Middle East and Asia but also in the cities of the West such as New York and Paris. Since it can’t be easily contained, but causes fear, it is perceived as a greater threat to the world. New alliances to support this new paradigm have been formed, such as those with Iran and Russia, entering into the framing as actions to “protect the world”.

The principle remains that facts serve the narrative, not the other way around. People will ignore the number of deaths caused by the regime because they feel that its struggle is noble, that it is also THEIR struggle, that he is a lesser evil. The facts that they illustrate are looked at and accepted as long as they fit the pre-existing or predominant frames.

So, how do we overcome this impasse when what is actually an aggressive, destructive, tyrannical force is passed along as the “good guy”? Not by ignoring or abandoning the facts, but by working on our framing. Facts will be ignored, but the frame, if it resonates with the VALUES of the listener, will remain. We have to focus on our shared values, think strategically and with the BIG PICTURE in mind, not moving from crisis to crisis or issue to issue, though at times we need to do that because of the humanitarian emergency that we are dealing with in Syria, and that our adversaries ignore until people land on their shores or cross over their borders.

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

a Syrian child doing some real-life framing!

Our enemy is war. Or enemy is terrorism. Assad started the war. Assad enabled terrorism and has used it over and over to stay in power. Assad raised the war to atrocity levels also by violating human rights further than what he has done already in “peacetime” but he now does it openly in the fog of war, where people are ready to suspend their ethics and values for a perceived “greater good”. He brought in foreign fighters to carry out his war, from places such as Russia, Iran and Lebanon, with their militias and their commanders leading battles and carpet bombing entire areas. Assad’s enemy is the Syrian people and their tendency to dissent, as a free people will try to do. He is against their dignity and self-determination. He is willing and able to destroy the people, drive them out of their homes and country, all in the name of holding onto power. His army uses the slogan “Assad or we burn the country”, and this is also their military policy. He allowed forces such as ISIS to develop by freeing the most radical elements from his prisons and replacing them with secular dissenters. He has never actually attacked ISIS and in fact, his army fled from cities they controlled, rather than defend them from ISIS, leaving the population at the mercy of the brutal Islamic State militias. He has labelled all those who oppose him as Islamic Jihadi Terrorists, Saudi or American agents, etc. The point is. Be PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE. List what Assad has done, talk about how he has taken advantage of the fear and uncertainty that has been a dominant theme of the world since 9/11 to oppress his people further, to consolidate his power and to create a “Coalition of the Killing” to help him carry out his own agenda, which is totally anti-democratic, not at all moderate, but is blood-drenched and destructive for the entire region and beyond. He created the refugee crisis that is affecting Europe, he is laying the basis for imperialist domination of the Levant. He is following the opposite of the principle of non-interference, as his internal calls for reform were met with violence and the nation’s army, rather than defend the country’s assets and people, was asked to wage war against them. Since they were insufficient for such a task of bringing the whole country under his control once the uprising became a revolution, he called for other armies and militias to do his battles, lead his forces and bomb opposition areas.

Keep the framing on a level of values, then substantiate with facts. Recognise that neutral people may actually be using a language and framing that they don’t fully agree with or adhere to, but that is because they are more familiar with it or have heard it more often Since television and the media focus, both mainstream and alternative, focus on ISIS crimes, the public may not actually be aware of the scope of the crimes of the regime and how it created the war in Syria.

In debates, never answer a question framed from your opponent’s point of view. Always reframe the question to fit YOUR values and frames. Stay away from set-ups where you have no control of your own presentation or language and are forced to conform to a frame you know is a lie. If you can’t participate in events due to their nature as set-ups, CREATE your own opportunities, and be aware that the adversary is just waiting for an opportunity to trap you into his frame. Don’t let that opportunity arise.

framing 3Stay with values that you truly hold, be aware of the values that those in the public hold and frame the shared values. Stay on the offensive, not the defensive. You can actually convince people simply by asserting something, bear that in mind. People do not always know enough about something to fact-check it, but if you know your facts, can assert your frame calmly and rationally, it shows that you are knowledgeable, convinced of the reasonableness of your point of view and it then becomes authoritative.

Reinforce our terminology and framing. We know Assad is not a “President” as the term is understood within a democracy, but instead, he is a “Dictator” and a “Tyrant”, illegitimately holding power by the force of a completely twisted election in which only his supporters were allowed to participate freely. We know his is not a democratic government with a legislative and judiciary branch and a security system that would be tolerated in any normal democracy, but it is a “Regime”. We know he is not a “Moderate”, but an “Extremist” who uses unconventional warfare and has committed crimes against humanity against his people. He routinely uses terrorism. We know he is not “defending” his country, but “attacking” it and has dragged the entire world into his war against the people just to maintain his power, which is also economic. Those countries dragged in are not freedom and sovereignty lovers, but instead are making profits and a killing (literally) through their arms sales and use of their weapons and soldiers. They are interested in their energy deals and the huge reconstruction that they will be paid to do in the post-war period. They have geopolitical designs in the area that go from their own control of a naval base to the re-alignment of the Levant under Iranian/Shi’a predominance. They want to stockpile their arms and forces in the area for expansionist policies.

We will be pulled into issues where we are put on the defensive. A current one is the denial of the starvation policy that the regime uses against opposition-held areas. We are told (in fact) two different narratives, and there are two framings that are used interchangeably. The first is that the “rebels” (which we should call simply “the Opposition”) have kept the food out and that they use the civilians as their hostages and human shields and the second goes that they there is actually no starvation going on, because what we see are pictures from other places and dates that are used in the reports that come out of these places.

We can use and pick apart both of these framing attempts and reframe so as to point out that it is indeed Assad behind the starvation campaign. First of all, we can point out that it is the regime that controls access to the city, which is not a secret to anyone. Nothing goes in or out unless the regime (or its proxy, Hezbollah, in the case of Madaya) lets it. UN and ICRC convoys that officially have delivered the first aid allowed in after six months, as well as independent convoys, all have acknowledged the regime restriction on aid being delivered unless it obtains permission from the regime, which finally gave it after the international outcry. Any other food coming in must be smuggled or bribes paid to the regime soldiers at the roadblocks, which has been how some aid has made it in through even the regime controls. Is it not morally bankrupt for food to have to be smuggled in? Restricting food violates all rules of war and international conventions about those caught in war and how they shall be treated. Secondly, we can point out that people are ethnically cleansed in order that the most ill can be treated and have food, while the word “evacuated” is used. They are not being evacuated from a disaster area, they are being further punished and forced out of their homes as part of a greater plan of ethnic cleansing and replacement of the population with a different one.

Regarding the authenticity of the pictures, reframing here also works to our advantage: we recognise that regular professional journalists are denied entry unless they are embedded by the regime. We also know that independent journalists are killed by the regime and the numbers alone prove that the regime has targeted journalists and hoped it would be a war in the dark, despite the age of internet and cell phones. Individuals who are not journalists smuggle out pictures and videos taken with their phones. Word-of-mouth is used to circulate the pictures and the tam-tam is not always accurate because the profession of journalism has not been allowed to do its work. Citizen journalists may not speak anything but their own language, they do not control the use of their images after they start to circulate and not even taking into account the disinformation campaign the Russians and regime supporters are trained in and practice, it’s not common practice for people to use due diligence and check the photos. And yet, their efforts have been verified by non-political agencies on the ground who have testified that what they had seen when being finally allowed in by the regime were indeed entire areas of forced starvation and siege, the withholding of food and medicine and the survival of the people by resorting to eating grass, leaves and salt. They claim that photos may be from one of the many besieged cities, that it is not just one city, but that this practice is widespread. Covering up crimes and atrocities this outrageous by shifting the focus onto the authenticity of specific pictures when there is ample evidence this is in fact the actual situation is nothing less than genocide denial. We refuse to adopt this as our principle. We do not miss the forest for the trees as the regime defenders do in their pitiful attempts to change the framing into one of “it’s all lies, none of this is true, nothing to look at, move on.”

By predicting what the adversary’s framing is, refusing to use it and thus reinforce it, but using OUR OWN framing in a PROACTIVE way, based on our values, we can draw others into our worldview, which puts the protection of the Syrian people as the priority, as well as the defence of their struggle for freedom, because freedom and justice are our core values, and we will never compromise on these humanitarian and human values.

101677e1441761633o6071WRITTEN BY Mary Rizzo

There are various moments / instances involved in the act of participation in discussions/debates

  • Launching the argument (starting the discourse)
  • Entering into a discussion that is already in course
  • Leaving a discussion (or closing a discussion)

For each of these, there are factors to consider: among which

  • Who is the interlocutor
  • Who is the listening public
  • Preparation of the participants
  • Preparation of the public – present at public events, broadcasts (real) or / Internet, Facebook, comments on articles (virtual)
  • Expectations of the public

Therefore, it is essential to know three things:

  • One’s own level of preparation and that of the interlocutor,
  • Determine the interest that the public has to follow your reasoning (and therefore, to adapt yourself, if necessary, to the climate of the debate and to the new elements that have emerged during the debate),
  • Know exactly what you hope to obtain and also that which you are unwilling to compromise on in terms or conclusion. The public often determines a “winner” of a debate. This is true even regarding interventions that do not include rebuttals, because the listener evaluates whether or not his or her own position has changed as a result of what the speaker has said.

Regarding our own preparedness, we are personally responsible, therefore, we have to keep well-informed of the arguments to handle, do our research, have an archive of facts and information that are easily accessible to us. We also have to be clear and convincing in our presentation of the information. We thus have to believe in what we are saying and also be able to support it with arguments based on reason, logic, supported by data that is as recent, reliable and convincing as possible.

In consideration of the level of preparation of the interlocutor, we also must do our research. Often, it is a person who has expressed his or her positions publicly, therefore, before the encounter, it is necessary to prepare ourselves on the arguments of this person. This means that we should know not only the probable content of her or her interventions, but also the sources he or she uses, the communication style, if in the past he or she has obtained something for supporting a position (we must not forget that almost all of the Assad supporters in Italy and Europe have been guests of the regime in Damascus or they have been paid or remunerated for their interventions, articles and sites in Europe). We have to mentally anticipate the discourse of the interlocutor, know his or her sources and their reliability, and we have to understand where he or she wants to bring the argument, as well as where he or she does not want to be brought by us.

The climate of the debate could also be determined by the moderator, or when there is no moderator, by the persons on the discussion panel. At times the public could also influence the climate, particularly when the debate begins to get heated or during the Q & A. Each interlocutor always tries to have the public on its side, and therefore has to always be aware of the signals it is sending. Sometimes it is possible to know if the public is sympathetic, hostile or neutral. If one does not know, it is a good policy to assume that it is sympathetic, but not too much. The approach in this case is to explain / define some lesser-known points, but assuming that the public has basic notions and also has already formed an opinion. It is also correct to assume that your values and the values of the public are specular or similar. It is a good policy to anticipate (mentally) the questions and the worries of the public and to satisfy their need to obtain answers that are honest, concise and correct. If, during the debate, one finds oneself on the defensive, it is preferable to acts as if the public were neutral and in this case, rather than be argumentative or assuming a defensive attitude (which is not appealing to anyone), it is necessary to take a step back and explain basic concepts in which a common ground can be found once more. In this case, it is also a good practise to assume that the public is in good faith, just as you are in good faith, but only that it does not have some necessary information. Your task is to provide the information they are lacking.

Instances of discussions:  

Launch: When one begins a discourse, it should be clear what he or she hopes to obtain, but it should also be clear to the public. Therefore, decide and express immediately if it is an informational meeting, if the public will be involved in some way, if some kinds of  actions are being asked of them, if there is also going to be the presence and participation of persons with opinions that are in conflict with their own (debate), etc.

The introduction (prior to opening the participation in the debate to others) should also incorporate the point or points that are going to be addressed. It is an ACTION THAT PROPOSES AND SHOULD NOT BE REACTIVE.  It also should not anticipate conflicting opinions (which could emerge during the debate). It is important that if we are the ones to launch the discussion, the evolution of the discussion follows specific paths that we are the ones to direct. Therefore, we have to use the concept of “framing the discourse”, in which we do not allow that the argument is changed into a different argument,  we should avoid becoming distracted or brought too far away from our theme, we should not lose control and ownership of the discourse. Every time it becomes necessary, we have to know how to bring the discourse back on track. In these moments, the adversary could attempt to use various “derailment” strategies, trying to not allow us to conclude our line of reasoning, and to make us feel frustrated. It is important to NOT become frustrated, to not lose patience, but to communicate in a clear and reasonable way that the argument is going to get back on track now. Often we find that the adversary uses “argumentative or logical fallacies” which are violations of the rules of critical discourse, when he or she is unsuccessful in taking down an argument based on merit of logic of with facts. A fundamental resource of the discipline of Pragmatics and with helpful suggestions for persons engaged in public debates is the Journal of Pragmatics: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/03782166

In conclusion, if you are launching the discourse, REMAIN THE OWNER OF THE DISCOURSE.

Argument already begun: This is generally the case during events when you are on the panel but have not organised the event, when you are in the public and have asked a question or “challenge” one of the interlocutors during the Q & A, when you are participating in a radio or television broadcast, when you participate in discussion groups in Internet, when you respond to comments in articles in newspapers or on sites.

Differently from the first instance, you are more REACTIVE and are responding to the points already expressed by others. Your form of response in general would be one of demonstrating the errors (or reasoning, source, data) of the information that’s been presented, or, if it is not a contrasting opinion, but only one that is not complete, to complement the intervention with further information.

It is always important to not deviate from the theme, or you actually CAN deviate the discourse of the others as long as it is logical and correct, but NEVER violating the rules of discussion. Always avoid fallacies: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

Leaving a discussion or closing a discussion:  If it is an event that we or others have organised, the time limit has generally been established, and we should keep the discussion always within those temporal limits. The organiser has to always advise the public that the event is coming to its closure at around fifteen minutes prior to the end, and during this time will also try to express a conclusion or, if possible, to have the final word. If you are responsible for concluding the meeting, it has to be closed in a climate that is pacific, calm and conciliatory, even if during the event there has been heated debate. Never leave the public with the sensation that you are argumentative and quarrelsome or that you hold grudges. It is equally important to avoid using expressions that are exasperated or excessive.

If it is a virtual intervention, (that is, without a known time limit or the need to bring it to a conclusion) we have to always consider if it is worthwhile to persevere or if it is more beneficial to leave the conversation. Elements to consider: number of participants, if others are influenced/can be persuaded by our intervention, how many colleagues we have to sustain us and contribute or whether we are alone against everyone.

In addition, we have to always keep in mind the type of public that is present, and to choose both the method and the arguments where we can find common ground. There are various ways to convince the public of the correctness of our argument, but it will be more effective if our language, the issues we focus on and our conclusions are easily assimilated. We should participate in debates where we can contribute in a positive way with our knowledge, and we also have to know the terrain in which we are not knowledgeable and to leave the space to colleagues who are more informed than we are or who have particular experiences and information that could reach the public. We have to be aware of our own limits and recognise the merits of others, asking them to contribute in our place when they could communicate the concepts better than we can.

Also in Italian in Le Voci Della Liberta

ahwazi kidsWritten by Rahim Hamid  

The objective of this article is to highlight the pervasive systematic violations of the Ahwazi Arab people’s rights. Over the last 36 years, essentially coinciding with the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, these violations have increased many-fold, even as the Ahwazis continue demanding their legitimate rights.

This article seeks to provide a comprehensive picture of the prolonged oppression of the Ahwazi Arab people. They are suffering from ultra-national racism, institutionalized discrimination and deliberate neglect at the hands of Iran’s regime. They are facing various barriers in accessing education, employment, housing, healthcare and other essential services.

Since 1925, the Ahwazi Arab people have been subjected to summary executions, forcible displacement, migration, and the confiscation and destruction of homes and personal property. Under Iran’s current fundamentalist sectarian regime, the Ahwazi people live in constant fear of oppression. The current Iranian clerical regime is systematically completing the ethnic cleansing agenda that was begun by the deposed Pahlavi regime.

Around 10 million Ahwazi Arabs inhabit the south and southwest of Iran.  They are one of the Middle East’s oppressed peoples.

They are united through race, culture and language. Their Arab dialect resembles the Iraqi Arabic dialect.  The Majorities are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are a number of other religions and creeds, such as Christians and Mandaeans.

The Iranian regime has shown a deep-seated hatred against the Ahwazi Arab people, who constitute 10% of the population.  In 1925, the emirate of Al- Ahwaz, ruled by Amir Khazaal Al-Kaabi, was toppled by an invasion by the Iranian regime. The invasion put an end to the independent sovereignty of Al-Ahwaz, which was annexed to the newly formed country of Iran in 1934.

Since then, through countless rebellions, armed insurrections and unarmed movements, the Ahwazi Arabs have reiterated their determination to continue their struggle and their resistance against the occupation of Ahwaz and to reassert the sovereignty of Ahwaz that was lost to the Iranian invasion.

For generations, the Ahwazis have received harsh treatment at the hands of the Iranian authorities.  In response to the popular uprisings that followed the Iranian occupation, successive Iranian regimes have forcibly resettled much of the Ahwazi Arab population in Persian regions, as part of a program of ethnic cleansing. Historical Arabic names of cities have been changed into Persian ones. Arabic dress has been completely banned. The use of the Arabic language in Ahwaz has been greatly restricted and even criminalized. Even the ethnic identity of the Ahwazi Arab has been denied.

Ahwazi Arabs have long been suppressed and denied basic rights. In recent years, Ahwazi lands have been confiscated forcibly with threats and intimidation and redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to “Persianize” Ahwazi regions. In the late 1940s, the government began systematically settling the nomadic “Lur tribes”, who are offshoots of Persian ethnics, into areas with Arab majorities, particularly in the oil-rich cities from which the Arab people were forcibly relocated.

These ethnic cleansing policies have been accelerated in recent years in an effort to destroy the demographic fabric of Ahwaz. Any popular movement or protest led by the Ahwazi political class, such as the popular uprising of April 2005 against institutionalized ethnic oppression, has been brutally crushed  by cracking down on the protestors and making mass arrests, even executing the majority of the prominent political figures.

In fact, the Ahwazi Arab people have sought and tried all peaceful political channels to obtain their most basic and legitimate rights, which are enshrined and stated in Iran’s current constitution. In particular, the Ahwazi Arabs have sought the application of Articles 15 and 19 of the Constitution, which stress the right of education in the mother tongue for all ethnic groups, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchs. The regime, however, refuses to implement these articles, thus depriving more than 50% of the non-Persian population of their mother tongue. Instead, the regime has imposed the Persian language as the official language of the education curriculum. This policy has resulted in a high rate of students dropping out from schools at early ages in the marginalized non-Persian regions:  due to the challenges of learning the Persian language, students are held back linguistically, becoming only partially proficient in both their native tongue and the imposed Persian language. This also results in students suffering from a dual identity crisis.

 The Iranian occupation regime is utilizing a variety of strategies in its efforts to obliterate Arab identity in Al-Ahwaz. One of these strategies is to introduce Persian-speaking settlers and give them homes among communities of Arab citizens with the aim of having a negative impact on the Ahwazi Arab citizens in Al-Ahwaz. In addition, a massive number of schools, institutions, and centers are being built for the express goal of imposing and spreading the Persian language and culture, while obscuring and excluding the Arabic language and everything that is associated with the identity, culture and history of the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Iranian settlements are Persian-only, racially exclusive, and their residents live in comfort, with all the facilities provided, while the surrounding Ahwazi Arabs are denied the same facilities and live in desperate squalor in their own homeland.

Of course, the Ahwazi Arab people’s protests against the Iranian occupation are not limited to such issues. Since the military occupation of Al-Ahwaz until now, Iran has been practicing all types of repressive measures, and through the prosecution of multiple pernicious policies, the regime is attempting to eliminate totally the Arabic identity of the Ahwazis.

The terrible legacy of Iran’s repressive nationalist occupation cannot be overstated. It has inflicted horrendous suffering on around 10 million Ahwazi Arab people, who have long suffered systematic marginalization by consecutive regimes of Iranian occupation, going back to the Shah, before the current theocratic regime, in terms of land, territories, resources, language, culture, customary laws, and political and economic opportunities.

From the outset, the occupation of Al-Ahwaz by a racist colonial-settler state has been aimed at eradicating all that is Arabic in Al-Ahwaz. No effort has been spared to liquidate the culture, the language, the history and the whole Ahwazi Arab national entity within the crucible of the Persian culture through the denial of all legitimate rights, such as education and the teaching of the Arabic language, which is one of the most important pillars of raising new enlightened generations. A second language (Farsi) is being imposed.

Since the emergence of the Islamic Republic’s regime, everything related to Arab culture has been declared to be ‘against God’ and thus banned. As a matter of fact, the clerical regime does not concern itself with religious beliefs as much as they are concerned about fighting the Ahwazi Arab identity and snuffing out their culture. This colonialist policy has led the Ahwazi Arab people to fall far behind in terms of development and education, with the policy being practiced in parallel with terrorism, intimidation and oppression, all of which have weakened and made the Arabic language fragile among the Ahwazis.

The Iranian occupation apparatuses have been attempting to falsify and distort the national identity and   culture of Ahwazis by describing them as Iranian Arab and as an Arab-speaking minority, which is intended to suggest that they are not originally Arab, but that they are Persians who over time have come under the linguistic influence of their neighbors and become Arab-speakers because of the proximity of Arab countries. The threat of the national Ahwazi Arab ideal to a Persian national security policy has occupied a key position not only among the Iranian security forces; it has become central to the Iranian nationalist political ideology, which is based on the dual doctrines of Persian nationalism and Iranian Islam (Shia Islam).

From the books and studies published by the Iranian strategic centers at the service of the occupation, we can understand how critical this issue is to the regime. Such studies and publications are full of strategies and vile concepts aimed at countering the Ahwazi Arab struggle; they are filled with weird concepts created to tarnish the image of the national Ahwazi movement. For example, these books and publications label Ahwazis as loyalists of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. After the fall of the Iraqi regime, the Iranian occupation produced the concept of Wahhabism. Then it invented the lies that the Ahwazi political activists are Western spies and stooges, enemies of God, traitors, or infidel atheists. These charges carry the death penalty, and the biased judicial systems of the Iranian occupation use them to murder Ahwazi Arab political prisoners.

ahwazi3Owing to this, the threat of imprisonment and execution has been a constant reality for every Ahwazi. This threat is aimed at weakening the willpower of the Ahwazi Arab nation so that it will surrender its prolonged struggle for liberation, its struggle to regain the independence stolen by Iran in 1925. Despite all these repressive strategies, not only has the Ahwazi Arab culture not lost its fortitude, on the contrary, it has become even stronger.

Racial denial and elimination, mass extrajudicial murder, ethnocide and forced displacement have constituted the main policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in dealing with the Ahwazi people and other national groups. However, the indigenous culture and the ethical and historical values of the Ahwazi Arab nation, as manifested in the context of social resistance, have never surrendered to the assimilationist policies of the Iranian effort to build a nation state on the basis of a mono-ethnic Persian identity.

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad's forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Some of the victims of the massacre of civilians in the 1976 Tal al Zaatar Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon by Assad’s forces and Maronite Lebanese troops

Written by Ruth Riegler
Since the 1948 Nakba, association with the cause of Palestinian freedom has been endlessly useful.
It hasn’t been useful in any way, of course, for the vast majority of Palestinians, who continue to languish in disempowered internal or external exile from their lands, now occupied for over 67 years and counting. But for generations of regional and other leaders, totalitarian regimes, pundits, activists and anyone else fancying a bit of easy reflected glory, Palestine has provided an invaluable patina of revolutionary kudos by association.

Every government in the Middle East and a good few elsewhere, more particularly the nominally anti-imperialist regimes and dictators, plays the ‘anti-zionist’ card professionally: the Assads, father and son, have been adept exploiters of Palestine since Hafez al-Assad first seized power. The regime has relied heavily on its ‘heroic resistance’ reputation, winning admiration and praise worldwide. The most cursory analysis of the regime’s actual ‘resistance’ shows a long track record of cynical exploitation, betrayal and oppression of Palestinians since Hafez first seized power right up to the modern day, ranging from its attempts to hobble the PLO and complicity in the massacre in Lebanon’s Tel al Zaatar camp to the current ongoing ‘Second Nakba’, demonstrating the Assads’ true distaste for freedom, for Palestinians as for Syrians, Lebanese or anyone else who stands in their way.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Some of the residents of Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus who have starved to death under the continuing regime siege on the camp, much of which has been destroyed by two years of regime aerial and heavy artillery bombardment.

Should Palestine actually be liberated or Zionism be dismantled, as the Assads have always been fully aware, the regime would need to find new excuses for its savage domestic repression. But as the Assads and the other ‘axis of resistance’ leaders are well aware, people will always prefer the reassuring lie of jam tomorrow to the dark reality of totalitarianism today.

Indeed, that bleakly ironic dependence on exploiting the cause of Palestinian freedom to justify brutal domestic oppression is a common feature to all the ‘axis of resistance’ members. Any demands for greater freedom, investment in infrastructure, more schools or anything else can quickly be dismissed with accusations of those behind them being Zionist agitators attempting to derail the always-imminent glorious liberation. Any questioning of the Assads’ expenditure of 90 percent of GDP on the military for decades has been quickly countered with the insistence that this is essential both to defend the homeland from Zionist expansionism and for that same ever-imminent liberation. In reality, as we continue to see, the regime’s military juggernaut, like that of the Assads’ ‘anti-imperialist’ allies, has been reserved exclusively for use against Syrian and Palestinians in Syria, but small details like this don’t stop the regime’s hot air emissions about “opposing Zionism.”

The Iranian regime, the fulcrum of the ‘resistance’ axis, is even more adept in and reliant on its exploitation of the cause of Palestinian freedom. Having sold itself as the great saviour of Palestine, prevented from triumphant liberation of Al Quds only by fiendish Zionist plots for 36 years to date, Tehran is wholly dependent on Israel’s continuing occupation to justify its own domestic totalitarianism and more recently its own colonialist regional empire (re) building and occupation. As Ahwazi Arabs have known for a very long time, of course, the Iranian regime is little different in supremacist essence and bone-deep racism to its counterpart in Tel Aviv; indeed, it’s one more bitter irony that the Israeli occupation is less savage overall than that imposed by the ‘great liberators’ in Tehran, both domestically and regionally.

With the regional regimes and tyrants, however, their lie of support for Palestinian freedom at least has the excuse, however pathetic and contemptible it is, of being essential to their own survival. Those in the West who continue to cynically abuse the cause of Palestinian freedom to support, justify and/or deny Assad’s and Tehran’s genocidal oppression lack even that despicable and threadbare figleaf of justification. George Galloway, ‘Stop the War’, Cynthia McKinney and countless other prominent Western activists for Palestinian freedom (or for the freedom of those Palestinians under Israeli occupation, with other Palestinians being considered unworthy of liberation) lack even that miserable semi-excuse. Indeed, they continue to parrot Assad’s and Tehran’s now surreally obscene and utterly discredited script of anti-zionist, anti-imperialist revolutionary zeal to justify another, ongoing Nakba and regional occupation.
Even more ironically, the language of the selective Western supporters of (some) Palestinians’ freedom, like that of Assad and Iran, is now largely indistinguishable from that of the devoted Zionists and neocons who they claim are their sworn enemies; any barbarism, any crime against humanity, no matter how monstrous, up to and including ethno-sectarian cleansing and genocide, can be justified or mitigated as being part of a valiant battle against Islamist terrorism to protect the state, and those crimes which can’t be manipulated can be simply denied or ignored.

The nobility and rightness of the cause of Palestinian freedom, of Syrian freedom, of freedom as the right of all peoples, are unsullied by those who exploit others’ suffering to justify their own vast inhumanity. All that the exploiters reveal and emphasize is their own profound and utterly shameless moral bankruptcy.

from Radio Free Syria 

AHW 1WRITTEN BY Rahim Hamid

Al-Ahwaz region of Iran is currently witnessing a wave of mass protests and demonstrations demanding freedom and an end to the Iranian regime’s multifaceted oppression of the Ahwazi people, which has been continuous since Iran first occupied the region by the use of military force.

Ahwazi Arabs are among the most brutally oppressed peoples in the Middle East. The population of the region in the south and southwest of Iran totals around 10 million, with the people united by race, culture and language. The Ahwazi Arab dialect strongly resembles the dialect in neighboring Iraq. The majority of Ahwazis are Shia and Sunni Muslim, although there are other sects and creeds, including Christian and Mandaean.

Ahwaz is a Persian-occupied Arab country located in the north and the east of the Arabian Gulf to the east of Shat Al-Arab waterway which has been occupied by Iran for more than eight decades and renamed ‘Khuzestan.’

The entire territory of Ahwaz, covering 324,000 square kilometers, is bounded to the west by Iraq, to the south-west by the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula and to the north, east and south-east by the Zagros Mountains, the natural boundary between Ahwaz and Iran.  With an Arab population of ten million, Ahwaz is among the most resource-rich territories occupied by Iran, holding more than 80 percent of the country’s oil and gas resources.

The region has three major rivers, the Karoon, Jarrahi and Karkheh, which play a vital role in the lives of its people, with most Ahwazis long economically dependent on the three waterways for their income from both fishing and agriculture, with the waters used to irrigate the rich arable land.

Historically the Semitic Elami tribes, the first known peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Iraq, settled on Ahwaz’s riverbanks and valleys, establishing a great civilization, particularly the ancient city of Susa, now known as Shush.

Since the initial annexation of Ahwaz by Iran, then known as Persia, 90 years ago, the humanitarian situation of the Ahwazi Arab people has steadily worsened, with the level of murderous repression by the current regime rising daily, extending to the level of systemic ethnic cleansing as policy, forcible eviction of the Ahwazi indigenous people, and the construction of exclusive apartheid-style settlements for non- Ahwazi, non-Arab settlers; these settlers are offered multiple economic and social incentives to move there and given guarantees of a promising future, while the Ahwazi Arab indigenous peoples are further marginalised, alienated and denied the most basic rights in every field.

Historically the catastrophic suffering of the Ahwazi people first began after Reza Khan, the then-ruler of Persia, now called Iran, and invaded the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925, overthrowing the last independent Arab ruler of the region, Sheikh Khazaal Alkaabi, who was subsequently imprisoned in Tehran for 10 years before being murdered in 1936 by strangulation on the orders of Reza Khan.

The current theocratic Iranian regime has imposed authoritarian rule on Al-Ahwaz region by the harshest measures, in a bid to isolate the Ahwazi Arab people from their origins and their historical association with the Arab nations, simultaneously imposing an absolute media blackout on any reporting of the suffering of Ahwazis.

As is widely known, the Iranian regime provides no official statistics on the number of Ahwazi Arabs in Iran, but studies conducted by Ahwazi activists confirm that the current total Ahwazi population stands at between 8 and 10 million. American historian William Theodore Strunk in his work about Ahwaz: The Reign of Sheikh Khazal ibn Jabir and the Suppression of the Principality of Arabistan: A Study in British Imperialism in Southwestern Iran, 1897-1925, Unpublished PhD thesis, Indiana University August 1977, wrote that during the discovery of oil 1908 in Al-Ahwaz region, Ahwazi Arabs made up roughly 98 percent of the regional population.

AHW 2This majority has now shrunk to 70 percent, due to the regime’s policy of systemic and deliberate Persian immigration and colonisation of the region in order to alter its demographic composition.

The primary reason for Iran’s occupation of Al-Ahwaz is the region’s major oil and gas resources. The region also has extensive and fertile agricultural plains irrigated by the Karoon River.

Ahwaz is a tropical region located in the south and south-west of what is currently known as Iran, with the region being a major producer of crops, including dates, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons and other fruits and vegetables, as well as wheat, sugar and corn and many other cereal crops.

Despite all this natural abundance and its status as the center of Iran’s oil and gas industry housing massive industrial complexes, Al-Ahwaz is also the home of Iran’s poorest people, with 99% of Ahwazi Arabs living in extreme poverty and endemic deprivation. This destitution among the region’s indigenous people has its origins in the profoundly racist mentality of the Iranian occupiers, in whose eyes the Ahwazi people’s Arab identity poses a dangerous threat to the country’s national security.

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive 

A destitute Ahwazi Arab couple, their home demolished by Iranian occupying forces, collect plastic from rubbish to sell simply in order to survive

Iranian colonial projects in Al-Ahwaz  

The Iranian regime occupiers to this day seek to increase the proportion of non-Arab settlers in Ahwaz, even changing the original Arabic names of cities, towns, rivers and other geographical features to Farsi names in an attempt to deny the region’s Arab identity.

This systemic eradication of the Arab character and identity of the Ahwaz region and its peoples extend into every area of life, showing a thoroughly planned strategy to bury and erase the Arab culture and identity of Ahwazis once and for all via the illegitimate and forcible imposition of the Persian occupiers’ culture on the Arab peoples.

There is all too plentiful evidence of this policy which has led to the current bitter daily reality of the Ahwazi peoples.  One of the earliest demonstrations of this policy was during the era of Reza Khan’s rule of then-Persia when the speaking of Arabic and wearing of Arab clothing in public were outlawed, with transgressors facing horrendous punishments.

Thereafter and to this day, Iran enforced an all-Farsi education curriculum in Al Ahwaz, with the teaching of the Arabic language forbidden and all studies in Arabic made illegal.  This led to rampant illiteracy among the Ahwazi people, adding to the problems of widespread unemployment, with Ahwazis denied access to job opportunities on the pretext of their lack of educational qualifications. Through these openly grotesquely racist policies, the Ahwazi people were very deliberately weakened, losing any possibility of economic and social stability. These apartheid policies of successive Iranian regimes mean that Ahwazi people are still forbidden from giving their children Arab names or from wearing Arab dress, with the ultimate goal of eradicating all Arab identity and subsuming the Ahwazi people into simply another part of the Persian nationalist whole.

Karoon Rivers which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Karoon River which dried up due to transferring of its water to central regions of Iran

Ahwazi peoples suffer from systemic exclusion in every area of life and at all levels, with the regime continuing a policy of ethnic cleansing, arbitrarily seizing homes, land and property and ‘giving’ these to settlers from neighbouring Persian territories in order to change the demographic balance of the region; under the Iranian legal system, the Ahwazi peoples are denied any legal recourse to object to such grotesque injustices.

The key leadership positions in the region are dominated by Persians, with all such positions being off-limit to Arabs. There is no real representation of Ahwazi peoples at any political level in the region due to the ‘security’ concerns of the occupying Persian authorities in all affairs concerning the Ahwazi people.

Despite the region providing approximately 80 percent of Iran’s oil and gas resources, Ahwazis, the rightful owners of this wealth, are denied any share in the massive profits generated by their mineral or other resources.

The only part of the oil and gas production which is passed on to the Ahwazi people is the related air and water pollution and a related increase in dangerous diseases as a result of the toxic waste and toxic gases emitted by the oil and petrochemical facilities whose emissions are largely unmonitored, discharging massive amounts of harmful industrial substances into the surrounding environment.

Recent acid rainfall and dust storms in the region resulting from this large-scale industrial pollution have seen more than 50,000 Ahwazi people admitted to hospitals and medical clinics for treatment for related conditions, providing terrible and plentiful evidence of the environmental pollution in the region.

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Ahwazi citizens who were admitted to hospitals due to difficulty in breathing after dust storms

Successive Iranian governments have allocated far less than one percent of the monies from the region’s oil and gas revenues and related petrochemical projects to the   development of Al Ahwaz; indeed the Iranian parliament recently rejected – for a fourth time – a proposal presented by the regional vice-consul to allocate 1.5 percent of the region’s oil revenues for the reconstruction of towns and cities in the region devastated in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, which ended 27 years ago.

Following Reza Khan’s 1925 military invasion of Al Ahwaz in 1925 and the ousting of Sheikh Khazaal, Ahwazi independence and sovereignty were formally denied when Al Ahwaz was annexed to become part of the newly established nation of Iran in 1934.

Since then, several Ahwazi Arab uprisings have taken place and been brutally quashed, with both military and civil movements reiterating their determination to continue their resistance and struggle for justice and freedom from Iranian occupation and to restore Ahwaz to its previous sovereign status.

Each uprising has met with murderous brutality at the hands of the Iranian authorities, with massive numbers of Ahwazis being banished and forcibly transferred to Persian regions.

Ahwazis have now received harsh treatment at the hands of Iranian authorities for generations. In the wake of the first popular uprising following the initial annexation of Ahwaz, Persia’s then-rulers banished large numbers of the people, forcibly resettling them in  Persian regions as part of an ethnic cleansing policy, as well as changing the name of the region to Khuzestan and conferring Farsi names on cities, towns,  villages and even geographic features like rivers, as well as banning the wearing of Arab clothing and criminalizing the speaking of Arabic, all in an effort to deny and effectively eradicate the region’s Arab identity and history.

These policies continue to the present day, with Ahwazi people’s land and property forcibly confiscated to be redistributed to Persian settlers in an attempt to ‘Persianise’ the Ahwaz region.  In the late 1940s, the Persian rulers introduced a policy of settling people of Persia’s nomadic ‘Lur’ tribes in areas with Arab majorities, particularly around the oil-rich cities in the Ahwaz region, while Arab residents were forcibly transferred elsewhere.

This systemic ethnic cleansing policy has accelerated in recent years, with the apparent objective of eradicating the Arab identity and culture of Ahwaz. Any popular political movement or uprising led by Ahwazi dissidents, such as the last major one in 2005, protesting against this institutionalized injustice and oppression is brutally quashed by regime authorities, with massive violence against demonstrators and mass arrests and executions of hundreds of the most prominent dissidents.

Ahwazi demonstration

Ahwazi demonstration

After every uprising, hundreds of bodies of Ahwazi dissidents arrested tortured and killed by Iranian security forces are recovered from the Karoon River where they are dumped.  The detained prisoners are routinely held incommunicado for months, during which they are subjected to horrific torture and interrogation, with ‘confessions’ extracted under duress.

Ahwazi people have repeatedly sought to utilize every peaceful political means to attain even the most basic human rights, which are supposedly guaranteed under the current Iranian regime’s constitution, particularly in Articles 15 and 19, which stress the right to education in the native language of all ethnic groups within Iran, including Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Baluchis. This legislation is effectively superficial window dressing, however, since the regime refuses to implement these articles,  with the result that more than half of Iran’s population who are ethnically non-Persian  are denied the right to be educated in their mother tongue; this in turn means that, with an educational curriculum taught solely in Farsi,  schools in the already marginalised non-Persian areas see high rates of non-attendance, with pupils dropping out at an early stage, leaving these populations further disadvantaged by widespread illiteracy and low education levels.  Added to this, the criminalization of Arab culture, including proscriptions on Arabic language in both speech and education, along with the widely resented imposition of Farsi as the official language leaves students largely unskilled in both languages and suffering from a dual identity crisis.

Historical context

To understand the contemporary crisis in Ahwaz, it’s necessary to know some historical background.  Oil was first discovered in Ahwaz, as elsewhere in the Middle East, in 1908, piquing the colonial greed of both the Persian state and the Western powers, with the then-British Empire seeking to expand its regional power and control in tandem with other European powers.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Ahwaz also assumed a strategic importance for the nations involved due to its strategic location.

In 1925, the Pahlavi dynasty came to power in Persia, ousting the previous ruler of Persia, Ahmad Shah Qajar.  Reza Pahlavi identified the geopolitical significance and resource wealth of Ahwaz as potential major assets, with the new rulers wasting no time in invading and annexing Ahwaz, deposing Sheikh Khazaal, in 1925.  In 1936, the year of Khazaal’s execution, Ahwaz was given a new, Farsi name, ‘Khuzestan’, while Persia was renamed ‘Iran’ – ‘Land of the Aryans.’

As Persia’s new name suggested, the Pahlavi dynasty was founded on a strongly nationalistic ideology, with all of Tehran’s territories depicted as homogenous parts of a mono-ethnic, monocultural Persian whole. This resulted inevitably in deeply racist antagonistic policies towards the Arab peoples of Ahwaz as to other non-Persian peoples in territories under Iran’s control from the 1920s which continue to the present day, with all non-Persians essentially robbed of their culture and identity. This denial and eradication of non-Persian identity extended into every area of life, from language, dress, education to all aspects of culture. Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, these brutal proscriptions extended to religion, with non-Shiites (and Shiite dissidents) being persecuted and non-Shiite religious ceremonies and worship heavily punished by imprisonment, torture and often execution.

A History of Dissent: Ahwazi resistance continues in the second Pahlavi era under Mohammad Reza Shah (1941–1979) and since the ‘Islamic Revolution’.

The grievances of the minorities under Iranian rule (who combined comprise the majority)  grew throughout the second Pahlavi monarchy (1941-1979) since Mohammad Reza Pahlavi adopted his father’s deeply chauvinist policy to ethnically restructure the country completely based on Persian ethnicity and identity. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi introduced even more extensive policies intended to subjugate, marginalize and eliminate the five largest minorities under Iranian rule: Ahwazi Arabs, Turkish Azaris, Kurds, Baluchis and Turkmen peoples.

In response to these brutal policies, Ahwazi Arabs and other oppressed groups launched both peaceful and armed uprisings to defy this policy of systemic subjugation and ethnic cleansing.  In 1958, the ‘Arabistan Liberation Front’ was established with the objective of liberating the homeland from Iranian occupation, operating primarily in the cities of Abadan, Mohammareh and Ahwaz.

Two decades after this, in the initial period following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Ahwazi Arabs felt inspired and hopeful of positive change as a result of the overthrow of the brutal monarchy.  In light of this new spirit of optimism, a delegation of 33 leading Ahwazi figures representing all classes and points on the political spectrum was dispatched to Tehran in late April that year, under the aegis of the then-Ahwazi spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Mohammad Taher Al Shobair Khaghani, for talks with the new provisional government, then chaired by Mehdi Bazargan.  The delegates took with them a memorandum containing 12 demands for very basic reforms, as agreed by the vast majority of prominent Ahwazi political and social leaders, with the people pinning their hopes on the new rulers in Tehran to help Ahwazis attain their legitimate rights and achieve long-denied freedom.

Among the demands laid out in the memorandum were:

  1. Legal recognition of Ahwazi Arab nationality, to be acknowledged and protected under the new Iranian constitution.
  2. The formation of a local committee to administer the affairs of the Ahwazi region as an autonomous, broadly independent territory.
  3. Recognition of Arabic as the official language in Ahwaz, to be taught at school and further education level and the foundation of schools and universities for this purpose, with Arab students to be granted the opportunity of overseas scholarships.
  4. A guarantee of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the freedom to establish Arabic newspapers and broadcast media, and an end to the draconian censorship policies of the Shah’s regime.
  5. Abolition of discriminatory policies towards Ahwazis in civil service recruitment.
  6. The allocation of sufficient funds from the oil and gas revenues from Ahwazi lands to help in development of the Ahwazi region.
  7. The restoration and recognition of the Ahwazi people’s right to their Arab identity, i.e. through reintroducing the Arabic names of towns, cities, villages and geographic features rather than the Farsi names conferred under the Shahs’ rule.
  8. Revisions and reforms to the previous regime’s agricultural legislation in order to allow land to be redistributed in a fair and equitable way among Ahwazi farmers, with their ownership rights to be taken into consideration.

During their week of talks in the capital, the delegates met with the then-Prime Minister and other ministers of the new government, as well as with the clerical regime’s religious leaders, including Ayatollah Khomeini.  In these talks, they were assured of the new leadership’s full commitment to overturning the policies of the previous regime, renouncing violence and preserving the unity and integrity of the country.  The delegates, on their part, reassured the officials that the Ahwazi people fully accepted that all state affairs concerning foreign policy, military issues, the monetary system, international treaties and economic plans should be exclusively the concern of the central state.

The Ahwazi delegates had hoped that even if all the demands laid out in the 12-point memorandum were not met, the new leadership would at least grant the Ahwazi people their basic rights and put an end to the Shahs’ decades-long policies of systemic brutal injustice and oppressive rule.   During their meetings, however, the delegates came to realise that the new rulers were little different to the previous despotic regime in their racist attitudes and discriminatory policies towards Iran’s non-Persian population.

Following their return from Tehran, the delegates issued an official statement declaring that the new Iranian leadership had trivialized and undermined the concerns of the Ahwazi people. This led to widespread public anger among Ahwazis, who had been hopeful of real change following the revolution, with many taking to the streets for demonstrations against the continuing racism of the Iranian state to voice their disappointment and disillusionment. The protesters pointed out that the leaders of the Islamic Revolution had come to power with slogans promising a new openness and tolerance and making promises to fulfill the Ahwazi people’s long-denied demands for basic rights, all of which had turned out to be false. Instead, said the protesters, the new regime had shown the same contempt as the previous one, baring its teeth in response to their demands for freedom and rights.

In response to these protests and to the Ahwazi Arabs’ demands, officials of the new clerical regime immediately launched a propaganda and disinformation campaign, now widely known as a standard regime tactic, falsely alleging that the Ahwazi peoples’ protests were part of a regional and global conspiracy to separate Ahwaz from Iran, and asserting that any concessions to the Ahwazi people’s demands would undoubtedly threaten Iran’s territorial integrity, warning ominously that any such protests should be ‘neutralised’ at any cost.

The meaning of this ‘neutralisation’ became horribly clear on May 29th 1979,  only a few months after the revolution brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, with the new clerical regime’s military, supported by affiliated voluntary extremist sectarian militias launching a murderous offensive on Ahwazi Arab dissidents, killing many hundreds, with thousands more imprisoned and forcibly ‘disappeared’ or forcibly displaced.  The day subsequently became known amongst Ahwazis as ‘Black Wednesday.’

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

Images of the brutal crackdown on Ahwazis who were massacred savagely in Mohammareh

The ‘Black Wednesday massacre was carried out in direct response to a Fatwa (religious decree) issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, who directly ordered Ahmad Madani, the then-military governor of Ahwaz to organize the massacre of all the members of political and cultural organizations of the Ahwazi Arab people in Mohammareh city.  To carry out this crime against humanity, Madani deployed the regime’s air and naval forces, who were supported by masked volunteer militias, who coordinated a massive military operation besieging and attacking all the headquarters of Ahwazi political and cultural organisations in the cities of Ahwaz, Abadan, and Mohammareh cities.

Ahmad Madani subsequently became a hero to the Persian people for his leadership of this slaughter, being appointed Commander of the Iranian Navy as a reward for his leading role. He was subsequently quoted as stating, “The Ahwazi are inciting riots so I will drink their blood if they continue insisting on their illegal demands.”

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

Ahmad Madani and his speech on the necessity of quelling Ahwazi demonstrations

The staff and anyone else in the buildings, including those who attempted to flee the regime’s forces, were either arrested or shot dead if they attempted to flee.  When news spread of the regime’s massively brutal offensives, hundreds of enraged residents of the three cities rushed to the scenes of the atrocities in a desperate effort to save the activists.  Despite being unarmed, these people in turn were machine-gunned in massive numbers by the masked militias and otherwise executed in cold blood, with survivors who didn’t manage to escape being arrested, imprisoned and/or forcibly exiled.

Mohammed Sadeq Givi Khalkhali, one of the main regime officials under Madani responsible for organizing this slaughter, was subsequently appointed as  Chief Justice of the regime’s revolutionary courts in the region, where he ordered the execution of countless other innocent Ahwazi Arabs, often following ‘military trials’ which lasted no longer than a few minutes.

Unfortunately, like so many of the clerical regime’s brutal crimes against Ahwazis and others, ‘Black Wednesday’ has remained uninvestigated and unmentioned by international human rights organisations to date, despite being deeply etched on the memories of the survivors and of all Ahwazi peoples, for whom it is impossible to forget or to forgive until the perpetrators are brought to justice. Despite the regime being accorded absolute impunity by the international community to act with barbaric savagery and to sweep such crimes against humanity under the carpet, the day will live in infamy among all Ahwazis, even those who weren’t born at the time.

One desperate reaction in the aftermath of ‘Black Wednesday’ was the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege in London by an Ahwazi Arab pro-autonomy group who demanded the release of 91 of their comrades held in Iranian jails. Given the relentless decades-long murderous repression of Ahwazis by successive regimes and their refusal to grant even the most basic human rights to the Ahwazi peoples,   some Ahwazis see no hope of regaining their rights under such monstrously unjust leadership, with the Pahlavis’ monarchy and the Islamic Republic’s theocracy being effectively two largely indistinguishable faces of the same genocidal and deeply racist coin for Ahwazis and other minorities in Iran.

Whilst it has gone down in Ahwazi history as one of the most infamous of the Khomeinist regime’s crimes,  ‘Black Wednesday’ was not isolated incident, with similar murderous brutality meted out routinely, indeed systemically as regime policy, to Ahwazi peoples and other minorities by regime forces and militias in that period and ever since.

Like their predecessors, Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals continue to face the threat of imprisonment, torture and execution simply for campaigning or writing in support of freedom, self-determination and human rights.

The three founders of the ALF, Mohiuddin Al-Nasser, Dohrab Al-Nasseri and Isa Nasseri, were executed in 1964 at the hands of the Organization of Intelligence and National Security, better known by its Farsi acronym, SAVAK, which led the regime’s rule of terror between 1957 and 1979. This, along with the tragic bloody massacre in  Mohammareh city in 1979, and the brutal crackdown on another popular uprising in 2005, are just a few of the stark indications of the dangers faced by Ahwazi dissidents and intellectuals, who live under the constant threat of prison, torture, exile and/or execution.

In the face of this relentless persecution, the Ahwazi people have continued their long struggle for freedom, self-determination and their long-denied legitimate rights; despite the lack of regional and international support for their cause, the people have maintained their determination to continue until they attain their objectives.

Indeed, it could be argued that the many obstacles and the lack of external support or recognition of Ahwazis’ struggle have resulted in strengthened resolve among the Ahwazi people, recognizing that only they can achieve their liberation and succeed in the struggle for freedom, social emancipation and self-determination.

These efforts have led to the establishment of a number of political organisations and groups which have introduced political and social programs that enjoy widespread popular support. Ahwazi groups have also built strong links with liberation movements representing other non-Persian minorities in Iran oppressed by successive Iranian regimes during the same period, including Kurds, Turks, Baluchis and Turkmen.

After its initial revolutionary fervor, the clerical regime’s profoundly reactionary nature, along with its double standards and hypocrisy, became clearer as time went on. For one example, despite having lived and studied in France, the home of liberté, égalité, fraternité, during his exile, Bani Sadr, a prominent figure among the leaders of the Islamic Revolution, returned to Iran only to become one of the most vehemently racist Persian nationalists in the new regime.  Sadr enthusiastically supported the brutal persecution of the Ahwazi people under the new leadership, with his greed for power quickly overcoming any revolutionary ideals he had previously espoused. In an interview with a Paris-based Iranian news agency concerning the popular uprising by Ahwazis in support of freedom and self-determination, Sadr said, “  will not grant autonomy to any territory because it simply means the disintegration of the country”.

Another official, who had met with the Ahwazi delegates during the 1979 talks and promised that their demands would be submitted to the consultative committee then drafting the new constitution, reneged on his promises, telling the official news agency, “Granting autonomy is without doubt considered separation which threatens national unity.”

Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khalkhali, prioritized his loyalty to the new regime, vehemently opposing any autonomy and stating, “We will cover the Shaat al-Arab with the blood of those pro-autonomy Ahwazi Arabs.”

In extracts from his posthumously published memoirs, reported in the Iranian Hamshahri newspaper in December 2001, the ayatollah appeared to have been proud of his criminal practices against Iran’s Arab Ahwazi and Kurdish peoples, writing, “I have killed a lot of Ahwazi Arabs, Kurdish and remnants of the monarchy, but I don’t regret it, and my conscience is not tormenting me.”

Regime oppression continues

The clerical regime’s racist attitudes to Ahwazi Arabs and other minorities remain as deeply entrenched today as they were in 1979, having become institutionalized and systemic as under the Shahs’ rule.  Ahwazis continue to be subjected to ethnic cleansing and the withholding of all rights, with imprisonment, torture and execution standard policy for even the most minor offence or for no reason other than to maintain fear,  and ensure continued subjugation and break the will of the people. As a result of this policy, the percentage of Ahwazi Arab prisoners in the regime’s prisons is, unsurprisingly higher than that of any other group. Regular calls by the EU and international human rights organisations for the introduction of fair and transparent trials for Ahwazi prisoners, who are routinely denied access to a lawyer as standard practice, have been disregarded.

Despite the clerical regime’s oft-repeated claims to stand for Palestinian freedom, anti-Arab racism is endemic and encouraged by the regime, with Arabs being commonly referred to by derogatory terms such as ‘lizard-eaters’ and ‘camel’s milk-drinkers’ and depicted as uncivilized  barbarians and barefoot nomadic peoples.

Denied rights and employment, destitution amongst Ahwazis is widespread, with disproportionate numbers living in the most abject poverty amid unimaginable conditions. With the Tehran regime deliberately withholding funding, infrastructure development is non-existent, with thousands in the regional capital, Ahwaz, living in areas with open sewers, no sanitation, rampant diseases due to pollution, no access to running water, electricity or gas, despite the fact that the region is, as mentioned above, the centre and backbone of Iran’s massive oil wealth, containing over 80 percent of its oil and gas resources. Ahwazi peoples are essentially treated as fifth-class subjects in their own lands, while Persian settlers introduced by Tehran to change the demographic balance live in great affluence in pleasant Persian-only settlements as part of the regime’s policy of tempting more Persians to move to these areas.   Those Ahwazis who are able to find employment have access only to the most menial, low-paid jobs, with all desirable jobs reserved for Persians.

Although most Ahwazis are Shiite, those who are Sunni face even greater discrimination due to the clerical regime’s persecution of non-Shiites.

Almost a century of systemic racist subjugation as policy has led to the Ahwazi people being one of the most marginalized and oppressed peoples in the Middle East and the world,  with one of the highest rates of incarceration and execution globally.

The disfranchisement and ethnic discrimination policies of the Persian state towards Ahwazi Arabs have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi population, with an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, even while their lands sit on virtually limitless oil, gas and mineral resources that have been exploited to benefit Iranian occupiers since before the state of Iran even came into existence.

The absolute censorship of the press and media has been a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists attempting to raise awareness of the systemic racism and abuses perpetrated against the Ahwazi people, allowing the regime to continue these inhuman and supposedly internationally outlawed policies.

Iranian hard-liners consider Ahwazis a threat to the integrity of their theocratic state and to the oil and gas wealth which is one of its primary income sources, and have done their utmost to disseminate negative perceptions of Ahwazi peoples, labelling activists as apostates and terrorists and thus enabling the judicial system to issue grotesquely unjust prison sentences against them. The EU parliament and a number of international human rights organisations have issued a large number of extensive, well-documented reports listing some of the abuses and violations commonly inflicted on Ahwazi peoples and other non-Persian minorities in Iran. These decades-long abuses comprise part of a longstanding policy, which predates the clerical regime but have been enthusiastically adopted by it, with the ultimate objective of eradicating, subjugating and subsuming the non-Persian population in every way.

For far too long, successive Iranian regimes have denied the true diversity of the ethnic mosaic which makes up Iran, which is in reality the most ethnically diverse   country in the Middle East.  The flagrant and systemic violations and abuses against non-Persian minorities show that the current regime, like the monarchy that precedes it, is in reality founded on a savagely fascistic, repressive and racist mono-ethnic, monocultural ideology, regardless of its veneer of theocratic piety.

In summary

At present, we see strong and continues popular movement in Al-Ahwaz, once comes out in a football stadium to express the power held by the people against the Iranian military, again it shows up at the funeral of   “Younes Asakereh” the martyr which his funeral turned into a huge anti-regime protest in “Mohammareh” city.

As people in one united voice chanted revolutionary slogans calling for popular uprising in Ahwaz against the racial discrimination, the national oppression, the marginalization, the rampant poverty, unemployment, and attempts to obliterate the Arab identity of the region at the hands of the occupying   Tehran government’s policies in Al-Ahwaz.

As matter of fact, organizing such Ahwazi populace movement at wide scale which engulfed the most parts of Al-Ahwaz aims to the following:

–    Applying pressure on the Iranian regime, through the general popular rejection of the brutal Iranian policy in Ahwaz and in all countries that Iran presents.

–    Working with non-Persian peoples against mullahs’ authority to expose its violations against the peoples exists in geopolitics Iran.

In fact, this Ahwazi movement has become an example to the rest of peoples in geopolitical Iran, the people of (Turk, Kurds, and Baluchs) was directly affected by this movement on many occasions and in conjunction with Ahwazi people have staged protest rejecting the repressive measures of Iranian regime conducting against non-Persian national groups and even Persian community. Many senior intelligence officials has visited Ahwaz to calm the situation which came up in a very critical time for Iran while it’s looking for internal cohesion to continue its sabotage in the Arab world, This senior-level of security officials visits reflects the strong movement of Ahwaz and it’s reflection to what is going on in the Arab Nation which is fed up with Iranian hegemony.

Without doubt, all these events in the region are in the national security interests of the Arab countries, the inner uprising of the non-Persian peoples are fruitful to those peoples firstly, and secondly they are in the same row against Iranian expansion in the Arab world.

For Ahwazi Arab people, the matter is not being forgotten like before, we now see the Arab media generally interested in Ahwaz’s cause specially the Saudi media, as well as the liberation groups started to have armed wings, the “Arab struggle for the liberation of Ahwaz” movement on the top of it which succeeded in directing painful blows to Iran in both revolutionary field inside occupied Ahwaz homeland or its political activities in all over the world.

This is the truth in spite of Iranian media ignoring Ahwaz’s movement which is living real uprising despite more than eighty years of Ahwaz’s occupation, where Iran exercised all forms of racism to root out the Arabic identity and it didn’t even succeed to contain all Ahwaz’s Shiites, which most of them are resisting the Persian occupation, on the other side the Sunni elimination didn’t succeed and the number of Shiites who converted to be Sunni exceeded all the expectations.

It is noteworthy that ever since the April 15th uprising in Ahwaz in 2005 commemorating the anniversary of the original 1925 Iranian occupation of Ahwaz (which was subsequently renamed Khuzestan in 1936), Iranian security and intelligence services have launched brutal crackdowns and mass arrests of activists and civilians in the weeks preceding the anniversary in an attempt to intimidate the people and prevent further demonstrations.

It is imperative that Arab and Western human rights organisations take up the too-long ignored cause of Al Ahwaz on the basis of basic humanitarian principles, recognizing that the occupied and horrendously brutalized peoples are being deprived of their most basic rights as fellow human beings.

The voice of the Syrian people. It would be a novel idea for activists to actually LISTEN, KNOW what the requests and demands are of the oppressed in areas that the activists "speak for" them. They might be surprised to learn that not only do those in Syria KNOW what they want, they want to stop dying and suggest a possibility. But, of course, Western activists "know better than they do what is right for them"!

The voice of the Syrian people. It would be a novel idea for activists to actually LISTEN, KNOW what the requests and demands are of the oppressed in areas that the activists “speak for” them. They might be surprised to learn that not only do those in Syria KNOW what they want, they want to stop dying and suggest a possibility. But, of course, Western activists “know better than they do what is right for them”!

WRITTEN BY DAVID NAVA
There is a rot eating away at the moral courage of Americans. I see the rot when I talk to people about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. I see the rot when I ask them, “aren’t the crimes of Assad despicable?”, and in response they turn their faces, or their chins touch their chests.

In the face of atrocities, silence.

When we cannot find the moral courage to condemn mass murderers and torturers than we have fallen into a moral swamp.

Lift your chins from your chest. Find the courage to defend the basic principles of human rights. Your courage is needed.

There are two huge difficulties facing us here in the US: 1) there is the infuriating and ugly problem of the “deniers” and the misinformation spread by Fox news and company–at the service of Big Oil; 2) there is the problem that Americans are turning away from the world, rather than waking up to the urgent need to become aware of our place in the global community–a community that is everywhere struggling for democratic rights and social justice.

This second issue is deeply disturbing because it is a sentiment that is gaining traction even among Leftists.

I find the problem most acutely demonstrated by anti-war groups that are opposed to a No Fly Zone in Syria, not on the grounds that this might drag the US into a war with Assad’s regime (this argument is weak because of the relative correlation of forces–Assad would never challenge US air power–but at least it does not violate moral principles); rather, these groups (ANSWER etc.) reject a No Fly Zone because they accept Assad’s claim that the conflict was created artificially and is strictly between the regime and foreign fighters! In other words, ANSWER defends the dictatorship! While Scientific American has the political maturity to carefully state that changing climate conditions are exacerbating social struggles, ANSWER simply denies there is a real social conflict! This is an unmitigated moral disaster for our anti-war movement. The most-widely recognized leadership of our anti-war movement has adopted the propaganda of a regime guilty of destroying its own country in order to preserve its rule!

Even in regards the problem of sectarian violence, the Jihadists forces, this position–defending the Assad regime–is completely indefensible. How will it be possible to defeat the forces of sectarian violence? Militarily? Perhaps. For a while. Perhaps IS and Al Qaeda can be destroyed. Yet, in the absence of stable democratic societies, will not these forces return, again and again? Of course they will. The military strategy is a recipe for never-ending war, and a never-ending war at the service of repressive regimes! If we are anti-war, if we are truly anti-war, we have no choice but to support the struggle for democracy. There simply is no alternative.

Concerns raised by members of the revolutionary Left that supporting a No Fly Zone is a trap set by imperialism is merely a repetition of the same error: the victory of democratic forces would be a huge blow to imperialism. Controlling corrupt, repressive regimes is how contemporary imperialism works, from Mexico to Egypt. The only difference in the case of Syria is which imperial power is in control. Syria falls under the Russian-Iranian orbit, instead of the US’s. So this makes Assad’s regime progressive?! The argument is absurd upon recognition of its content. The anti-imperialist argument is not an argument to support one imperialist camp over another; the anti-imperialist argument has always, at root, been about support for the right to self-determination of ALL peoples against ALL foreign masters. (You will never find Lenin calling Ottoman domination of the Middle East progressive relative to domination by French or English imperialism. Lenin supported the struggle for self-determination; this was the foreign policy–anti-imperialist–of the USSR, at least before Stalin.)

In any case, the moral imperative of saving innocent human beings trumps all geo-political questions. To the people being terrorized by barrel bombs, it does not matter if the bombing has been stopped by an imperialist power. Is it any wonder than that the demand for a No Fly Zone comes from the Syrian people?

While I am talking about the Syrian’s right to self-determination, let me pause to consider another objection to the demand for a No Fly Zone: some Syrians are opposed to a No Fly Zone because they support Assad; would we be trampling their rights? Let us pause to think about what happens in democratic and social revolutions. Is it ever true that 99% of the people reach agreement and simultaneously rise up to fight oppression? No, this has never happened. Revolutions always advance in a combined and unequal manner. Our own revolution, in 1776, was fought roughly with 1/3 of the population supporting King George. When we finally got around to defeating slavery in the South, we were only able to do so by killing many tens of thousands of poor White sharecroppers, who did not own slaves. Mussolini and Hitler enjoyed the support of many of their people. How then do we recognize which side in a civil war or revolution is advancing a people’s democratic rights? Well, there is no easy way. We must do our homework. We must study history and think critically; but this is the only way to understand any social historical process. If we do our homework in regards Syria we see that the regime is built on repression, that it has consistently exploited sectarian strife to justify its rule, that it does not advance the sovereignty of the people.

How can we call for the US to impose a No Fly Zone and also oppose US imperialism in the Middle East? We do so by also demanding an end to all US military aid to the coup in Egypt and to Israel, and the redirection of this aid to the survivors and refugees of Gaza and Syria. There is no sense in which these demands would strengthen US power in the Middle East. In other words, we do not try to sweep the bloody humanitarian crisis under the rug because recognizing the disaster might be too complicated. On the contrary, we adopt the humanitarian demands because that is the morally correct thing to do. Moreover, imperialist interventions in the region are indirectly responsible for the humanitarian disaster. For decades our government has undermined the democratic movements and strengthened the dictatorships. The USSR also wrought terrible damage by supporting another camp of tyrants. The solution is to finally support the struggle for self-determination. There is no alternative. The victory of the dictatorships will not bring stability because they have nothing to offer the people.

The issue is deeply complex. The humanitarian crisis, however, is painfully simple, very painfully simple. We have the power to protect civilians from aerial bombardment. Therefore we have a moral duty to act. We may not understand the struggle, but there is one good thing we can do, we can stop the bombardment of civilian populations.

Example of the forced confessions televised (also with English subtitles, by Iranian state tv) of the prisoners so as to convince the general public that they are guilty and deserve execution. In this  case, the prisoner is praising the Secret Service agents who arrested him.

Example of the forced confessions televised (also with English subtitles, by Iranian state tv) of the prisoners so as to convince the general public that they are guilty and deserve execution. In this case, the prisoner is praising the Secret Service agents who arrested him.

Main Arabic Source:  http://www.alriyadh.com/1025667

Translated by Rahim Hamid, Ahwazi human rights activist 

Two distinguished Ahwazi former prisoners named “Ramadan Nasseri” and “Mohammed Hattab Zaheri Sari”, in an interview with Al Riyadh online newspaper revealed flagrant human rights violations that the Iranian occupying government has exercised against Ahwazi Arab prisoners in Al-Ahwaz.

They revealed how the Ahwazi prisoners are subjected to arbitrary brutal arrest after being abducted and taken to secret detention centers which are heavily guarded. At this station, the interrogators in the secret detention facilities use threats and violence during interrogations in order to extract confessions or gain practical modifiable information that can be applied against the prisoners to convict them to the death penalty or to issue long prison sentences against them.

The two prisoners in their interview recounted that causing severe mental exhaustion during questioning is most pervasive technique employed by the Intelligence service interrogators to force the Ahwazi prisoner to produce confessions of crimes which he/she did not commit.

Also, the Ahwazi prisoners often are coerced into confessions after the threat that their family members will be arrested or imprisoned, as this menace often has a profound effect on the spirit of the prisoner, leading him or her to succumb to the fabricated charges that the person is being charge with in order to protect their families from any risks of the sort.

In the case of rejecting the accusations, the Ahwazi prisoners will have to endure brutal physical torture and if it is ineffective, psychological torture begins, which frequently leaves a deep impact on the Ahwazi prisoners and always drives them to harsh sentences or the gallows. During mental torture, the prisoner is deprived of sleep, for a period that often lasts a week or ten days.

The prisoner is detained in a narrow cell, the length of which is estimated at two and half meters by one and a half meters, the cell’s walls are painted with a mysterious and sharp red color.  At this station, the prisoners hear voices such as crying women and screams of children and horrific sounds of different animals.

Until this moment, the Ahwazi prisoners who were released still do not know if these voices and sounds are real or if they have been set by the intelligence services in order to influence them, or if they have been infected with illusions because of psychological pressure and their extended terms of incommunicado detention which may last for years.

During the interrogation, Ahwazi prisoners are forced to write all of their daily lives from childhood to the details of their period of captivity. They are compelled to write everything they know, even if it has no link to political and security issues.

This method is used in order to wear down the captive physically and physiologically and destroy his spirits and place excessive pressure on him.

The intelligence service also uses open and long discussions with the Ahwazi prisoner as a technique in order to gain more information and to identify prisoner’s orientations and directions. The content of these talks are then manipulated and used for the purposes of the occupation. The detainee is labelled as dangerous, on the basis of fabricated and ill-defined charges such as posing potential threat to the national security, waging war against God, spreading propaganda against the regime, causing corruption on earth and so forth, in an alleged attempt to criminalize Ahwazi prisoners.

The efforts behind flinging out these charges against Ahwazi prisoners after filming and documenting  prisoners’ coerced confessions is to orchestrate  a scenario  of self-incrimination of prisoners as testimonial evidence that more possibly implicates and incriminates  the prisoner, providing a justification for his execution.

In this case, Ramadan Nasseri, the former Ahwazi prisoner who was sentenced to thirty years in prison and who recently escaped from prison, says he was kidnapped outside his home by eight intelligence agents without their showing any arrest warrant.

He recounts how he was blindfolded and handcuffed and was taken to an unknown place and then went to a narrow and suffocating cell where was interrogated abruptly in an arbitrary way for many hours without being given the opportunity to take a break. He was also prevented from drinking water and eating.

He says that during all of his time in solitary confinement his hands were bound by handcuffs and his feet were shackled by chains. He could not walk or sit as he had undergone long periods of interrogation.

The intelligence services torturers exercised extreme physical torture against him, as he said on many occasions, he was beaten by electrical cables and shocked, making him become unconscious when this situation occurred many times.

He added that he was tortured psychologically when he was kept in a narrow cell painted with shocking colors and unclear graffiti, which bothered his nerves extremely as well as being subjected to the sound of constant disturbing voices, sounds and radio signals that came to him from unknown directions.

Besides severe mental and physiological torture endured in the cell, he was convicted for thirty years in prison based on the coerced confessions in biased trial proceedings that fell far short of international standards.

Regarding his unfair conviction, as he was even banned from having access to lawyer, he said that he was tried by an intolerant and an infamous judge named Mohammadi who chaired the primary branch of the revolution Court in Ahwaz.

He said the judge within ten minutes firstly read aloud the charges against him quickly and after that asked if he wished to defend himself.

Ramadan believes that as the judicial system of the Iranian occupation is thoroughly corrupt and deeply intolerant toward Ahwazi prisoners, his prison conviction was already issued before his trial and before hearing his words.

The outcome of his trial was a heavy imprisonment sentence plus the exile to “Eghlid”, the notorious prison in the Fars Province.

Ramadan claimed the aim of his banishment to far-distant Persian regions outside Al-Ahwaz was to deprive him and his family from visiting each other.

He says that his wife, alongside their children, had to travel long distances to visit him in the prison as his wife was not able to afford the travel expenses regularly because she was struggling just to sustain her children’s  lives and fulfill their basic needs, this situation resulted in more suffering as it inflicted damaging psychological effects.  Ramadan said that the legacy of torture is still on his body and he is suffering from harsh pain owed to rupturing in his two knee joints as a result of torture.

Ahwazi reveals another prisoner named “Mohammed Hattab Zaheri Sari”, who recently escaped from prison, saying he was a political, cultural and religious activist while he used to live in Ahwaz.

He asserts he also had an active part in the popular uprising in Ahwaz in April 2005, which covered the majority areas in Al-Ahwaz.  He continued his activism even after the uprising in Ahwaz, which caused him to suffer persecution when the Iranian authorities arrested him on 29 July 2007.

He reports that he had spent two months under severe torture in the intelligence service secret detention. The Iranian intelligence agencies decided to transfer him to “Sepidar” prison after the investigation of his political activity.

In addition, the Iranian revolutionary court in Ahwaz (Branch four, by the judge Mr. Torki) sent him to five years imprisonment on 02/19/2008 on the charge of conspiring against Iran’s national security.

He says that after two and half years in the prison, was released by the “conditional release” law.  He  says despite all the barriers and risks,  he  pursued  his activity after getting released from prison, so the Iranian intelligence services who put him under  surveillance  once  again arrested  him on 4 May 2011 on the Iran-Turkey border (Sarv border) when  he tried to get out legally from Iran.

Then he was transferred to the city of Ahwaz, where spent 45 days in secret detention which belongs to the Iranian intelligence services, under severe torture and other ill-treatment.

He said he was tortured by various methods as on one occasion, he reports being severely beaten with belt on his back when he was laid on an iron bed and his hands and his feet were tied from two sides with manacles; on another, he described brutally being lashed, kicked, slapped on his ears that resulted in partial loss of hearing in his left ear, hung upside-down and beaten on the soles of his feet with cables, given electric shocks, hearing voices like crying and weeping and screaming men  and women.  After that, the services transferred him to the Fajr prison in the city of Quneitra (Dezful), about 160 kilometers north of Ahwaz city.

He was released from the prison after spending several months on bail of one Iranian billion rials (about 30,000 US dollars) on 30-11-2011 by the judge Mr. Morteza Kiasati, who is one of the nine Iranian judges whose name is on the list of European sanctions against the Iranian state as a human rights violator.

Mohammad continued saying: “since I have been released and I’m continually suffering from harassment and threats of the Iranian intelligence services, as they call my phone every month to threaten me to face a new trial and prison if they think that I am still active.

And also every April, which coincides with the anniversary of the popular uprising in Al-Ahwaz, the Iranian intelligence services in the city of Ahwaz forced me to come to their office for questioning and investigation, and to sign a document that kept me under house arrest, not allowing me to leave my home without getting permission from the intelligence services.

The intelligence services were also forced me to come to their office if any of my friends were arrested by them, just to answer their questions as to if I have regular contact with him or not.

Finally, this situation forced me to leave my homeland to protect my life from another arrest, torture, and imprisonment.”

To the question about the prison condition, Mohammad said that the section of prison where he was held was not able to accommodate more than one hundred and twenty prisoners, but the prisoners in this section were more than four hundred and eighty people. The section’s cells are cramped and overcrowded and one cannot find a place to sleep.

He added that the judges in the Persian courts do not abide by and respect the principle of neutrality and the principle of innocent until proven guilty, but they are acting as the prosecutors who are directing the charges and demanding the most severe penalties against Ahwazi prisoners  and after the issuance of unfair sentences against Arab  prisoners, the occupying Persian authorities begin to transfer the convicted prisoners to various notorious prisons such as Sepidar and Karoon Prison and also other prisons outside Al-Ahwaz.

In these prisons, Ahwazi prisoners are often banned from visiting their parents and their other relatives, although the right of prisoners to visit their family members is enshrined in Iranian law, also the prisoners are prevented from the acquisition of book and newspapers, even though they are in the Persian language. This situation causes the spread of frustration, stress and depression among Ahwazi prisoners.

In reference to health and the sanitary condition of prisons, he said health care in overcrowded prisons is almost non-existent. The contagious skin diseases run rampant among Ahwazi prisoners due to their infection with parasitic insects like lice as well as pulmonary and TB diseases because of dirty water and lack of air-conditioning systems. This is because of the deliberate neglect of the prison authorities who refuse to provide the required facilities such as clean water for drinking and washing, air-conditioning systems, and the necessary medical treatment of prisoners. Such systematic inhuman denial of basic human rights is adopted in order to punish the Ahwazi prisoners indirectly.

The Iranian occupation state tries to distribute the arrested Ahwazi political activists among the prisons and in sections that have nothing to do with political issues, especially throwing them into sections of prisoners accused of possession of narcotic drugs, larceny and murder offences for the reason of ruining the morale of the political prisoners and at the same time to tell the world that there are no political prisoners in Ahwaz. Add to that, they exile the Ahwazi Arab political prisoners to remote areas far away from Ahwaz in the Persian regions as a common physiological punishment so that their families can’t visit and meet them, which something that the regime always does to Ahwazi families.

SEE ALSO: http://www.ahwaziarabs.info/2013/11/global-outrage-over-press-tv-torture.html

ahwaz 15-3 1An Ahwazi Arab street vendor by the name of Younes Asakere from Mohammareh city has set himself on fire in protest against the  action of the Occupying municipal officials who confiscated his small grocer’s  stall.

This incident occurred when the municipal officials embarked on an arbitrary raid against the street vendors in Mohammareh city in a usual attempt to extort money from the poor street vendors who have no other way to make a living but by vending in the streets as a result of extreme poverty and high unemployment.

The occupying municipal officials, by confiscating the stalls, carts and wheelbarrows of street vendors under the pretext of not having a vendor’s permit have enraged the local Arab vendors, resulting in their  clashes with the municipal officials.

According to his brother, Younes is 32 years old, married with two children and lives in Mohammareh city.  He is fruit seller and has small grocer’s store which is the only source of income of his family; he lives in rental house and recently his lease contract ended, with the landlord demanding him to evacuate the house.  As Younes is the only provider of his family, his small grocer’s stall means everything for him and his family.

On Saturday, 14 March 2015, Younes, on his way to his workplace, faced the confiscation of his grocer’s stall by the municipal officials and the security police forces.

ahwaz 15 3 2The unbearable circumstanced of witnessing these forces destroy his stall in front of his eyes, drove him to go in front of the municipal building and in protest of the confiscation of his stall, to set himself alight by pouring a gallon of inflammable liquid over his body.

The local people, with the help of firefighters and emergency medical technicians transferred him to a local hospital in Mohammareh city and then due to his critical condition he was admitted to Taleghani hospital in Ahwaz city.  He is now hospitalized in the intensive care unit as more than 70% of his body is severely burnt.

The Persian occupying authorities are always targeting, humiliating and looting Ahwazi Arab vendors who are living in extreme poverty. The majority of Ahwazi people are denied employment and any governmental job opportunities as they have no option but to sell in temporary stalls the perishable goods without a permit.

Additional information for those readers who are not familiar with the plight of the Ahwazis:

Ahwaz is occupied Arab land with a population of more than 8 million, located in the Southwest and South of so-called Iran’s map.

The name of Al-Ahwaz was changed to Khuzestan, Bushehr and Hormozgan in 1935 after the invasion of the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925 and toppling the last Arabic rule of Amir Khazaal Al-Kaabi in Mohammareh city.

The Iranian regimes of Pahlavi and the Islamic Republic deployed different tools to suppress the Ahwazi Arab people.

The lack of actual mainstream media coverage on Al-Ahwaz issue has allowed the Iranian occupation authorities to commit serious crimes against the Ahwazis who are struggling for freedom and liberation of their homeland under the unlawful Iranian domination lasting over eight decades.

The  Ahwaz region is the wealthiest land with multiple resources including oil, gas, steel and water, although the Ahwazi Arab people are one of the most destitute and impoverished people in Middle East.

The bitter fact is that Al-Ahwaz region was annexed by Iran forcibly against the will of its people in 1925 as the region had previously been independent. The region is the primary source of revenue for Iran’s oil and gas. It is the second vital and strategic region after Tehran for Iran and directly related to the national security of the occupying clerical regime.  Al-Ahwaz holds 70% of Iran’s oil resources and 30% of its water, flowing from more than five rivers such as Karoon, Dez, and Karkheh, with vast agricultural and fertile lands.

By Ahwanza website

 

Ahwazi and Syrian freedom flags march together to demand the EU address their human rights.

Ahwazi and Syrian freedom flags march together to demand the EU address their human rights.

written by Ahwazna website

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Ahwazi mass demonstration in front of the European Parliament in BrusselsLiberation of Al-Ahwaz has organized a mass demonstration, under the title “We will never forget our Ahwazi people” in front of the European Parliament in Brussels, the Belgian Capital.

The Demonstration took place on Friday 6th of March to condemn the policies of Iranian occupation and the ongoing anti-human atrocities against the Arab people of Ahwaz.

The Ahwazi community organized this massive demonstration as a message of solidarity with the enormous sacrifices of the Ahwazi Arab people in the path of preserving the Arab identity and liberation of the Al-Ahwaz land from Iranian domination which has brought nothing but destruction and murder to its indigenous Arab people. Also, it acts upon the belief in the feasibility of using all legal means in combating the unlawful Iranian occupation and its non-humanitarian practices in Al-Ahwaz.

This demonstration was a part of series of demonstrations and activities undertaken by the Arab Struggle for the Liberation of Ahwaz as a bid to expose the obnoxious occupation policies of the Iranian regime. In addition, to make heard the oppressed voice of Ahwazi Arabs who are under extreme oppression from the occupation by Iran, the likes of which is not known to the world at large, despite the objective brutality of this occupation.

Hundreds of Ahwazis and Syrian took part in the mass demonstration, as there was a significant presence of Arab communities including Iraqis, Lebanon, Yemenis and Palestinians who came from various European countries as well as distinguished media figures and human rights advocates who came from Arab Gulf states and other countries for the purpose of supporting the Ahwazi cause.

Non-Persian communities such as Turks from South Azerbaijan and Kurds from East Kurdistan and Baluchis attended this demonstration to denounce the Iranian regime over its  atrocious policies that are murdering their people in cold blood and in particular, against the ongoing machine of execution that is being used at an alarming rate against their activists.

brx 5Ahwazi women along with other non-Persian women including Kurds and Turks who came from different countries took part in this demonstration to protest against the violated women’s rights, for their fundamental rights to education in their mother language and for the right to freedom of expression, against sex discrimination and inequality that the totalitarian Iranian regime has been committing against them for decades.

During the demonstration, participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and the flags of the struggle movement and images of Ahwazi martyrs and prisoners and numerous banners in Arabic and English denouncing the continued policies of forced displacement and changing the demographic structure of Ahwazi Arab areas through construction of exclusive vast settlements for bringing Persian settlers. There were also banners whose theme was the dryness of Ahwazi rivers and marshlands via construction of excessive dams.

Many outspoken political figures emphasized the necessity of supporting the Ahwazi Arab cause in their long struggle against Iranian occupation and ongoing Iran oppression and to denounce the abuse of human rights of Arab people in occupied Ahwaz territory. Moreover, they stress the necessity of implementing an effective political and media strategy to highlight the Ahwazi Arab issue not only amid the Arab world but also on the international level.

brx 4As the Arabic region is on the verge of  mass domestic unrest and instability, important speeches were addressed to the  audience regarding Arab national security and the increasing threat of Iranian influence and its terrorism-driven campaign in Arab countries – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain and the necessity of Arab countries to build strong alliances to tackle the aggressive Iranian foreign policy which is extending serious repercussions outwards, as its expansionist ambitions to achieve more influence politically and economically in the Arab world countries, mainly Arab Gulf states, become more evident each day.

The partial list of names of veteran political and journalism figures who were present at the demonstration are Dr. Walid Tabtabai, the Former Kuwaiti MP, Mohammad Al-Emadi and Nasser Al-Fezalle the MPs in Bahrain’s parliament, Rashid al-Fayed, the veteran politician and representative of the Lebanese Future Movement, Anwar Malek, an Algerian human rights advocate, Behjet Al-kurdi, the Iraqi political activist, Ayed Al-Shemeri, the prominent Saudi journalist,  Delegation from PJAK party, Delegation from Baluchistan and  Democratic Party of South Azerbaijan.

The participants spoke about ways to support the struggle of the Arab people of Ahwaz in order to lift the injustice, oppression and racial discrimination which has been practiced against them and also viable solutions to reclaim their freedom and exercise the right to self-determination of Ahwazi Arab people who have sought to end Iranian occupation of their homeland for years.

The demonstration has witnessed notable coverage by Arabic and foreign newspapers as well as TV news channels such as Al-Arabiya, Orient, Alrafidain, Wesal and Lebanon Future Channel.

The Arab Struggle Movement, in a letter submitted to the European Union, called for urgent intervention to immediately stop the Iranian regime’s arbitrary arrests and executions of Ahwazis.

The Movement also appealed to the European Union and its institutions to visit Al-Ahwaz to uncover and document the Iran regime’s occupation practices that have polluted and destroyed the environment, leading to the large-scale spread of dangerous diseases in all parts of Al-Ahwaz.

The delegation of the Arab Struggle Movement met with a number of European Union officials in Brussels after the demonstration.

The delegation stressed the need for the European Union intervention and implementation of safeguards as provided for in international treaties and conventions to protect oppressed peoples under military occupation, in particular, the Arab people of Ahwaz.

The Arab Struggle Movement also expressed its hopes that the EU’s relations with the occupying Iranian regime would not be at the expense of the right of peoples under Iranian occupation, and to be supportive of the demands of the peoples struggling for their freedom and the formation of their Independent States.

The final statement which came out with five recommendations was stated by Musa Mehdi Fakher, the Ahwazi political activist. The some of the notable recommendations are as follow:

– Stop ongoing violent persecution ranging from execution, torture and detainment of Ahwazi Arab people.

– Unconditional release of all Ahwazi political and cultural prisoners.

– Granting the prisoners their legal rights of having access to lawyers and having an open, transparent and non-biased trial respecting human rights standards.

– Stop changing the main courses of Karoon, Jarahi, Karkheh Rivers, and stop damaging the environment in Ahwaz.

– Stop the forced displacement and construction settlement policies that are conducted in line with ethnic cleansing policies against Ahwazi Arab people.

– Support the protesters who are protesting against the Iranian occupying authorities in destroying the environment in Ahwaz.

– Demand for sending specialist envoys to Al-Ahwaz by the United Nations to stand up against the repeated cases of abuse suffered by the people of Ahwaz, where some of them reached the level of extermination and ethnic cleansing crimes, and demand the punishment of those individuals who must be held accountable for these offences.

– Refusal to make the Ahwazi, Kurdish, Baluchi and Turkish Azeri people issues and the violations of human rights of the occupying clerical regime as issues of compromise during  the ongoing negotiations between the West and the occupying Mullah regime over its nuclear program. As it is not permissible to compromise on the fundamental rights of these peoples supported by international law under any circumstances.

To conclude, we demand the free world, specifically the EU, to assume its full humanitarian responsibilities and to stand by the side of Ahwazi people and other non-Persian peoples in their legitimate struggle for their freedom and to maintain their dignity.

It is worth mentioning that this demonstration is the third of its kind this year, as the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz has already organized a mass demonstration, entitled “We will never forget our Ahwazi oppressed people” in front of the Embassy of the State of Iranian occupation in the Danish capital, Copenhagen on 10 January 2015. Followed by another massive demonstration in front of the UN headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna on 20 February 2015, to support the Ahwazi people rising up at home against the Iranian occupation policies.

brx 3brx 2

ahwaz march1Written by Ahwazna website

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

At a time when the Ahwazi Arab people continue their decade’s long struggle to regain their homeland’s independence from Persian occupation, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz organized a demonstration in front of the UN headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna on 20 February, 2015.

The demonstration, expressed the support and solidarity of the Ahwazi Arab community, Arab and non-Persian groups in Europe with the Ahwazi people rebelling against the lingering inhuman policies of Iran’s occupation in Al-Ahwaz.

The Arab Struggle Movement in a letter submitted to the United Nations called on for the urgent intervention to immediately to stop the Iranian regime’s arbitrary arrests and executions of Ahwazis. The Movement also appealed to United Nations Environment and Health organizations to visit Al-Ahwaz to uncover and document the Iran regime’s occupation practices that have polluted and destroyed the environment leading to the large-scale spread of dangerous diseases in all parts of Al-Ahwaz.

The delegation of the Arab Struggle Movement met with a number of United Nations officials in Vienna after the demonstration. The delegation stressed the need for United Nations intervention and implementation of safeguards as provided for in international treaties and conventions to protect oppressed peoples under military occupation, in particular, the Arab people of Ahwaz.

While the demonstration showed solidarity with the decades-long suffering of the people of Ahwaz, Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement stated that the suffering becoming worse by the day due to Iranian occupation and violations of human rights in Ahwaz.

Such policies are inconsistent with and in violation of international law and covenants, hence the urgent appeal to the United Nations to intervene to prevent the State of Iran’s colonization and human rights violations against Ahwazi people living under occupation.

Ahmad Mola added, “the crimes of the Iranian occupation are approaching a very dangerous turning point in Al-Ahwaz and we hope that the United Nations perform its humanitarian and its legal duty to upholding the right of the Ahwazi Arab people in their freedom and independence from the Iran’s occupation and the backing and support of the struggle of our people in all its forms”.

“When you read about the Ahwazi people sufferings you will understand the occupying Iran regime’s policies are aimed at completely erasing the people of Ahwaz, their history, culture and future by constructing settlements which target Ahwaz and its population”.

“This is meant to undermine Arab identity in the crucible of Persian culture. The spread of drug addiction and crime in Ahwaz is also largely attributable to the policies of the Iran regime. This enemy of democracy spreads ignorance and backwardness and tries to repress the entire Al-Ahwaz region by supporting drug dealers and yet another attempt to ruin Ahwazi society”, said.

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

Ahmad Mola, the Chairman of Political Bureau of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, has called on the United Nations to take swift actions against the continued Iranian regime’s crimes in Al-Ahwaz.

“The plight of Ahwazi people is very long term, and their right to independence and safety has worsened during successive Iranian regimes that denied the fundamental right of having access to education in mother language and punishing everyone for acquiring Arabic books attempting to make Ahwazis to be lost generation without identity and history melting in Persian culture . However, despite all this, the Persian state’ racist policies failed due to the strong national will of our people in rejecting occupation adhering to their Arab identity and culture.

Iran’s Sharia law and legal system make it one of the worst, repressive, totalitarian regimes in the world. It is hard to find a system which is more politically manipulative, and its theocratic rule misleads its people and the world.

It is opportunistic, self-serving and sectarian, discriminating particularly by region and socially excluding many. Its aim is for the country to be entirely dominated by glorifying Safavid history and culture, whilst destroying other neighboring history and culture.

The Iran regime’s expansionist policy, for example in the case of UAE islands and neighboring regions such as occupied Al-Ahwaz, is done aggressively and ruthlessly with no regard for international relations or upholding human rights”, said Ahmad Mola.

The demonstration came as mentioned in the earlier statement released by the movement of its media “Ahwazna” to support the people of Ahwazis’s struggling against the State of Iran’s occupation policies and to condemn the Iranian occupier criminal policies committed against the land and the people, including drying rivers, which cause environmental pollution in Ahwaz, where the region called “the capital of global pollution.”

The protesters carried Arabic and English signs demanding the Iran regime stop the ethnic cleansing policies against the Ahwazi Arab people, and that the world condemn the land confiscation policies taking place in Ahwaz.

Many of the Ahwazi Arab protesters who participated in the massive rally came from various European countries. There was significant presence of the Arab community showing solidarity with the Ahwazi Arab people, in addition to a number of Arab brothers who are supporters of the cause of Ahwaz hailing from European and Arab countries The friends and comrades of the Kurdish, Baluch and Turkmen communities, whose people also suffer under the enslavement and occupation of the Persian state, made an unforgettable presence at the demonstration, embodying the spirit of true friendship and solidarity in the face of the most notorious occupation on earth.

During the demonstration, Ahwazi participants raised the national flag of Ahwaz and carried posters of martyrs and prisoners and banners in both Arabic and English, condemning the policies of forced displacement and changing demographics which are being carried out by the Persian occupation.

They strongly denounced and condemned Iran’s changing the course of the Karoon River, and diverting its water away from the Ahwazis to central Persian regions.

The Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, who had called for this demonstration, stated that despite grave human rights violations perpetrated against Ahwazi people, the plight of this occupied nation remained invisible to the world at large.

The ultimate aim of the demonstration was to bring the suffering of the Ahwazi people to the attention of the public and to demand that the international organizations place pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the ethnic cleansing practices, the arbitrary arrests and executions of the Ahwazi Arab people, and to recognize and uphold the political prisoner status of the political and human rights activists.

For years, Iran has been oppressing the Ahwazi Arab people through intimidation, mass arrests, torture, and mass execution of Ahwazi civilians.

The exploitation of the wealth and natural resources of Ahwaz, In particular, the natural gas and oil are being extracted without discernible economic benefit for the Ahwazi Arab people.

The Persian state’s policies have crippled the majority of the Ahwazi Arab population, with an estimated 80 percent of Ahwazi households living below the poverty line, while they are living on the sea of oil and gas, and mineral resources that have been exploited and stolen since 1925.

Press and media censorship continues to be a serious obstacle for Ahwazi activists speaking out against the non-stop abuses being committed against the Ahwazi people. This censorship allows the Iranian regime to discriminate perpetually against the Ahwazi Arab people.

Ahmad Mola, addressing the Arab and regional countries reminded that the Iranian state is rapidly controlling and destabilizing the whole region. The Ahwazi Arab parties, with the right military training and arms, would be ready to inflict strong blows to the Iran regime, but support and shelter from Arab and regional countries were imperative.

 

11007578_1417896418510798_1765605101_nWRITTEN BY Ahwazna website

Throughout human history, authoritarian regimes have exercised numerous policies to influence and pressure peoples whose homelands are under the grip of domination and occupation. Occupation policies include construction of settlements and relocation of settlers to change demographics to favor their colonial aspirations.  This is one of many ways used gradually to control the indigenous population living under colonial occupation.

History is full of examples illustrating the process of colonialism and occupation, but none more clearly than the example of the brutal Israeli colonization and occupation of Palestine. Through the establishment of extensive illegal settlements and introduction of hundreds of thousands of Zionist settlers the occupation has usurped the historical homeland of the Palestinian people.

Since the outset of Iran’s military occupation of Emirate of Al-Ahwaz, the occupying central governments have one after another, exposed the Ahwazi people to heinous crimes of violence, brutality, and everyday indignities.  Through the colonial acquisition of lands throughout Al-Ahwaz, the goal was to cleanse the area of the indigenous Ahwazis.

The looting and plundering of Ahwazi lands were carried out through forcible displacement of Ahwazi citizens and the appropriation of their land by force of arms as well as using money to entice the most impoverished Ahwazis to sell their land.  The facade of legitimacy and legality masked the occupier’s dishonest practices, and the plundered Ahwazi lands were handed over to Persian settlers.

After years of confiscating and appropriating vast amounts of territory, the Iranian colonizers and segregationist governments have built hundreds settlements, bringing in tens of thousands of Persian settlers into areas where the number of settlers was scarce or where there were fears of changing demographics in Persian settlers ‘favor, which would harm the future of the   Al- Ahwaz in the case of right to self-determination.

The Ahwaz Arab people continue to resist the settlers by whatever means available to them, but the resistance has not been exhaustive.  For the most part, it only involved those who suffered at the hands of the settlers.   There is substantial documented evidence recorded by the Ahwazi human rights activists, showing the involvement of many Persian settlers in committing the most barbaric and inhuman crimes against the Ahwazi Arab citizens.

It is important to remind that the majority of settlers are also equipped with weapons and unlimited support by the Persian occupation authorities. Unfortunately there is a level of complacency of in segments of the Ahwazi people, partly due to ignorance, or fear of government repressive responses and, in some cases, a lack of interest in what is happening. However, these problems and areas of what may be perceived as weakness have never deterred Ahwazi citizens to resist the occupiers.

The building of settlements for housing non-Arab settlers did not suffice the Persian occupation authorities this means that in addition to the importation of Persian settlers to Al-Ahwaz, Persian occupying forces have extended their underhanded criminal activities by building thousands of housing units in Arab areas and populating them with Persian settlers which serves the purposes of Persian occupation in several ways.

They have brazenly gone too far in conducting their crimes over which enhancing their occupation malicious projects through the construction of thousands of housing units in the hearts of  Arab areas and bringing settlers  recruiting them  for a number of things.

Firstly: The Persian settlers act as the eyes and ears of the occupation forces and provide the Persian occupation with anti-activists agents placed among the Arab population, who are able to immediately inform Persian intelligence and security forces of any intended anti-occupation activities. This provides Persian forces with preemptive capabilities to subdue and eliminate any resistance in the fastest manner possible.

Secondly: The Persian settler’s physical proximity to Arab Ahwazis, aims to destroy Arab culture by excluding it from everyday activities and through corrupting and replacing Arab culture with the Persian state-supported culture.

In work, education, intermarriage, every aspect of socio-economic activities imposed on the Arab Ahwazi culture puts it in a weak, threatened position.  It is generally excluded and frowned down upon while Persian is endorsed and supported by the state.  Conflicts arising from forcing Persian culture upon Ahwazi Arabs continues to have adverse and detrimental affects upon all aspects of Ahwazi life.

Thirdly: Persian settlements aim to monopolize trade in Persian settler hands through buying up all shops and outlets.  This has resulted in grave economic changes which will be very difficult to reverse in the future.  Through Persian news agencies and Persian government official communiques inform of proposed new settlements and housing units being completed and delivered to Persian settlers.  In addition, one hears of the large numbers of companies, government agencies, banks and cooperatives supportive of Persian settlement activities.

It is clear that Persian occupation and settlement of Ahwaz, coupled with the criminal destruction of Arab society and culture in Ahwaz, is high on the agenda of the Iranian state and is ongoing with strong impetus.

Many researchers and observers hold that resisting Persian settlement activities should be among the foremost of priorities for the indigenous Ahwazi population.  Unless the Ahwazis resist Persian colonial settlement at this time, it will be impossible to reverse the dangerous and ongoing demographic changes in the area.

Therefore, taking all of the above  into consideration, all Ahwazi citizens, without exception,  are obliged to engage in resisting all forms of Persian settlement undertaken by Persian authorities without differentiation between any particular form of settlement, or Persian Military personnel, agriculturalists or pastoralists, or government employees settled in Arab Ahwaz.  All are collaborators in the crime of occupation and theft of Ahwazi Arab land, indigenous resources and job opportunities.

The resistance against occupation and settlers needs no debate, neither is it subject to debate; rather it is a national duty dictated by religion law and conscience.

Among the most important manners to resist settlement and settlers are:

  1. Boycotting settlers socially and severing all contact with them.
  2. Economically boycotting settlers and their businesses.
  3. Military confrontations with settlers.

At this decisive stage it has become imperative for all members of the National Ahwazi Resistance to join ranks in order to deliver the most powerful blow possible to Persian occupation, which includes Persian settlers, who have ever since their arrival, acted and conspired against the Arab Ahwazi people.

Any wavering at this stage in resisting Persian settlers will end all future hopes for the Arab citizens of Al-Ahwaz.  History shows that attempts towards the establishment of peaceful co-existence and good neighborly conduct have proven fruitless in deterring Persian settlers from aiding and collaborating with the Persian occupation of Ahwaz, the theft of our land and national resources, and the destruction of the culture of Arab Ahwaz.

dried wetland  Written by Rahim Hamid 

Thousands of Ahwazi people have gathered once again on 14th, 15th and 16th of February in front of Ahwaz Governorate office in Ahwaz’s capital demanding swift actions to cope with the dust storm that is currently crippling the lives of the Ahwazi people.

Ahwazi protesters, donning face masks, angrily shouted critical slogans against the lack of appropriate actions than those expected to be taken by local authorities to alleviate the suffering of the Ahwazi people as a result of the persistence of the dust storms.

The Iranian occupation security forces, by taking tight precautionary measures, scattered and arrested key protesters in yesterday’s demonstration.

The occupying security forces, in efforts to quell the public anger of Ahwazi Arab protesters, have tactically and brutally beaten up and handcuffed a group of Arab protesters who played important roles in organizing the peaceful protest.

The aggressive operations of police security forces in dealing with the protest resulted in the arrest of dozens of key activists and organizers who were kicked and punched savagely and taken to an unknown place by the occupying forces. The security forces the put up massive barricades to prevent protesters from advancing to other locations.

The mass arrests were carried out immediately, just thirty minutes from the start of the protest while protesters raised banners and began chanting slogans condemning the criminal policies of the occupation government. The occupying authorities, to clamp down on the protests, deployed significant anti-riot squad forces to battle the Ahwazi Arab activists who called people to take part in this protest through social Media.

Since early February, the Ahwazi people’s lives have been gravely disrupted due to the lingering intensive dust storms causing breathing disorders. Asthmatic attacks have become very problematic and prevalent among the people.

The protesters, by holding up numerous placards, placed the entire responsibility of the environmental disaster in Al-Ahwaz on the occupying Iranian central government’s policies in constructing excessive dams on Ahwazi Rivers diverting the course of the water of the rivers to the central plateau of Iran.

According to reports and studies led by Ahwazi medical research centers, Al-Ahwaz has become one of the most dangerous regions in terms of air and water pollution. As the annual review of the medical centers indicates, annually more than 22,000 Ahwazi citizens were admitted to hospitals and clinics due to diseases linked to inhaling polluted air or drinking contaminated water.

Through the protest which included adults and children, people  expressed their outrage  at the negligence and the aggressive policies of occupying Persian authorities as they raised banners that read “we have right to breathe clean air”, “you have stolen Oil, Gas, and water and left the dust for us”.

The World Health Organization since 2011 has repeatedly rated Al-Ahwaz as the world’s most polluted region. Not surprisingly, cancer and respiratory illnesses are on the rise among desperate poor Ahwazi Arab people. Annually, nearly 2000 people in the Al-Ahwaz area are diagnosed with cancer. A number is likely to increase by 90% by 2020, according to cancer research in Ahwazi medical centers. The WHO says Ahwaz has the highest measured level of airborne particles small enough to cause serious health problems for humans.

Despite the severe degradation of Ahwaz’s climate, the Iranian government has done nothing to effectively counter the spreading desertification that is encroaching on the most Ahwazi fertile agricultural lands, transforming them into arid and barren lands as a consequence of lack of water where the water of Ahwazi Rivers due to the diversion into Persian regions.

Several of participants in the rally expressed their resentment of what they described as shameful disregard and deliberate neglect by the Occupation state of Iran toward the lives of Ahwazi citizens as the occupying authorities only visit Ahwaz without providing any tangible solutions to combat the environmental and health disasters that are ravaging the lives of millions of Ahwazi citizens.

Ahwazi officials continuously stated that the level of dust particles in the Ahwazi atmosphere has seen no signs of improvement and exceeds the acceptable level by 66 times.

The Ahwazi protesters placed the responsibility for the devastating consequences of air pollution that pummel embattled Ahwazi citizens on the Iranian occupying government and blamed the Occupation’s pernicious policies at all levels in Al-Ahwaz.

The protesters, by chanting fiery slogans have slammed the government authorities for being irresponsible, indifferent as nothing can justify the inactions of the authorities. The protesters reiterated to continue their protest until the authorities take the necessary and essential procedures to tackle this adverse problem is crippling the lives of Ahwazis as the dense dust storm has reduced the visibility to less than 150 meters during the day.

The protests continued and escalated in recent days as residents gathered several times in front of the governorate in the Ahwaz capital as an expression of objection and discontentment regarding their neglected fundamental rights.

The residents have shown their anger and intolerance of the continued racial oppression and the systematic discrimination that has been practiced against them for decades at the hands of occupying officials and demanded comprehensive and rapid solutions to address the catastrophe of the dust storms have been sweeping through the entire Ahwazi cities for two weeks.

No report has been released on the number of Ahwazis who were admitted to hospitals or clinics after being affected by the dust storm. However, many reports with pictures by Ahwazi activists have been circulated via social Medias showing the massive numbers of Ahwazi Arab people who have been hospitalized in the medical centers in several Ahwazis cities due to the dust storm.

It is crucial to mention that the United Nations Environmental program (UNEP) said the dust storm in Al-Ahwaz is mainly originating from the dried wetland of Hur-Al-Azim in the west of Ahwaz. UNEP has already warned Iran about the catastrophic consequences of the dryness of the Hur-Al-Azim wetland.  

wetland 2During the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) a large part of Al-Azim wetland was destroyed and the remaining part of it was devastated completely with prospecting and drilling of the Azadegan oilfield project, as well as the construction of the Karkheh Dam, which brought about the desertification of the wetland which was regarded as the only economic source of the local Ahwazi people, forcing the majority of them to migrate to surrounding cities.

The area of Al-Azim in Al-Ahwaz measures about 3,500 square kilometers but it has been totally dried out by the Iranian oil companies.

In recent years, dust storms have jeopardized the Ahwazi people’s health as the level of dust particles ultimately had reached 2,335 micrograms per cubic meter in the February of 2015.  The dust storm phenomenon in Al-Ahwaz led to numerous respiratory problems, asthmatic attacks, and even surge in various cancerous and chronic diseases.

The plundering policies of Iranian occupiers led to the dryness Al-Azim and Howeyzeh wetlands, the most extensive wetlands in Middle East.  The destruction of the wetlands has driven massive population of inhabitants to abandon their lands and migrate to cities. All of these factors combined have caused the majority of them to face homelessness and destitution as they are living in ghettos under the worst economic pressures.

Additional information
Ahwaz is occupied Arab land that is located in the South- West and South of Iran. The name of Al-Ahwaz has changed to Khuzestan, Bushehr and Hormozgan in 1935 after invading the Emirate of Al-Ahwaz in 1925. The Iranian regimes of Pahlavi and Islamic republic deployed different ways to suppress Ahwazi voices.

dust 3

WRITTEN BY Rahim Hamid From the AlAhwazi Organization of Human Rights
Thousands of Ahwazis on the 10th 11th and 12th of February took part in massive organized rallies outside the governor’s building in the Ahwaz capital.

The protests were an attempt to express the deep discontentment of the Ahwazi people with Iran’s occupying policies that intentionally target the environment and the water resources in Al-Ahwaz. The plans for stealing the water of the rivers and dehydrating the wetlands have resulted in severe damage and destruction of Ahwaz’s climate and the emergence of toxic dust storms.

The dust storms have been disturbing the lives of Ahwazi citizens and their persistence is triggering fatal respiratory disorders that more likely will develop into cancerous diseases.

Two weeks ago the dust storm caused thousands of Ahwazi citizens, especially the elderly and children, to enter hospitals and clinics after having suffered from suffocation and shortness of breath due to inhaling air containing a high quantity of dust particles.

dust 4Dust storms have hit Ahwaz for several days, but the local officials proved to be irresponsible. They have taken no action to avert this environmental disaster that threatens human life and the habitat, putting at risk all the persons, animals and plants that live on the land of Al-Ahwaz. The extent of the storms has also been so severe that public and private institutions, such as schools and banks, have been undertaken a policy of temporary closure during the emergency.

The reason for the emergence of these toxic dust storms is the unnatural and extensive drying of the rivers and the marshes, as well as the ongoing construction of dams on the rivers of Ahwaz.

Additionally, there is the policy of diverting of the water of the Karoon and Karkheh Rivers to Iranian territories in order to revive the agriculture sector of the Persian provinces, particularly Isfahan and Semnan, and to supply some other Persian cities with the water; a policy that has been undertaken by the successive Iranian central governments.

According to Ahwazi human rights activists, the joint Iranian-Chinese oil prospecting activities in Ahwazi cities such as Al-Howeyzeh, Albseytin have severely polluted the land, the water of the rivers and the ecology of these regions.

Pollution has been further exasperated by the fact that the prospecting oil plans have been conducted with the use of internationally prohibited and severely detrimental toxic materials.

dust2As a result of this flagrant abuse of the environment of Al-Ahwaz, medical examinations of Ahwazi citizens undertaken after the downpour of acid toxic rain in Ahwaz revealed high incidence of toxic poisonings due to the toxic materials used in oil prospecting.

While the Iranian occupying central government continues plundering the natural resources of Al-Ahwaz, it is still employing demagogic propaganda and publicizing misleading facts where they claim that the sand storms which are plaguing the Ahwazi regions have an external origin and for this they are blaming the neighboring countries.

The Ahwazi Arab inhabitants who are living next to marshes and wetlands such as Hor-Al-Azim (which has been dried up by the Iranian oil companies) have repeatedly released films and videos that clearly show the horrific rise of sand storms from the dried wetlands.

The film below was made at the dried wetland of Hor-Al-Azim. It is compelling evidence corroborating that the source of such destructive sand storms is internal and it is the product of the colonial projects of the Occupation state of Iran.

The dust storms have caused death in other ways. They are so thick and visibility is reduced to only 5 meters, bringing about prohibitive road conditions. A tragic car accident took place on the highway between Ahwaz and Toster City involving a truck and five cars. At least twelve persons were killed in this collision, with dozens of others injured on the highway due to visibility accidents.

In recent days, the Ahwazi Arab people who have had enough of Iranian oppression, have been participating in protests in all the Ahwazi cities. They are denouncing the policy of the Iranian authorities in drying up the Ahwazi wetlands and marshes and they claim that the area of this devastation exceeds more than one and a half million hectares.

dust 5The desertification and dryness of such a vast area has led to the emergence of the deadly sandstorms that have claimed the lives of hundreds of Ahwazi Arab people. The Iranian authorities have not so far released transparent statistics with the number of deaths and people with respiratory disease and renal cancer in Al-Ahwaz. Such dust storms have been adopted as a deadly weapon for massacring the entire Ahwazi Arab people.

Original in Arabic

ahwaz map 1

la comune 2From La Comune, a “Humanist Socialist” organisation in Italy that has always been side by side with us in the struggle for Syrian Freedom.  WRITTEN BY RENATO SCAROLA, Translated by Mary Rizzo

We are happy that Greta and Vanessa are alive and free. We are disgusted by the comments and by the articles that are vulgar and chauvinist, cynical and with evident instrumental manipulation of the truth that has followed their liberation Greta and Vanessa are being attacked as women and as persons who are in solidarity with a population caught between the vice grip of the Assad dictatorship and the Neo-Nazis of ISIS. The former Fascist Gasparri has distinguished himself in this flood of cynical sexist vulgarity.  Moreover, manipulating the truth, it has been insinuated that Greta and Vanessa have had ambiguous contacts with sectors connected to al Qaeda, that is, by those who had kept them imprisoned as hostages for months. From what the young women have declared and from what we know, their commitment and aid is devoted to the Syrian population and is against both the dictatorship of Assad as well as that of al Qaeda and the Neo-Nazis of ISIS. Analogously, put under accusation is also Yasser, an exponent of the Syrian Arab Community in Italy (and friend of Greta and Vanessa) of Bologna and of the Committee of Solidarity with the Syrian Karama population, a person who has signed the appeal that La Comune has promoted for a day of national action in solidarity with the Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian populations against the Neo-Nazis of ISIS.

We denounce these cynical and ignoble attacks and we express our solidarity to Greta, Vanessa and Yasser, which for us cannot be renounced as a necessary part of the support alongside the Kurdish, Syrian and Iraqi populations in the people’s resistance to the Neo-Nazis of ISIS and dictators like Al Assad.
Original: http://www.lacomuneonline.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=973%3Agreta-e-vanessa-solidarieta&lang=it

ahwaz 1 19Prepared and presented by: Committee for research and studies in The Arab Movement for the Liberation of Al-Ahwaz   

The security and municipal agents in Ahwaz raided a home belonging to an Ahwazi extended family, throwing their furniture out onto the street and trashing their personal belongings. This barbaric act happened on Sunday morning, 18 January.

Eyewitnesses were quoted as saying the residents of the home were screaming in the attempt to protect their property that they had lived in for 26 years, but the regime’s agents did not care and continued to destroy their property.  Two women and an old man who were standing there were brutally beaten and sustained injuries.

The occupying security forces, escorted by bulldozers belonged to the municipality of District 6 in Ahwaz city raided Zafaraniyah neighborhood and wiped out the home of the Ahwazi Arab family.

The Persian Occupation forces, by demolishing the home of the Ahwazi citizen in the Zafaraniyah neighborhood provoked fierce indignation among local people.

Violent clashes broke out in between the Occupation forces and the citizens in response to the wanton aggressive action, which outraged the local people.  The resistance of the local people to foil the security forces from destroying the home was in vain, and the house was razed to the ground. In reprisal, the bulldozer driver, who demolished the home, was shot dead by the local people, eyewitnesses quoted.

ahwaz 2 19The Zafaraniyah neighborhood is one of the most densely populated areas in the Ahwaz capital, and its Arab residents are suffering from marginalization and deliberate negligence policies by Occupation authorities.

It is worth mentioning that the bulldozer driver, who was killed, is an Ahwazi Arab citizen who was used as a human shield to carry out the brutal action.

The institutions and departments of the occupation usually deploy Ahwazi citizens to commit such criminal acts taking advantage of their extreme economic weakness as the majority of Ahwazis suffer poverty because of marginalization and discrimination policies.

The family of the victim bulldozer driver, after hearing the news of their son’s death had attacked the mayor of the District 6.They blamed the municipal department, placing the entire responsibility on the head of the municipality for their son’s death.

In recent months, the Iranian regime has brutally demolished and confiscated many of the Ahwazi Arab homes almost under the pretext of building without a permit, as roughly 70 percent of Ahwazi applications for the building permit are rejected.

According to Ahwazna sources, on Tuesday, 23 September 2014, the Iranian regime security forces who were escorting a bulldozer raided a home in one of the Ahwazi villages the day before and ordered the home residents to collect their things, and get out immediately because their home must be demolished. But the occupying forces met with stiff resistance from a group of Ahwazi Arab women who bravely formed a human chain around the home and refused to evacuate as well as some of them laying down in front of the bulldozer to prevent it from demolishing their home as of one women was crying and screaming saying to the security forces that “you are going to demolish my home over my dead body”, “I have five children, where else have I to go?”.

Watch the video: 

On Monday, October27, 2014, Iranian occupying forces once again brutally invaded Ahwazi Arab houses in the poorest slums in various parts of Ahwaz capital.

According to eyewitnesses, the military operation which was launched in the early morning without any prior warning to the Ahwazi Arab residents left more than 45 Ahwazi houses completely ravaged and destroyed and over 78 others were severely damaged.

The operation which has been reinforced with intensive military vehicles, including 5 bulldozers, has savagely terrified the innocent and defenseless Ahwazi Arab residents including children, women, the elderly and handicapped people by constant  arbitrary shooting in the air as a message for  the Ahwazi civilians to get out of their houses and giving them only 20 minutes to evacuate their property  as their house must be  destroyed as usual under the pretext of so-called illegal construction and lack of legal building permit.

The occupying bulldozers have also demolished the electricity piles, telephone towers, branch roads and streets of the densely residential areas of the Ahwazi civilians.

This military operation by the Iranian occupying regime left 45 homes demolished with 350 homeless and the homes and property of over 78 families (500) were seriously damaged.

The silence of the international community toward violations of humanitarian rights in Al-Ahwaz serves to encourage the Iranian occupying forces to intensify such oppression and violation against the Ahwazi Arab people.

An unbearable condition of life has been imposed on the entire Ahwazi Arab population by the Iranian regime. It is incredible that in an age of human rights, such atrocities can continue to rage for more than 9 decades and that there are people in nations who undermine and underestimate such inhumanity.

Poverty, expulsion, killing, substance addiction, land, home and property confiscation and many countless crimes are perpetrated by the Iran regime. Where are those human rights activists who proclaim advocating human rights and why haven’t they opened their eyes toward the Ahwazi Arabs’ suffering?

In the early hours of Sunday morning 17/11/2014,  the Iranian occupation forces demolished the homes of Ahwazi Arabs in Om-Al Ghezlan district (Koye Farhangian), the angry residents,  in a natural reaction, clashed with the invading forces.

In response to the brutal actions of the occupation forces who invaded the district to destroy the Ahwazi Arab homes, men and women desperately resorted to throwing stones during the clashes with the invading forces.

According to eye witnesses, in the early hours of the day, the Ahwazi Arab stone throwers defended their homes by burning tires in front of the occupying bulldozers and managed to deter the invading operation for short time.

The invading forces, after having faced down the resistance from the Ahwazi homeowners, have decided to deploy more forces which resulted in the arrest of many people  with bulldozing of around 20 homes along with ruining the property of Arab people, giving them no chance to save their possessions.

The Ahwazi Arab residents filmed and photographed the criminal operation of the destruction of their own homes, calling on the world conscience to condemn and to speak out against the atrocious policies of the Iranian occupying forces in the Ahwazi territories.

In recent months, the occupation forces have significantly intensified the home demolition operations and seizure of property in most of the Ahwazi Arab residential districts. The demolition of homes is always been carried out under the pretext of the owner not having a legal permit for construction.

The local people reported that their children are suffering from stress-related night-time bed-wetting and sudden epilepsy due to the trauma and terror they have had received during the home destruction operations.  The security forces were intimidating the Ahwazi Arab women and children by pointing guns at them during the demolition of homes.

Such brutal and unjustified policies are consistently conducted with forced displacement and migration of the Ahwazi Arab people who are extremely punished due to subjection to the outrageous ethnic cleansing policies of the Iranian occupying regime.

In parallel with the demolition of the Ahwazi homes and confiscating of properties, the occupation government is encouraging Persian settlers to reside in Ahwaz, providing them with full facilities, housing units and job opportunities as incentives to settle them there.

Written by Mariano Manuel Bartiromo for Osservatorio Italo-Siriano, translated by Mary Rizzo

There was a time when it was normal to feel the fear and worry for those in danger. Welcome to an age when normality is to attack the victims relentlessly, to bind them tightly so that you can hit them and enjoy a perverse pleasure in watching the terror in their eyes. Welcome to the age where selfishness, greed, envy and frustration are now so entrenched that what frightens society is no longer disease or war, but it is love.

vane-greta1 (1)

The “other” who terrorises you for being different from you is branded as crazy and exposed to ridicule and abuse

Dear Vanessa, I have shared this space with you (the blog of the Osservatorio Italo-Siriano) and now I shudder at the thought of writing “about” you.

Your articles, indeed, as you always called them, “stuff I write,” – because you did not want to call yourself a journalist – are here, but none of the journalists – because they instead cling dearly to their title – who have taken advantage of you and Greta so that they could have a scoop in the form of a sideshow and vent their lust for popularity and fame, has taken the trouble to read them.

It would have been enough to read just three lines to understand who you are, your love, your courage, your ideas that have come to become your life, because you have not taken time from your life, because your life is in giving to others. But two girls who leave everything just because they cannot live knowing that in one part of the world there are people dying of hunger and bombs, they simply can’t accept something like that. It is ‘unimaginable in the realm of business and the stock market, of ambition and self-aggrandisement, reality TV and discos.

Those who are not part of the system feel repulsion by the system. Love is not tolerated. We are so used to competing and being suspicious, that when we see selflessness, we simply cannot believe it’s true.

Minister Gentiloni with Greta and Vanessa, on their arrival at Ciampino airport. Photo Percossi © ANSA PHOTOS

Minister Gentiloni with Greta and Vanessa, on their arrival at Ciampino airport. Photo Percossi © ANSA PHOTOS

Italy has become a luminary of the culture of hidden agendas.

“Have the courage to sign a surety to the families of the two idiots to pay the ransom”; “Demented girls. Make them pay!”; “A nice excuse to finance the jihadists”; “Leave them there, those two cretin girls”; “They went to take selfies with the rebels”; “Surely they have some screw loose”, “Samaritans who love the Kalashnikov”; “Leave them there, they went there so they could bring peace and found eternal peace, what the hell have they got to complain about?”; “Leave them where they are, please”; “I wonder whether it is reasonable that all Italians somehow must pay to repatriate these two demented fanatics”; “But enough of these two stupid girls, who are taking us for a ride. Leave them to their fate, that is what they want”; “They are infiltrates to support the terrorists.”

It goes on and on. Comments are scattered here and there all over the web, from the more refined pseudo-political manipulation to the most vulgar outburst from like stadium chants from hoodlums who hide behind nicknames and photo of cartoon characters.

The most squalid Italy, the Italy that from the fullness of their rounded bellies sets up kangaroo courts in the bored refinement  of their “gentlemen’s clubs”, is no  longer able to remember what humanity is: it judges, decides and condemns, then, satisfied, goes back to its alluring pastimes by clicking on another site.

The Syrian uprising began as a spontaneous motion of protest against a dictator, a butcher, a murderer, because the continuous massacres of Assad, sometimes condemned by the too tolerant international community, have made it easy for jihadist infiltration. The “laissez-faire” attitude has stifled the revolution and made Syria a land of chaos that is a perfect stage for terrorism.

You made the cause of an innocent, tortured people, bombed and children herded into mass graves your own. But this terrorises. It makes those who never would have this kind of courage uncomfortable. And they have respect for no one, not even for the families who have been anxiously suffering in worry for months.

No humanitarian corridor has ever been opened, international politics has not offered any mediation between the parties and the violence has continued, in an exponentially increasingly manner, to become the main protagonist in the general indifference.

I CARE

Yes, Vanessa, you’re crazy, a terrorist. Your love is terrifying. Altruism is terror. Sacrifice is terror. Despite not having your courage, we think like you.

We would like to see all dictatorships reversed: the Syrian, the Korean, the Chinese ones, that of Islamic fundamentalism that abuse the Koran and kills, those of African warlords. Even and especially the dictatorship of the market.

And if all this means being lunatics and fanatics, then we are. Insult us as well, because we are all terrorists.

Welcome back home girls!

Original http://blog.you-ng.it/2015/01/16/vanessa-greta-terrore-dellamore/

GAZA MS 1WRITTEN BY FIDA SHURRAB, PHOTOGRAPHS BY MOHAMMED HASSAN SHURRAB

Wars are always classified within historical eras with a start and end dates. However, do wars really have an end? Do wars end when bombings and strikes stop? Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, have witnessed three wars within six years, each war ended leaving a mass of destruction at all levels, and none of them has really ended. When the people in the Gaza Strip speak of the memories they have of the wars, all of a sudden, memories turn to be very alive scenes, as if the wars have taken a place in their hearts and souls.

Do we, in Gaza, overcome the trauma? Psychologists have to expand their theories in the post traumatic disorder interventions when it comes to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Living and surviving three wars is not an easy life story. Damages have occurred in our life system. In what way in the whole world can people get used to the sounds of bombs, because people in Gaza did? This needs to be brought to the attention of the whole world, the people in Gaza Strip lost their lives during the past three wars, they are alive but without souls, their humanity has been easily raped by the silence of the international world watching genocide taking place.

GAZA MS 2We gained nothing from wars! An old woman once said, as a survivor of three wars: “In the 2008 war, I lost my eyes, and in the 2014 war, I lost my home. Loss is all I’ve gained”. In wars, we harvest loss and pain. A child, 4 years old, keeps repeating: “Every time I go to sleep, I hear loud explosions, and I cover my face with a blanket to hide from the rockets. I am afraid of sleeping”. The war visits the people every night in their dreams. People, during the war, run under heavy shelling looking for a safe place, leaving their houses, people were displaced in the schools and the streets. Many of them lost their children when they were running. A young man, from Al Shejeaya, was holding his son in his hands while running looking for a shelter, when shrapnel hit his child, cutting him into pieces. This man has nothing to speak about except the moment of his biggest loss, he says: “Why live?! I lost my pregnant wife, and I could not protect my child, he died in my hands. All of my life was snatched away in a matter of seconds”.

We need to live without remembering the scenes of the massacres, we want to stop expecting wars at every second, is that a too much for a human being?

Having a tour of the massively destroyed neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip is not easy. The rubbles of thousands of houses are not only a pile of stones, those rubbles are huge amounts of stories, memories, dreams and hopes which all have been brutally scattered.

Meeting a mother who has lost a child in the war is like meeting a mountain dipped with anguish. All she can talk about is her child whom she lost, she does not speak of his/her death but rather of his/her life, hobbies, things they hated and things they loved, as if she denies the fact that she lost him/her forever; and telling her the truth is like committing a crime. Forgetting is impossible, but death has become a habit. Losing the souls of the beloved ones can take the lives of the survivors with them in the graves, this leads us to the fact that we are also buried in life.

GAZA MS3The war has done a hellish job in the Gaza Strip, the war did not end, people are still suffering its severe consequences, the only different thing is that the explosions have stopped; otherwise, the stories of pain and loss continue to be our antagonists in the Gaza Strip.

We Shall Not Forgive nor Forget!!!!

According to the UN reports:

  • 2,127 Palestinian citizens were killed during the 51 days of war. The number of deaths included 544 children and 302 women.
  • The number of wounded is 10,744, including 3,258 children and 2,089 women. About 3,000 wounded are expected to have lifelong disabilities.
  • About the Israeli attacks, the Israeli occupation carried out 60,664 attacks, including 8,210 airstrikes, 36,718 tank and artillery shells and 15,736 naval strikes.
  • The number of houses targeted by the occupation is 16,002, including 2,358 completely destroyed and 13,644 partially destroyed.

WRITTEN BY MARY RIZZO

What precisely is the USA doing regarding Syria? Has it changed its policy over the course of the years since the start of the protests in Syria in 2011? Are the events at the confines of Europe enough to bring a return of multilateralism in response to global crises or even a change in command? To answer the first two questions, it’s a good idea to understand what the USA has had as its goal regarding Syria. It would be too elementary to state simply that they are “looking after their own interests” and defining those interests only in two traditional compartments: control of energy and resources and management of Israel. The first compartment demands no explanation, the second is heavily tied in with maintaining the regional “instability” (not stability, as one might think) because as long as there is an illegal occupation that the USA traditionally supports economically and diplomatically, creating tensions internationally and allowing the USA and its allies to determine a military presence and accept that there is nuclear proliferation in the area, despite having themselves signed the NPT, they can continue to influence events and policies, thus making the control of energy and resources more successful.

everyone in power gets what they want.

everyone in power gets what they want.

However, it is not really either of those two issues that may be the driving interest of the USA regarding Syria. The USA, like any other country, naturally has to have an interest in order for them to do any kind of action, and refraining from an action while stating that actions could be taken is also an action. The USA has been very vocal regarding Syria and they have done specific actions since the start of the uprising, most of them, however, detrimental to Syrian people. The interest they have is to re-establish authority and influence with smaller countries within the new global situation where the relationship between the West and the East has changed. Oddly enough, this is the same problem that Russia has, left as it is without the clearly established balance of power and satellite states, and it seems that the arena for this to play out is Syria.

For a very long time some have attempted to deny that the Syrian people had ever risen up themselves. “Conspiracy buffs” as well as reactionary thinkers of every colour of the political spectrum, believed that it was not possible that civilians could continue to protest against their government even after the government reacted brutally to repress the protests, promising only more blood and destruction. Nor could these “thought leaders” or “vanguards of anti-imperialism” believe that there could be defections from the Syrian Army, where they formed a defensive army that later had the stated goal of overthrowing the government if the government would not step down. The government, naturally, had no intentions whatsoever to step down, and used the smokescreen of “sovereignty” in order to pursue its policy of using brutality to repress the protests and stay in power.

There are conditions both in international law and in what is established by customary international law where sovereignty is considered to be a lesser “right” than the right of protection of human life. In 1999, even without a UN mandate, customary international law permitted international intervention in Kosovo and it went under the journalistic name of “humanitarian war”, surprisingly, having as some of its supporters persons considered within the vanguard of humanitarianism such as Vaclav Havel who stated:

“I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Right on the heels of the moral and practical questions regarding the appropriateness and feasibility of “humanitarian intervention”, scorned by some humanitarians and endorsed by others, comes the other pressing issue concerning intervention, no less bitterly disputed by humanitarians, that of “regime change”. The Syrian people, when they took to the streets to protest, as is now understood by even the staunchest defender of Assad, were not demanding a regime change. They were making explicit demands for reforms and against corruption and what was widely regarded as a governmental policy where privileges, opportunities and development were handed out or withheld along sectarian lines. Those closest to the regime had less trouble advancing and the average citizen was excluded from progress or actually discriminated against on a daily basis according to his or her religious or ethnic belonging. It didn’t take long for the demand for reforms to turn into a demand for Assad to give up his power, because no longer was it considered as legitimate. Not only for the not-insignificant matter that he basically inherited the power, for the leadership of Syria, following the coup of Bashar al-Assad’s father, was simply autocratic rule of a family dynasty with the Ba’ath party providing a way for non-family members to obtain some power.

SAVING ASSADThe uprising had all the aspects of a revolution, including mass defections of the regular army into a people’s army with the goal of overthrowing the government in power. The problem, however, is: once the government goes, something else is going to have to come after it, and neither the US administration nor the apologists in the west who go under the code name of “anti-imperialists” were willing to see some kind of self-determination of the people, since they had not been either groomed for democracy nor were the ideologically prepared to set up a state that would cater to the agendas of the anti-imperialists.

Can a people who are demanding the end of an illegitimate government (and the government did not gain in legitimacy simply by staging sham elections) have conditions put on them externally as well as the internal violence used by them so that they cease and desist? Is any assistance given so that they obtain their goal deemed as intervention? We’ve seen how the anti-imperialists aren’t against foreign intervention, since they strongly support that of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah in favour of the upholding of the regime, but they simply do not want US intervention, because they have “interests and an agenda”. Seeming to wish to appease this faction, though not wanting to close off future options, The US Administration used a non-interventionist approach, hoping that Assad would simply leave, or that there could be a political solution, because he had to know, he was a very, very bad man and the USA was going to verbally condemn him for as long as it took! The records are full of scores of condemnations from the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of State, the Spokesman for the White House and the UN representative. Obama has gone on record with a powerful statement of condemnation in February 2012, following the Homs Massacre:

“I strongly condemn the Syrian government’s unspeakable assault against the people of Homs, and I offer my deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones.  Assad must halt his campaign of killing and crimes against his own people now.  He must step aside and allow a democratic transition to proceed immediately. Thirty years after his father massacred tens of thousands of innocent Syrian men, women, and children in Hama, Bashar al-Assad has demonstrated a similar disdain for human life and dignity. Yesterday, the Syrian government murdered hundreds of Syrian citizens, including women and children, in Homs through shelling and other indiscriminate violence, and Syrian forces continue to prevent hundreds of injured civilians from seeking medical help.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still thought there was a diplomatic solution to get Assad to step down, or simply “goes”, as she had said at the heels of the Hama Massacre in June 2012.

 “We’re disgusted by what we see happening. The regime-sponsored violence that we witnessed again in Hama yesterday is simply unconscionable,” she said. “Assad has doubled down on his brutality and duplicity, and Syria will not, cannot be peaceful, stable or democratic until Assad goes.”

Then a year and a half later, when the more crude massacres were being replaced by a seemingly endless, and still ongoing, campaign of barrel bombing on civilian areas outside of regime control, the White House continued to condemn the regime. Press secretary Jay Carney said:

“The United States condemns the ongoing air assault by Syrian government forces on civilians, including the indiscriminate use of SCUD missiles and barrel bombs in and around Aleppo over the last week.” Yet, he still believed that in spite of the policy of repeated air raids using SCUD missiles against civilians, he called on all parties in the Syrian conflict to “reach a comprehensive and durable political solution to end the crisis in Syria.”

Yeah, that usually works.

To not seem like they were just good at words but short on deeds, the US also supplied some forms of military aid and training. To a very select few, almost never providing them with what they asked for according to their needs, and absolutely not anything that might involve direct intervention or even the request for a No Fly Zone, a demilitarised zone in the sky that perhaps could not be properly enforced, but at least points in the right direction at the ending of aerial attacks. This aid had the characteristic of being just enough assistance to keep some pressure on Assad, but not enough assistance to remove him. Apparently, the US strategy is to wait for Assad to “step aside”, “go” or even be one of the parties to “reach a solution”. The way things are going the only Assad solution looks a lot like the final solution.

Is there still any doubt that the longer this regime stays in place, the worse things will be?

RED LINECould that truly abhorrent policy of “the worse things are, the better they are” be the endgame in the plans of the US? Is their current intervention – one that leaves Assad unharmed, allows his army to concentrate on fighting the “rebels” while others fight it out in the areas where the risks of loss of crucial air power are greater, allowing Assad to be constantly armed by Russia – a deliberate policy? The morphing into a War on Terrorism has become the excuse to intervene selectively while allowing the regime to remain in power. Despite the focus of the US solely on ISIS, it is clear that the only way to save whatever remains of Syria and stop the suffering of the Syrian people is to remove the regime by any means possible in the shortest time possible. To leave the regime in place is to allow a murderous dictator to continue his policy of mass destruction of the assets of the nation and genocide of the population. Therefore, the US solution is not a solution and it can’t be accepted. Stopping a dictator of this sort is one of the reasons that international law is granted legitimacy to intervene, taking precedence over any reasons of sovereignty, which have been violated at any rate by the Russian and Iranian contributions since the very beginning of the war.

There is and has been more than enough evidence, directly presented to the USA administration as well as available to the international community and even to private citizens to verify for themselves and that prove without the slightest doubt that the regime has engaged in actions within its own territory that are in violation of human rights. There is clear evidence that the regime is the perpetrator of massacres, including those deemed even more serious than massacres with conventional weapons because they involved use of weapons of mass destruction (chemical weapons). The western apologists repeated the regime line at first, denying that the regime even had any such things and that the massacres of civilians in opposition areas was work of the opposition itself so that they could frame Assad with crimes he did not commit, but Bashar al-Assad himself threw them all for a loop, finally making an “executive decision” to save his skin. He debunked many of these feckless supporters by agreeing to “surrender the chemical stockpiles” to an international body so that they could be destroyed as part of the reassuring deal that the US would refrain from military intervention as a result of the regime turning over its enormous stock of WMDs, including of course, the very Sarin gas that the Assad supporters claimed did not exist.

Where the USA was willing to appease and be appeased, assured that if they intervened, it would never be enough to change the game, or upset their “rival” Russia, and surely not have the aim of regime change, the European Council, in its Foreign Affairs meeting press release stated:

“Non-inclusive policies in Iraq, and instability in Syria caused by the Assad regime’s brutal war against its own people, massive human rights violations and systematic obstruction against democratic reforms, have allowed ISIL /Da’esh to flourish. As a consequence of its policies and actions, the Assad regime cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL /Da’esh.”

And further:

“The EU is seriously concerned about the humanitarian and security situation in Syria and Iraq and condemns unreservedly the attacks, atrocities, killings and abuses of human rights perpetrated by ISIL / Da’esh and other terrorist groups in both countries as well as by the Assad regime in Syria. The EU is determined to contribute to the international endeavour to defeat those terrorist groups. A Syrian led political transition and inclusive political governance in Iraq are crucial to sustainable peace and stability in the region.”

The question comes naturally, has the USA unequivocally condemned the Assad regime in such clear terms, even attributing to his regime “allowing ISIL/Da’esh to flourish”? The answer is, “No”.

The US is aware that the EU collectively does not possess its own army to enforce the military policies that might derive from Foreign Affairs directives. It does not have the unified military might to actually “contribute” to defeating terrorist groups, though, differently from the “Coalition intervention”, the EU has officially rejected having Assad as a partner in defeating them. In fact, it implicates that the transition to follow the war will be Syrian in Syria and Iraqi in Iraq. It envisions victory in the “war on terror”, but it also rejects what is so far the Russian paradigm of support of the regime and the US one of tolerance of it. The US however, isn’t that concerned about what the EU will or will not do or want, because while they prefer multilateralism, if their allies don’t have the same plans, the US will carry on without any problems in unilateralism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Tensions are increasing in the Eastern European countries that see the return of Russian expansionism.

Now that Russia has also returned to its tendencies of expansionism, States under its influence and economically tied to it are undergoing dramatic events so as to get closer to Europe. This increased tension in the area, the blurred line between West and East, is going to contribute to just how far Russia is willing to go for broke with its own interests. Is Russia powerful enough and interested enough to face down both the US and the EU in a power battle that is playing out in Syria and the Ukraine? The veto power in the Security Council only goes so far, at the end of the day, wars are fought on the battlefield. The US is willing to flex its muscles, but not upset the balance too much. The EU would be in a unique position of bringing the war to a quicker end if they are serious and not just using the “condemning” in the traditional way, but they would need to enlist individual armies in the effort, something that is highly unlikely. The vast military spending each nation has, while paling in comparison to other countries, still has provided most of Europe with the most advanced systems on the market. Many of the air forces in Europe are equipped not only with a substantial amount of extremely costly F35s of dubious quality, but also with scores of Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoons and other advanced fighter planes. These aircraft must have been placed into the budgets of these nations not only to decorate the hangars and give pilots something to practice on. It would be feasible for several air forces alone to enforce a No Fly Zone if there is political will to do so. There already is more than enough legal justification for such action. So not acting militarily, even taking into account the difficulty of such a thing, seems to be a matter of choice. All of that will turn what was a revolution indeed into a proxy war, at the expense of the Syrian people. There are better choices to be made, and they have to be made before it is too late. If the US is unwilling to do what is necessary to stop a genocide, Europe should take the lead in international affairs. Not only will it help save Syria and its people, but it will establish multilateralism, which itself is a requirement for self-determination in post war transitional periods.

Italy's major newspaper headline claiming mass crucifixion of Christians and the tears of the Pope over this, with full size colour picture. But it's not what they claim...

Italy’s major newspaper headline claiming mass crucifixion of Christians and the tears of the Pope over this, with full size colour picture. But it’s not what they claim…

BY THE EDITORS OF SIRIALIBANO, translated and integrated with hyperlink exerpt translations by Mary Rizzo

They were not Christians, they were Muslims. They were not killed by means of crucifixion, but their already lifeless bodies were exhibited in that barbarian manner.  The crime is ghastly, no matter what religious denomination the victims belong to.  And yet it “news” of “Christians crucified in Syria” went viral in the western media, in particular in the major Italian news media.

The two major Italian newspapers Il Corriere della Sera (above) and La Repubblica (below) dedicated a great amount of space to it, bring attention to the “news” on the first page accompanied by photographs of “a man crucified in Maalula”, the small Christian small town near Damascus.

To push the directors and the heads writers towards a similar editorial choice has no doubt been the statement of Pope Francis in the official Vatican site:   “I cried when i saw the news“.

The Holy Father said, “I cried when I saw on the mass media the news of Christians being crucified in a certain non-Christian nation. Even today,” he stressed, “there are people who, in the name of God, kill and persecute. And even today we see that like the apostles they are happy to have been considered to have been worthy to undergo suffering for the name of Jesus. This is the third icon of today. The joy of the testimony.”

As you know, the assertions of the Pope are always newsworthy. And a crucified Christian in a Country infested from by al Qaida is too tasty a morsel to not take full advantage of.

The fake news did not appear only for on the pro-Assad websites, the usual Islamophobic ones or the reactionary and “anti-imperialist” (but only in one direction) sites “of the left”, but in Italy’s most important mainstream newspapers. And then it  to numerous other media outlets on radio, television and online.

Those who believe in conspiracies would even be led to think that it is a pro-Assad campaign in time to legitimise his election farce on 3 June.   It’s not quite like that.  So the question remains, “Why?”.  Is it only a matter of ignorance in good faith, then? Is it only bad journalism, incapable of verifying the information and the sources?

The facts: among the seven people killed in Raqqa there were no Christians, were all Muslims and in fact two of the crucified persons seemed to be supporters or fighters belonging to other rebel factions, the accusation against them was to have thrown some explosive devices and to have tried to kill some leaders of the al Qaeda group The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

To Raqqa, a town on the Euphrates controlled by ISIS, there is underway by the general population a resistance that is trying to oppose the imposition of what the al Qaedists call Islamic law. ISIS itself, accused by various sources to be highly infiltrated by foreign secret services as well as those of the regime of Damascus, has been active since the beginning of the year in daily clashes with the other rebel groups reunited under different names (Syrian Free Army, Islamic Front, Jabhat al Nusra, etc…), defined as takfiri and therefore, wicked.

Italy's second largest newspaper highlights the "crucifixions" and again, the tears of the Pope.

Italy’s second largest newspaper highlights the “crucifixions” and again, the tears of the Pope.

None of this matters. Any “news” that can present president Bashar al Assad to us as if he is the saviour of the nation (“it’s either him or al Qaida) is good enough and is going to be considered as authentic. In this sense, a Catholic site defined the killers of Raqqa as “anti-Assad militants”, attributing others as being engaged in disinformation: “In vain you will find in the Italian newspapers articles on the terrible event: some line or two buried in some article, nothing more. It is that in this war the needs of propaganda hinder the accounting of the crimes of the anti-Assad rebels, while emphasised, if not actually invented, are those of Assad…”

The same site citing another source goes as far as to even give a name to tone of the deceased: the Christian Antoine Hanna, a name that one sees over and over in this story.

But on the Jihadist forums of ISIS and in various tweets by ISIS fighters, it is possible to read the reply of these people to the tears of the Pope for the crucified Christians:  “Dear Pope Francis, the people of Raqqa were not crucified because they are Christians but for the application of the Koranic verse 5:33″. The sura in question recites: Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land…”. This was done according to the strict application – according to ISIS – of the sharia, the Islamic law.

If the application of the sharia by ISIS e dell’ Isis was truly consistent with the literal Koranic text, the “infidels” must not be punished as such since in verse 2:62 it is in fact is written: “Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve.” Already in the month of March, ISIS had killed and then bound a man to a wooden cross, with the accusation of having robbed and then killed another Muslim.

But let’s go back to “Antoine Hanna”. The news is that “a person was killed and then bound to a cross in the village of Meskene”, in the countryside of Aleppo. Strange: various Christian sources of Aleppo questioned in these days remember that in the countryside of the northern Syrian metropolis there have never been Christians.

None of this matters. The pro-Assad sites headline:  “A Syrian named Antoine Hanna in the rural zone of the town of Aleppo, was killed before the eyes of his children with the accusation of blasphemy. He refused to renounce his religion and they crucified him.” Or: “Young Christian named Antoine Hanna, crucified by the takfiri terrorists sponsored by the United States and the West, in the Maskana area… accused of anti-religious sentiment.”

This time the news had not yet been picked up by the Catholic sites.  We hope they don’t do it because the presumed Christian killed in Meskene has – coincidentally – the same name and surname of the presumed Christian killed in Raqqa. Evidently, this time the disinformation machine has a hitch.  See the ISIS press release on the crime committed in Meskene.

The photograph of the crucified man in Meskene appeared for the first time in a tweet by Dylan@ProSyriana, apparently a Syrian Christian supporter of President Assad, with the following wording: “one of three killed and crucified in Meskene (Aleppo) after having been accused of being an infidel by the rebels”.

There are no references to the fact that the man was Christian, perhaps what led to confusion in the Italian Assad supporters was the word “infidel”, which however is used by ISIS also towards other Muslim rebels, those they consider takfiri and infidels.

A source present in Meskene just contacted confirmed that the murder happened in the locality of Aneza, but denies that it involved a Christian. He insists that he was a native of Akraba, near Sfera; a refugee of Meskene is said to have recognised him as the person who manned the checkpoints of Khanaser, therefore he was a soldier or a person that worked for the regime. It is said that he was crucified by ISIS to frighten the rebel fighters stationed in the zone of Meskene so as to induce them to leave the area.

The story of the Christians persecuted in the Arabic East during wartime has been a constant throughout history by those who seek to maintain the control of the area  – political, economic but also cultural – serving to entrust the keys of power to the ruling regime.  It is not therefore anything new.

The perseverance of the Italian pro-Assad sites on this theme is noteworthy.  On these platforms the fake news spreads, as well as fake photographs that are passed off as the truth. One of the most clamorous ones was a photograph of a group of veiled and chained women next to a bearded man with a sword.

According to what these sites were spreading, it was about women of Aleppo sold as by the Salafiti in the markets. Those who were even more precise described them as Shi’a women sold as slaves after they had been raped.  What a pity that the photograph dates back to 2007 and showed some Shi’a women immortalised in a representation of the (Shi’a) holiday of Ashura in the village of Nabatiyeh in Lebanon.

In September of 2013 the Catholic news agency Fides had been forced to deny that the news concerned the killing of 130 Christians in Aleppo: “The news of a massacre of 130 Christians in Aleppo is entirely false, said to have been carried out by groups of the Syrian opposition, as reported in the past days by the Lebanese mass media and some websites.”

A priest questioned by Fides noted: Such kind of news only serves to spread fear, particularly, it has the objective of starting a sectarian war. They would also want to persuade Christians to arm themselves, making the conflict assume a character that is even more sectarian, taking a dangerous turn, close to the war of Lebanon. Furthermore, they seem to prepare the terrain for a division of the Syrian territory itself on a factious and sectarian basis.  This goes against the history, the culture and the real face of Syrian society, which has always been characterised by pluralism and the variety of its forms, in co-existence.”

In the net of propaganda also was captured the news of “a woman stoned to death by fundamentalists in Raqqa”. Of the victim only the surname is known: al Jasim. However, the photograph a still from the film “The Stoning of Soraya” in which the Iranian actress Mozhan Marno undergoes lapidation.

Spread on a pro-Assad Catholic news site as "a child from Kassab", whatever the true and brutal story behind this picture, the setting is not in Syria but in Yemen.

Spread on a pro-Assad Catholic news site as “a child from Kassab”, whatever the true and brutal story behind this picture, the setting is not in Syria but in Yemen, according to several Yemenites who have commented that it is a well-known picture there.

More recently and the day after the attack of the Armenian village (therefore Christian) of Kassab northeast of Latakia by fundamentalist militiamen, in the web a photograph circulated with the caption, “A Christian child executed by rebels in Kassab”.

The image showed a child just a few months old with a woolen hat surrounded by men that were pointing old guns at him.  It was an old photograph that had nothing to do with Syria, but instead was in Yemen.  On some sites the caption of the photograph was the following: “This child was captured by the terrorists because he is a child of another religion, therefore an infidel child, but above all he is a child of a Syrian Pro government family.”  As if by miracle, this passed from a pro-Assad site to a Catholic news site and it was used as an example of the damage caused by the “Western-supported fundamentalists against Syria and the Syrians.”

For more of a year, Syrian activists who support the revolution but oppose ISIS have been denouncing its violations against the population, in the almost total silence of the media, of the pro-Assad sites and the Catholic sites that are very attentive to news regarding Christians or gruesome news stories, as if the constant bombardment of the regime’s aeroplanes on the civilian population wasn’t brutal enough.

Now the ISIS that is being fought against by the other rebels, becomes the paradigm to represent the revolution, therefore guarantor of the safety of the Christians can only be the regime. But as the priest interviewed by Agenzia Fides, “Such news Fides “Such kind of news only serves to spread fear, particularly, it has the objective of starting a sectarian war.”

ORIGINAL: http://www.sirialibano.com/short-news/quando-morire-i-cristiani.html