Ahwazi activists on Friday (7 October 2022) confirmed the death of 31-year-old Emad Haideri, a prominent and popular Ahwazi civil rights activist, ten days after he was arrested in the regional capital, Ahwaz city, by Iranian regime forces: Emad, who was a young fit man with no history of ill health, is widely believed to have died as a result of torture in one of the prisons run by the Iranian regime’s infamously brutal intelligence services, after attempting to participate peaceful protests.
Haidari, an Ahwazi civil rights activist and children’s aid worker from the eponymous regional capital, Ahwaz city, had been targeted previously by the regime over his civil rights activism and aid work. After his latest arrest, he was charged with attempting to organise protests, communicating with fellow civil rights activists abroad, connecting to the internet (which the regime had cut in an effort to stifle coverage of the protests), and distributing VPN details to young Ahwazis enabling them to circumvent the regime’s internet blackout in order to access social media and report the truth about the protests and events in the region.
As anti-regime protests spread across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa (Zaina) Amini on 16 September resulting from injuries inflicted by the regime’s ‘morality police’, on the day after her arrest for ‘improper veiling’, the regime cracked down particularly harshly on ethnic minority regions, including Ahwaz in southwest Iran in an effort to quash an uprising.
Haideri, who had been married for only two months when he died, was summoned for questioning by the regime intelligence services along with several other activists on 27 September. A regime official contacted his parents on Thursday (6 October) to inform them that he had died and led them to believe that his body would be returned to them for burial, instructing them to hold a private funeral without the traditional mourning rituals. Instead, activists reported, his family received another call early on Friday to tell them that he had been buried in secret at 5:00 a.m. that morning, without even allowing them to see his body or know his burial place. This act of additional cruelty to Haideri’s already grief-stricken family, as to the families of countless other regime victims, is inflicted out of the regime’s fear that a funeral could turn into an anti-regime protest.
Speaking with DIRS, New York-based attorney and researcher Aaron Eitan Meyer said: “the Iranian regime routinely acts with flagrant disregard for fundamental principles of law and basic human decency. The latest protests are a justified response to the regime’s particularly callous treatment of women, but underlying that is the frustrated rage of people viciously suppressed for far too long. Even so, torturing and murdering a political prisoner even as the country erupts further exposes the sheer depravity of the Iranian regime.”
Emad, like other Ahawzi activists had been arrested and imprisoned previously for campaigning for Ahwazi rights, participating in activism, fundraising for humanitarian work, and attending peaceful protests. He came from the impoverished Malashia neighbourhood of Ahwaz city, the regional capital, and was a popular, well-known, widely respected local figure. Regime authorities, angered at increasing protests, opposition to the regime’s virulent anti-Arab bigotry and demands for human rights by the Ahwazi Arab residents, targeted Emad and other activists there; for Iran’s regime, anyone supporting and promoting freedom and civil rights, especially activists from ethnic minority backgrounds, are always viewed as a threat and depicted as extremists.
Because of his social and civil activism, security forces arrested Haideri on several occasions. In his mid-20s, he spent four years in Shayban Prison, a notorious prison in Ahwaz, on the usual vague charges used by the regime against dissidents such as ‘enmity to God.’
Other Ahwazi Arab activists arrested in the regime’s latest brutal crackdown in Ahwaz include Zahra Sawarian, a young woman arrested in Abadan for participating in a protest rally, Afaf Ebadi and her husband Hamid Khalilawi, and two other activists, Rasul Mousawi and Ali Asad.