In any democratic state, the relationship between government and citizens must have a moral compass that ensures the government will act in society’s best interest. As the famous philosopher Aristotle noted, “True forms of government will of necessity have just laws, and perverted forms of government will have unjust laws”. (Aristotle, Book V).
Iran is a leading example of an unjust state, characterised by the unjust laws and policies imposed by the corrupt regime. Stripping the citizens of their liberty, rights, and legal protections, as the ruling regime does, is the hallmark of an unjust totalitarian government. By inflicting terror on its citizens and adding racist persecution to its oppression of the peoples in the colonised regions within its territories, the regime rules through injustice and tyranny, with citizens who dare to stand up for freedom and human rights targeted for imprisonment, torture and often execution. For the Ahwazi Arab population, as for other national ethnic minorities, this relentless oppression is also accompanied by bigotry and persecution, with its people subjected to Orwellian surveillance and vicious brutality.
Amongst the countless examples of this state terror is the case of the brutal execution of two Ahwazi political prisoners in the Fajr prison in the city of Dazful at around dawn on Sunday, 04 August 2019, following months of torture during which both were forced into making false confessions.
The families of the two men, 38-year-old Abdullah Karamullah Ka,ab and 32-year-old Qassem Abdullah, were notified of their executions in brief phone calls shortly after they took place by regime officials who informed them that they could not obtain their loved ones’ bodies for burial or know where they had been buried. The families were also warned against holding any mourning ceremonies, with regime police reportedly arresting family members who defied these cruel proscriptions to hold funeral prayers for their deceased fathers and sons.
This is standard policy for regime officials, who apparently feel that bodies may provide evidence of the torture and abuse the victims have been subjected to, and funeral ceremonies may be used to condemn the regime over its victims’ deaths or to organise protests.
Despite intervention on the two prisoners’ behalf by Amnesty International, which urged the Iranian regime to spare the men’s lives and allow them access to lawyers and a fair trial, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on Saturday that the Supreme Court of the Islamic Public of Iran had upheld the court’s preliminary verdict sentencing the two men to death. The charges they were convicted on, none of which had any basis in fact, were:
posing a threat to Iran’s national security
corruption on earth
enmity to God
having ties with Ahwazi political movements overseas
forming a clandestine movement aimed at sabotaging and destabilising national security
Being a foreign agent
For Ahwazis, who view the regime itself as an occupying power since Iran first annexed their formerly autonomous emirate in 1925, the idea of being accused of being “foreign agents” in their own land by a regime seen as the leadership of a foreign colonising enemy power adds further insult to injury.
Similarly, the charge of “corruption on Earth” used by a regime whose corruption is endemic and all-pervasive at every level is viewed as a grotesquely bad joke. The Ahwazi people, whose lands were once bounteous, fertile and richly irrigated by a network of rivers that also provided generations of fishermen with a rich variety of fish sold across the region, take exception to being lectured on corruption by a regime that has plundered their mineral resources – Ahwaz is the source of over 95 per cent of the oil and gas resources claimed by Iran – and dammed and diverted their rivers, leaving their once-lush lands largely barren and heavily polluted.
In its statement condemning the death penalties issued against the two men, issued on 08 May 2019, Amnesty International indicated that the verdicts and sentences had followed a grossly unjust trial based on ‘confessions’ obtained under torture, with Amnesty accusing the regime of using electric shocks, mock executions and other forms of torture to force the men into the false confessions used to convict them.
Abdullah Karamullah Ka’ab was a married father of three young children, from the Shavur district of Susa city, while Ghassem Abdullah hailed from the village of Kaab Beit Allawi near Susa.
The two men were detained, along with six others, on 19 October 2015, in a series of raids and arrests by agents of the regime’s infamous Ministry of Intelligence, who initially imprisoned them in solitary confinement at one of the regime’s notorious black site prisons in an unknown location for six months; these ‘unofficial’ prisons, run and staffed by regime intelligence service agents, are interrogation centres used to subject detainees to physical and psychological torture. The regime does not acknowledge the existence of these facilities, with prisoners there held incommunicado, forbidden from contacting family or lawyers or even from letting anyone know of their whereabouts.
After six months, Abdullah and Qassem were transferred to another prison, where they were able to contact their families to notify them that they were still alive, as well as receiving one family visit each. After that, they were transferred to a couple of other jails between 2015 and 2019 before being moved to another detention facility run by the intelligence ministry in Hamadan province in central Iran in April 2019, where they were banned from having any contact with their families.
During his imprisonment, Abdullah told his family members that the regime’s interrogators had subjected him to brutal physical and psychological torture, including hanging him upside down by his legs and beating him, and subjecting him to false executions, telling him that they would bury him in an unmarked grave in a “graveyard which has no signposts.”
For three days, he told his family, the regime interrogators had woken him up by putting a sack over his head as though they were about to take him to be executed, telling him that if he “confessed”, he would not be executed. He rejected these attempts at blackmail, insisting that he was innocent and had committed no crime. Then, on the third day, he said, he heard one of the interrogators telling his colleagues, ‘Let him go. If he had something to say, he would have said it by now.’
Despite their obvious innocence, both men were prevented from appointing lawyers, even during their trials when they were represented by a state-appointed defence lawyer. Although the lawyer had both men undress in court to show the torture injuries inflicted during their interrogation, the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz issued a guilty verdict in September 2017, ordering the two men to be executed in the city of Susa. This decision was appealed at the Supreme Court of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Tehran, with representatives of the two men pointing out that their conviction was based on confessions obtained under torture.
The other six activists who were also arrested, along with Abdullah and Qassem, received prison sentences of between three years and 25 years on charges of threatening national security, again on the basis of ‘confessions’ obtained under torture.
The three defendants sentenced to 25 years imprisonment each were 25-year-old Majed Beit Abdullah from Khalaf Moslem, 32-year-old Ahmed Kaab, a poet from Shush, and 33-year-old Hassan Beit Abdullah from Kaab Beit Allawi.
Three other men, all from the Shavur district, who were sentenced to three years each have been identified as Hassan Karmalachaab and Majid Beit Abdullah, both 26 years old, and 32-year-old Issa Beit Abdullah.
The defendants were arrested in raids on their families’ homes by security personnel on 16 October 2015. Ahmad, Majed, and Abdullah were transferred to Masjid Suleiman Prison following an intensive interrogation.
All eight were subsequently transferred to the headquarters of the Intelligence Directorate in Susa, a facility infamous for torturing detainees. They were kept there incommunicado for the next two years and forbidden any visitation or communication with their families. After the trial, the defendants were taken to the Intelligence Centre in Ahwaz City.
Two days before the execution of the two prisoners, hundreds of members of the Ahwazi community across Europe travelled to Brussels for a protest in front of the EU parliament, demanding immediate intervention to release the Ahwazi prisoners and stop the wave of executions and the sharp rise in arrests and attacks on hundreds of Ahwazi activists. Unfortunately, however, the EU continues to turn a deaf ear to the appeals by Ahwazis for the sake of protecting lucrative trade deals with the Iranian regime.
The regime in Tehran has become adept at manufacturing excuses and justifications for its persecution and executions against the Ahwazi people. Since the beginning of the ‘Islamic Revolution’ in 197, the regime has carried out countless executions under the guise of fighting imperialism, with the support of members of socialist parties and groups and other credulous individuals.
Since electing the ‘moderate’ Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran, the rate of executions in the country has doubled, with their pace steadily rising. Iran has been ranked second globally after China in terms of per capita executions. Under Rouhani, dozens of Ahwazi political and cultural activists have been executed secretly by the intelligence agents and security apparatuses, and buried without informing their families or lawyers.
Former Secretary-General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon described the executions in Iran as regrettable. He said that many cultural and ethnic minority activists in Iran, such as the Ahwazi Arabs, are executed without taking the slightest heed of international norms. Moreover, most of those killed are buried in unmarked graves without informing their relatives.
Despite the regime’s efforts to quash the Ahwazi people’s will and destroy their hope of freedom, however, Ahwazis and others continue to believe in freedom, democracy, justice and dignity and to refuse to abandon their humanity as the regime’s leaders have done.
A government and society founded on injustice and persecution will never bring peace and coexistence which are antithetical to its values of hatred and oppression. So long as the Iranian regime continues with its persecution and repression, denying the most basic rights of the Ahwazi people and others across Iran, it will meet with resistance; the harsher and more unjust its repression, the more violent the inevitable backlash will be, ultimately resulting in large-scale loss of lives if it continues with its monstrous inhumanity.
A regime like Iran’s that has abandoned justice and any respect for its people and which relies wholly on brutalising and terrorising citizens to maintain power has no legitimacy or right to demand the people’s respect or loyalty. Iran’s regime is now engaged in an existential fight against the Ahwazi people and dissidents across Iran, relying on state terror for its survival. This is the ultimate fate of all totalitarian regimes; without a popular mandate and founded on corruption and injustice, they must engage in unofficial war against the citizens they supposedly serve.
In the words of the 19th-century writer and former slave Frederick Douglass, “The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Iran’s regime is discovering that the people’s endurance of the tyrannical “Islamic Republic” has run out.
In fact, analysing the performance of the Iranian regime since 1979 so far, one could conclude that the Iranian regime uses executions to spread panic among the people in order to remain in power. In addition, the regime has killed political and cultural activists demanding recognition for their identity and ethnicity, which is the best way for this regime to stay. Eventually, however, something has got to give, and Iran’s societal dam will burst.
By Rahim Hamid, an Ahwazi author, freelance journalist and human rights advocate. Hamid tweets under @Samireza42.