Iran’s Arabs report crackdown as tension simmers

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LONDON, May 3 (Reuters) – Fifteen year-old Ma’edeh Shabaninejad was arrested two months ago at her aunt’s house in the southern city of Ahvaz, where she was hiding after security forces raided her own home and confiscated her poems, her father said.

Sahid Shabaninejad said his daughter had told her mother in weekly calls she is allowed from jail that she had been accused of inciting violence through her poetry about Iran’s Arab minority.

“Resist, my homeland, there is not much left of you,” one of her verses said. “Soon you will hear in your sky the sound of smiles and liberation’s call.”

Arabs have long said they face discrimination in Iran, but two human rights groups say that hundreds of people have been arrested around Ahvaz in the last few weeks alone amid protests against water and power cuts, poverty and alienation.

Ahvaz is the regional capital of the ethnically diverse southwestern Khuzestan province, home to most of Iran’s Arabs.

When protests erupted nationwide in January against high prices and alleged corruption, clashes broke out between police and demonstrators in the southwest.

Sporadic demonstrations continued there after they died away elsewhere, with local Arabs voicing anger against what they say are barriers to fair employment and political rights in a region which accounts for 85 percent of Iran’s oil wealth.

Several released prisoners and detainees’ relatives told Reuters they had come under pressure from security forces, especially the Revolutionary Guards, not to publicise their detention.

Three released detainees told Reuters they had undergone routine beatings, threats and torture with electric shocks, including in one case, to the genitals.


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